Nearly nine weeks have passed. The Super Series and my first cap as a USA Eagle feel like a dream of the past, the memory turning fuzzy around the edges. Our next national team event isn’t until January, and yet right now is the time we need to be the most diligent, working harder than we thought ourselves capable. I’m one of the few players whose chosen to be independent of a club this fall. For the first time since I was 13 years old, I’m not pulling on my cleats every Saturday to face an opponent alongside my club team. This has been both a relief and a worry. I have the time to do every strength and conditioning session without having to balance a club team’s training as well, but I’m missing the constant work on my skills and technique. I missing out on having the support of a team.
So, how does an elite athlete develop their game independently? Here’s a few ways I’ve learned to keep growing my game:
1. Always a Student of the Game
This has been a long standing mantra of the national team’s players, and it should become a habit for every rugger to keep their rugby mind challenged and engaged. There are so many ways to do this, depending on how you learn and what interests you. For me, I know that I learn from observing and then completing the action myself. There’s so much to learn from watching game footage: analyze your position, the team’s style, what strengths and weaknesses you can spot. If you can, write it down! I have a workout log that I use for notes on game film too. For a easy place to start, check out the UBsports Rugby Portal under Videos>Game Footage.
2. Create Your Team
Without a built-in social group supporting and challenging you like a club team does, it’s important to create a realm of support wherever you are. For example, my parents are rugby fans, and they push me to watch every game they can find, and encourage me to tag along to any local rugby event. I was struggling to be as nutrition-minded as I wanted to be, so I asked one of my Eagle teammates to be my food guru; from cheat days to finding a new whey protein, I check in with her. As for workouts, I use the guys that go to my gym to motivate me. Most of them are amateur body builders, and keep a strict lifting regime. I make sure to go when I know they’ll be there.
3. Know Your “Why”
Being great at anything has obstacles, and those of us who keep going are the ones who will be remembered. But January seems so far away, and at times I lose focus. In those times, it’s pertinent that I’ve defined my own “why?”. What keeps you going? A person? An emotion? A quote? A vision of that trophy? Return to your “why” regularly, keeping it freshly at the foreground of your conscience.
How do you grow as an athlete when you’re independent of your team? What keeps you going?
Until Next Time,
UBsports Rugby Ambassador
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