January 26, 2007, Boulder, Colo. – USA Rugby recently introduced the first-ever Men’s National Under-17 program in this country with Coach Sean O’Leary (BC High, Boston, Mass.) and Program Director Bart Bottorff (Penn HS, Mishawaka, Ind.) in charge of leading the team.
Sixty-three athletes, born in 1990 - 1991, met for a High Performance Selection Camp in Glendale, Ariz., Dec. 26-31. This assembly was the result of player identification during a summer developmental camp in Elkhart Ind., several independent camps as well as competitive events across the nation. In the end, 20 various U.S. states were represented as well as Canada and Hong Kong.
The focal point of the camp was the selection of 30 players to compete this February in Texas. After the Texas Assembly, a final 26 players will be selected to tour Millfield England at an International Rugby Festival where the team will play Romania, Georgia and Canada. Along the way the camp proved to be an exceptional teaching tool, allowing ample skill growth and player development. The atmosphere was at its best with players in a campus setting that quickly built team relations by using classroom settings, team meals and three-a-day practice sessions. A coaching staff led by O’Leary and Bottorff consisted of: Gareth Rees (Backs & Defense-England U-16s), Bill Stevens (Front Row-Penn HS), Colin Jones (Forwards-Boston Irish Wolfhounds), Robert Joseph (Backs-Chapel Hill), and Jason Payne (Backs-Tempe RFC).
An average day saw the team up at 6:30 a.m. and on the field by 7:30 a.m., with mid-day meetings and meals, two practice sessions in the afternoon, followed by dinner and a nightly team meeting. While gruesome, the 15-hours a day proved worthy in the end as the group closed camp with competitive games that were filled with quality rugby, game plan execution and players competing to earn a USA roster spot. The crowd was often overheard saying, “I can’t believe these guys are under-17 years old, what quality rugby”.
“The kids were incredible in camp, always on time, ready to work, learn and compete on the highest level,” Bottorff said after the camp. “We set a goal to act as one during the entire camp and created a great team feeling for everyone- it paid off in the end and was of the most rewarding camps I’ve ever been associated with.”
Head Coach O’Leary added, “We are on a mission to accomplish a few things with this group. We want to compete at the highest level by selecting the best players, and covering the country in doing so. We also wish to provide these kids with a road map to the U-19s and other National Teams, and would hope, that in doing so, those programs are better off in the end when getting our players.”
Bottorff and O’Leary both agreed that the pressures and workload of directing this new program is far outweighed by the satisfaction that many of these kids will greatly impact tomorrow’s U.S. Teams.
The current 30-player
squad is as follows:
eRugbyNews.com - International Rugby Update
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