Thursday, March 12, 2015

Columbus Women Ready for Atlanta Sevens

As the majority of the United States begins to, finally, thaw out many rugby players are wishing for spring to start and dreaming of a warm getaway - somewhere south usually. The ladies of W1823 are no different. Like a litany of other rugby teams, they will be packing their bags very soon and and heading below the Mason-Dixon Line on a rugby road trip.

Their intended southern exposure is more than just an attempt to catch some rays and toss the ball around on the sand, though. They will be participating in a sevens tournament being run in conjunction with the Atlanta 7s tournament that will have then taking part in a trio of matches against high-performing teams from around the nation.

When eyeing up a competition like this one, preparation is key. The women of W1823 have club obligations ranging from a number of women's teams throughout the state to a number of promising collegiate players, an arrangement that would make organizing training sessions difficult for any team. He has even recently added three women from Notre Dame College and a player from Ohio University to his ranks. Joel Bonnaud, head coach of W1823, has been ensuring that his group of ladies are as prepared as possible, despite their allegiances and obligations to other teams throughout the state.

"Those obligations didn't have any impact at all," he said. "However, coming into spring and eyeing on summer, we’ll have to adjust and adapt in order to keep the optimum momentum."

Leading up to this point, Bonnaud and his squad had been training in an effort to increase fitness and help the team grow closer as a unit. Planned fitness sessions with one another as well as the guys training at the Tiger Academy have prepared their legs and lungs for the rigors of their upcoming competition. The sessions also bore out unintended benefits for the Columbus-based unit.

"Fitness, for sure, has kept the girls improving throughout the weeks and clearly has increased their strength level," Bonnaud said. "Just lifting together is invaluable in terms of team chemistry, as players go through that hard work and pain altogether. You can clearly see that they are happy being together and appreciate those moments."

Though preparation is a major key to success, what matters most is how it bears out when that preparation is put to the test. While the full complement of W1823 has not been in action together yet, a few of its players have seen quality sevens field time - two with Stars Rugby in Las Vegas. While those two players were able to participate against the elite competition in that tournament, the goal is to get the entire team on a level where they can execute their assignments on the field and be as successful as possible.
Women's Club 7s schedule for
2015 Atlanta 7s tournament.

"For the last couple of weeks, we've eased off on the fitness a bit so that players can be as fresh as possible, then squeeze in a couple of field sessions in order to get the basics right, but most of all, get all the players in the right mindset and mental state, as this will be critical and is what we need to improve from New York 7s." Bonnaud said. "Mental strength is one of - if not the - key elements I will be looking at and expecting the players to deliver upon. To achieve such goal, each player got a simple but tailored 'road map' for the tournament: individualized expectations, detailed tactics."

The competition in Atlanta will be intense to say the least. According to Bonnaud, his ladies will be facing some extremely stiff competition in the Berkeley All Blues, Charlotte and Stars Rugby. While success is always important in the competition setting, getting to the top of this particular metaphorical mountain isn't the primary concern for W1823.

"Atlanta 7s is first and foremost a great learning opportunity," Bonnaud said. "Results, quite frankly, are secondary. Girls will get to learn on an off the field, playing a dense tournament and then getting to watch the best players in the world. The goal is to use the tournament as a reference point, getting the players to pick up tips here and there and leverage them once we start summer practices."

According to the USA Rugby calendar, Bonnaud and his players start their day against the Stars at 9:40am. Once the Atlanta 7s tournament is completed, W1823 will be competing in the Midwest Qualifier series to make a run at this year's national sevens tournament.

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