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Bydwell: Culture of Everyone Together

  • 22 Oct 2018
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Photos: Alex Ho (hoiho.net) 

The HSBC World Rugby USA Women’s 7s tournament was a success for the Eagles, who claimed second place on the first leg of the Women’s Sevens Series (WSS). It was also a good start for new head coach Chris Brown, who filled the vacancy left by Richie Walker in August, first on an interim basic and then full-time in October.

“We really put a lot emphasis on what we wanted the culture of the group to be moving forward,” Emilie Bydwell, USA Rugby Women’s High Performance and General Manager, said of the changes’ effect. “And one of the big things that we had recognized was that we really want a culture that is everyone together … and not that that wasn’t the case before but that was something we wanted to focus on. So we really emphasized that as a whole collective group over the last six weeks and we’ll continue to build that so we can have that holistic culture over the next two years.”

USA 7s head coach Chris Brown / Photo: Alex Ho

The USA had a less than ideal start to the Glendale tournament but did enough to qualify for the Cup quarterfinals as the eighth seed. Bydwell described a mood of disappointment after day one, especially since the team had a strong and productive pre-season, and the on-field performance didn’t necessarily reflect that.

“But we’re lucky. We have Peter Haberl here, a [USOC] sports psychologist who’s been working with the team for years, knows the players really well,” Bydwell said. “He and Chris just basically called a meeting, and they just talked about it and were really aware, and nobody felt like they needed to hide behind anything. … And I think that really allowed the girls to stay wanting and get us ready for the second day of performance.”

Photo: Alex Ho / hoiho.net

The Eagles crushed the Cup quarterfinals, rattling Australia with a connected, determined defense, and making good use of that extra ball in hand. The USA continued to build into the semifinals, although it looked like the French were going to head to the final after a clock-expiring try and conversion. The try of the tournament then evolved, as the Eagles had one possession to produce a try to tie the game (converted to win it). Everyone touched the ball, secured the ruck, took on the defense, and then rookie Alena Olsen dummy-switched with Ilona Maher for the line-break and pull-away try.

“Really excited about the newcomers,” Bydwell brightened. “Lauren [Thunen], Steph [Rovetti] and Alena have been with us since pre-season started – September 3. Alena and Steph, specifically, really excelled at club nationals so it’s nice, kind of emphasizes our pathway and that we do look at those tournaments and performance in those tournaments.

Photo: Alex Ho / hoiho.net 

“What was also nice for Alena specifically was that she came right from collegiate rugby into the training center environment, and it’s a pretty big jump,” Bydwell said of the University of Michigan graduate. “So just having that season of club rugby [with San Diego] to get that comfort – because she’s a playmaker here, and you have to be confident and comfortable as a playmaker – to be able to have that bridge and then come back into the training center, it was nice to see her express herself. And then Lauren’s only 19 so we’ll be happy if she’s ready for 2020 but for her it’s Paris and LA really, so it’s a long game on her.”

Photo: Alex Ho / hoiho.net

Bydwell explained that that June-August block, between the NDA 7s and club 7s nationals, is the time to distinguish oneself. Players are then invited to camp and then pre-season, and if they perform well, then they’re pretty much locked in for the year. The program might look at a couple more players through the end of the year, but circle January as the Eagles’ statement of intent on the pitch. There will also be crossover athlete camps during the second half of the season.

The USA went on to finish second at the first leg of the (WSS), but not before scoring the first try and putting New Zealand at its first deficit of the tournament. The Black Ferns then kicked into that standard-setting gear and ran out a 33-7 win.

The USA banked 18 standings points – important for this Olympic-qualifying phase. The top-four teams at the end of the WSS will secure their spots at the 2020 Games. The field reassmebles for round two in Dubai at the end of November.

#USA7s #Glendale7s #EmilieBydwell

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