Women's Eagles Sevens Head Coach Ric Suggitt took a few minutes out of his busy schedule at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., to talk a bit about his team's performance at Dubai and the lead-up to Atlanta 7s, the second leg of the 2013-14 IRB Women's Sevens World Series.
On some of the team’s new faces
If you look at it from last year, with a lot of athletes who had played a lot of rugby, we only won the Bowl. This year, going into Dubai, we didn’t finish as high as we wanted to but we still finished higher than where we were when we had experienced rugby players. In that situation, it was definitely a positive, but it’s not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination. With the short series we always want to finish in the top four. If we don’t finish in the top four of every one then it’s pretty tough to be in the mix for the overall winner. We dug ourselves a hole and will have to knock off some of the big teams early next round, but weirder things have happened.
On the team’s objectives going into Dubai
Obviously a few things. We had some passport issues from last year, where we knew Nathalie [Marchino] and Emilie [Bydwell] might not be available because of passport restrictions next year. So we gambled on that by saying, “We’re going to put new players in and get them that one-year experience.” If we don’t do that then we’re a year behind by two players. That hurt us in experience by not having Nathalie and Byds. Then we had decisions to make moving forward based on physical attributes and the intangibles to 2016. We’ve got a younger scrumhalf, some crossover athletes who are younger. We’re hoping the turnaround in two years, they’ll have magnified the growth of the traditional rugby player. And that’s the gamble since it’s so unknown, isn’t it? It’s like a draft pick. You get in the draft and you see the hot football guy come out and you say, ‘All right, we’ll take him third in the first round.’ All of a sudden you’re on 30 for 30, you know, a bust third-overall pick. That’s always the gamble. That’s the fun part about it.
On Rebekah Siebach and Megan Bonny
There is a pathway through the 15s program, through the All-American program. Both of them are 22, 23. They both have speed, great attitudes, and with both of those attributes you can do a lot. The big thing is the attitude, as always. They come in and they have everything; a nice, fresh dynamic to always come to training, they don’t stop working, they don’t stop smiling – even though at times it’s pretty rough because we run a whole lot. Every now and then they’re gasping for oxygen but they’ve both grown leaps and bounds the short time they’ve been with us.
On the level of play on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series circuit
I think with how quickly the women’s game is growing, as soon as the World Cup was over I started laughing. We made changes the next day we got back because we knew there were going to be changes happening in other countries and some might have more athletes, more money. So we had to make changes as rapidly as we could. We expected a change and the change was great for some countries like Australia and Russia and Ireland, where they’re in the mix. Then the IRB decided to add Brazil to every tournament. Even though they’re not a core team they’re getting them ready for the Olympics because they’re in anyhow. So all of that extra money goes in to those sorts of countries and they jumped higher than we did. They made more growth in six months than we did. Then again it comes down to how we played in certain games. We had England up 10-0 and won that game then all of a sudden we would have played for the Plate, played for fifth. That would have been a huge success. Sevens, for me, I wouldn’t want to finish there and it wouldn’t be what we expected, but if we finished top four I would’ve flown home – even though we’re in economy – I would’ve flown first class. It’s just more than I thought they’d end up. The biggest change for me overall is how the team builds themselves in losing two big games. I don’t talk to them between games, I just sat back and watched them. They’re very mature. Griff (Kelly Griffin) got the team very focused, had them very directed into the next game. They just started to rebound and get ready for the next one. She had great support in Potts (Jillion Potter) and Deven [Owsiany]. So it was good to see from a distance. Even though you don’t finish where you want to finish, there are so many positives out of that first tournament. I can’t complain about anything.
On what needs to happen before Atlanta 7s
We have Canada coming down to the OTC for 12 days. We’ve reached out to other countries to come train at the OTC. We’re working on an arrangement now to try to get Russia to come in for two weeks before Atlanta. We’re trying to create something in our own backyard. If we can get those countries coming in maybe training on the field beside us, scrimmaging with us, we’ll accelerate our learning curve. Our players need to spend more of their own time studying game film, studying the opposition, doing things they have control over to get themselves prepared for the rest of their season. And they’re doing it. For some of them, they’ve never even played rugby before. Not only are they studying the opposition but they’re studying themselves. We’re on an uphill battle with two real skills that we have to improve on: one is learn how to become a rugby player, and the other is learning what the team is capable of doing.