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Rob Cain has been in the country for approximately two months and has remained in constant motion. The new USA 15s head coach ricocheted from coast to coast, working with age grade programs, the senior player pool, and now the Women’s Premier League (WPL). All the while, short-term goals are actively pursued while a program-wide vision is being developed – the details of which will hopefully be revealed in the coming weeks.
When Cain touched down in the U.S., he immediately flew to San Diego for the Women’s Junior All-American (WJAA) camp, and then reconnected with head coach James English and the U20 athletes for the Tri-Nations Cup in Canada. Cain thoroughly enjoyed the long camp in Nova Scotia, shadowing English and assistant coach Kate Daley, and putting in quality time with the next generation of Eagles.
Cain then traveled to Denver for the second annual WPL All-Star Game in Denver and invited standouts Jess Davis and Lauran Glover to the senior high performance camp two days later. Sixty-two athletes assembled at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (CVEATC). They got a look at the new coach, and vice versa, and Cain effused about the players’ work ethic and energy.
“I have a certain way I’d like to play, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the right players to do that. I believe we do have the right players to help us be successful,” Cain said.
“It’s so enjoyable because there’s lots of new ideas from everyone, but it’s the players who have to run with it. Everything the coaches say are literally just words and it’s a satisfying thing when players do it really well,” the coach added. “Players are working really hard – from the All-Americans to senior camp – and have an open mind for a fresh approach. Then they put the detail to it, and they’re craving those details.”
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That momentum hasn’t stopped, as Cain is now three stops into a six-leg tour of the WPL. The immediate payout relates to the November 3 test against New Zealand in Chicago. With the WPL championships culminating on October 29, there’s no time for a selection camp prior to Chicago, so Cain is using the tour to aid those decisions. By the time the roster (and full coaching staff) is announced on October 1, Cain will have seen all 10 WPL teams play live and trained with six of them.
“At the same time, we’re running individual skill sessions for those in the player pool,” Cain said of the six-stop tour. “It allows me extra time with the player pool – working through individual development plans and the skill sets they need to work on, and to hear from them, their aspirational targets and where they think they are.”
These sessions also allow Cain to work with players who aren’t competing in the WPL. Cain visited Harvard and Dartmouth during the Boston leg (for Beantown vs. Atlanta), worked with Life West players in San Francisco (prior to Berkeley vs. ORSU), and is now in Seattle working with Saracens prior to this weekend’s ORSU vs. Glendale game in Portland. After the Pacific Northwest stop, Cain will head to Chicago North Shore, New York and then Twin Cities on consecutive weekends.
Eight players have been added to the pool (which consists of approximately 100 short-, mid- and long-term athletes) and three to the watch list thus far, but Cain is equally as interested in developing relationships with clubs, coaches and the league during tour. His guest coaching sessions are crafted from the clubs’ need for support or education, and follow the belief that a strong international showing relies on a strong domestic competition.
“It’s a pretty rare and unique thing for any club – to have a main body like that in town,” ORSU head coach Anthony Kolanko said of Cain’s impending visit. “The team is stoked to have that presence here, and it’s great that players who aspire to the national team have that opportunity in front of him.”
“The key word is: see. You have to go out and see people and make those personal connections, so they know they’re valued,” Cain said.
“You just want to make sure everyone has the right level of education and support, and the opportunity to play their best rugby and be the best versions of themselves,” Cain added.
Cain has been busy, but the coach credited all of the overtime work that the entire staff is dedicating to producing a round, thoughtful plan for the USA program as a whole.
“There a lot of releases coming out over next couple weeks and months regarding certain things we’re working on in the background – different things to help players hit their aspirational targets. We’re working very hard to make sure players have more opportunity and players can aspire and reach their potential of playing for the Eagles, if that’s what they want.”
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