The following is an addendum to my post on March 20 concerning team preparation and player safety in rugby.
We played our season-opener yesterday. We lost 17-12 (equivalent to a score of 19-13 in football). 11 of the 15 starters on our varsity side were playing in their first match ever. And they played their hearts out.
Our opponent had access to an indoor facility throughout March and was able to avoid cancelling practices because of it (a luxury we’ve never had). They were also able to schedule an inter-squad scrimmage during the preseason (an impossibility for us this year). They were our first match, but we were not theirs. In short, they were far better prepared than we were.
We knew coming into this match that winning would be a long-shot at best. And, as coaches, we decided before the start of match week that victory couldn’t be our primary concern. We began the day yesterday with three simple goals:
1. No major injuries – that speaks for itself.
2. Nobody ejected – no flagrant penalties or stupid mistakes bad enough to earn a new player a red-card.
3. Have fun – make sure everybody who’s never played before falls in love with the game.
As the title says, missions accomplished. Under the circumstances, I’ll chalk that up to a win.
Our team played hard, they played fast, and they stayed safe. They were physical and agressive on both attack and defense, and their effort was relentless for seventy minutes.
We had more then a few penalties, but they all came from inexperience. We were learning a lot of the intracacies of the rules on the run, and we had to learn the hard way a few times. But there was no dirty or dangerous play and no malicious fouls.
Most importantly, we had a blast. Nobody likes losing, especially when you get beat by your own mistakes and you fail to cash in on opportunities to win at the end. But everybody loved playing. And our team is already excited for our next match in two weeks.
In the meantime, it’s back to the practice pitch. It’s time now to learn from yesterday’s mistakes and to build on the experience. We’re going to need it. We’ll be facing the best team on our schedule and we still have a lot of growing up to do.
Wish us luck.