Photo: Ryszard Chadwick
New York was pleased with last year’s fifth-place finish at the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship. The team had gone 30-1 during the summer, with that lone loss (14-5 vs. Scion) occurring in the Cup quarterfinals, and thus had few complaints about its performance overall. Now, the repeat Atlantic North champion has a solid core of returners and players who are familiar with each other through the Northeast Academy, and they’re ready to keep pushing for more progress.
New York 7s coach Ryszard Chadwick, who’s currently on the coaching staff of the girls’ Futures Sevens assembly in Saranac Lake (read more), has witnessed a balanced, focused squad come together this season.
“I think the difference between this year and last year – which I don’t really like saying because I can’t really compare two teams that haven’t played against each other – is that we’ve got a better balance coming off the bench, and we’ve really been finishing out games strong,” Chadwick said. “And I can actually change combinations to play different styles, so if we want to play a wide, fast, open game, we can. If we want to keep it controlled and contact-focused, we can. If we want to play a set piece game, we can. And our defense has improved as well. Anyone can start or finish, and we have multiple people who can play multiple roles.”
It’s been a dense season, with the National Developmental Academy (NDA) 7s taking the first weekend in June, pulling five New York players and Chadwick out of rotation, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens breaking up the summer as well.
“San Diego was brilliant. The quality was much better than last year’s [NDA 7s],” said Chadwick, who coaches the Northeast Academy and brought current New York 7s players Tahlia Brody, Jess Davis, Misha Green, Sarah Levy and Jenn Salomon to California. “Having the event at the [Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center], the pathway was visible to the players. They could be in the gym at the same time with [USA captain] Nicole [Heavirland] and Alev [Kelter] and Ryan [Carlyle], and they can see how hard they’re working. That’s really beneficial. One of my players was saying, ‘Wow, this is so cool! Nicole’s right over there!’ It’s aspirational, especially for the young players.”
Northeast Academy at the NDA 7s, featuring five New York players and Chadwick / Photo: Max Haynes
Davis and Northeastern graduate Levy joined the blue-and-orange this summer, as they’re both relocating from Massachusetts for professional pursuits. They join six players from the 2017 7s team and another three from the WPL championship-winning squad from the fall. The only player without New York 7s or Northeast Academy experience is Gracie Martinez, who returned home to the Bronx after a stellar career at Life University.
New York won the Atlantic North handily, outscoring qualifier opponents by 528 points. Lopsided wins don’t prepare teams for the demands of nationals and so Chadwick’s dilemma was finding means to continually challenge the players.
“It’s got to come down to behaviors. It’s got to come down to attitudes. It’s got to come down to how you win and our philosophy of how we want to play. Rather than, for example, just giving the ball to someone who’s fast and just go, ‘Alright, take it around outside of everybody and score.’ That doesn’t help anyone,” Chadwick said. “So from game one, day one, it’s been, ‘This is our game plan. This is how we’re going to play. This is how we’re going to compete at nationals and we need to focus on that.’”
New York qualified for nationals in mid-July and so there’s been some down time. Both Scion and ARPTC posed playing opportunities at their home bases, but the WPL All-Star Game and national age-grade assemblies are pulling New York players in different directions.
“Another option would be to go to Chula Vista and train with the USA for a week. It benefits them and it benefits us,” Chadwick said. “The reality in this competition is there’s a huge drop-off in terms of quality outside of the top eight [teams], and those top eight are spread across the country.”
That is, until August 11-12, when 32 men’s and women’s teams converge on Columbia University’s Baker Field in New York City. For more info on nationals, visit the event website.