Thursday, February 11, 2016

Preseason Preparations with the Cleveland Crusaders

Though the white stuff just started to hit Ohio hard, teams around the state are eyeing the spring when rugby returns and the snow - eventually - melts for good. The Cleveland Crusaders have been working hard since the close of the fall session to ensure the team can go into the spring with as much momentum, and fitness, as possible.

Everybody claims to have the formula for fitness. The Crusaders have been working on training players' minds and bodies in order to keep both in peal condition once the weather warms up and the competition continues.

"The team has been working on strength and fitness as well as improving our understanding of positional roles and overall style of play under the vision of Coach Diablo," said the team's Captain Zachary Webb. Coach Diablo is an affectionate nickname adopted by the team's Head Coach, Donnie Harbert. "The team has been attending weekly Crossfit session and practices each Saturday and Thursday respectively."

The difference between the Crusaders' preparation efforts and other teams is that players aren't being left to their own devices when it comes to fitness. According to Webb, there are a number of fitness tests planned for the team. The first was a beep test to get an overall fitness baseline for everyone, and there will be further tests in order to ensure that the fitness level remains high. The purpose of all this work: improvement on all levels.

"I believe that this spring we have the ability as a team and as individual players to transcend the bounds that we previously thought attainable," Webb said. "The atmosphere we are creating exudes a positivity that drives each of us onward to excellence."

Focusing this fitness will be the team's offensive and defensive structures, which have slowly been implemented since the start of the fall and will be put into play even more this spring. Within these structures, each player has a role he is expected to understand and execute, making each Crusaders side a 15-man unit comprised of rugby specialists. The idea is to conserve energy and focus efforts during the match.

"I plan on being a dominant and disruptive force on defense this spring," Webb said.

The hope for the Crusaders players is that all this hard work leads to at least one championship coming to Cleveland. The idea is that by improving on defense and conditioning, while taking full advantage of every scoring opportunity, the players can achieve thus lofty goal and knock off some stiff competition in the process.

"I'm hungry to play Wisconsin," Webb said. "They are an experienced team that has proven themselves year after year as one of the best in the nation. I want to show them what has been brewing in the Forest City."

Though the playoff scene is in the distance, the club has made some significant strides towards it in the realm of personnel. New faces have been coming to training sessions with regularity, showing that the new blood is dedicated to the cause. As always, there are some brand new faces joining the ranks, but the more encouraging fact is that recruits are coming fresh from the college scene and other men's teams as well. The supplemental numbers will only help the club achieve its final goal.

The Crusade continues the second week in March when the team makes its debut in Savannah, GA for the annual tournament. From there, the club will face the likes of BGSU, Buffalo, Youngstown and Wisconsin.

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