Rugby has been a corner stone of my life.
My closest friends, my jobs, my travels around the world… some of my fondest memories come from rugby.
Sports and rugby specifically, has been a glue that has held my life together. It’s taught me how to win and to lose, the essence of “team”, and the value of hard work and perseverance.
I found the game at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1998. The Clamdiggers were a rowdy bunch of beach boys that played hard and enjoyed all the fruits of a slow, Southern beach town. We were pretty good, loved each other, and simply had a blast.
I became a student of the game and soon was selected to play All South as a Junior and then to represent the United States at the 16th World Maccabi games, in Israel as a senior.
The World Maccabi Games are a multisport tournament comprised of athletes from Jewish heritage held in Israel every 4 years. It is reported as the third largest sporting event in the world and many world record holders and Olympic medalists have competed. As one of the youngest and most inexperienced members on the team, I did not see very much playing time in our Silver Medal effort, but the experience was incredible.
UNCW was also a major feeder program to Cape Fear RFC (rugby football club), the local men’s club. That club was, and is fantastic. They put on a wonderful tournament each summer, have their own pitch (field), and have a solid core of members to perpetuate its existence. The men that make up that club remain some of my very best friends.
A few years after college I was recruited by the head coach of Santa Monica RFC to train with Santa Monica in a run for a National Title. I also set to play again for the United States in the 17th Maccabi World Games. With Santa Monica, we met our goal of winning Division 1 National Championship. The coaching and support staff were world class and the players were the best I’d ever been privileged to take the field with. Every game we got better and we smashed the opposition.
To win on that stage meant cooperation, focus, communication, and hunger to ones core at a level that I had never known. It meant training and playing with team mates with grace and positive interaction. Making sacrifice was the expected status quo. Integrity, on and off the field, was baked in.
Immediately following, I joined my USA Maccabi team to travel to Israel. This time I would see plenty of playing time and again, we would lose in the final to South Africa. I was really sick. Perhaps it was because I had just enjoyed so much success on the pitch with Santa Monica. In any event, I was bitter and sad and frustrated.
Returning to Santa Monica RFC in 2006, we would march on to back-to-back National Titles. Experience played a role, as many of the core players returned from the previous year. The feeling was amazing!
I then got selected to play for one of two United States teams in the first North American 4 tournament in Western Canada. You had to pinch me! It was all just so much fun!!
As 2007 came and went, I found my body beginning to ache. My back was constantly sore and I couldn’t really do anything without pain. I was born with my lumbar spine a bit wonky and playing competitive rugby probably didn’t help. I finally decided to have surgery on November 7th 2007.
Rugby as I knew it, was done.
My life went from rugby being the center of my universe to this thing I would mention in line at the store when I saw fellow walk by with a jersey on.
I think I spoke to one coach once regarding the 2009 games and simply said “No. I wasn’t interested”.
My heart was broken.
I’d achieved nearly everything I ever dreamed of as a player: I’d forged friendships that I know will outlive me. I’d been privileged to have amazing coaches that wanted me to learn. I’d won National Titles. I’d represented my country. I traveled around the world with an egg in my hand.
But I never did win that last game in Israel.
Over the coming years I remained close to the game.
I visited Argentina and played a bit of social footy with the boys. I organized a tour with some friends from college to see the World Cup in New Zealand and mixed a few friendly matches in. I enjoyed touch rugby with the BeachBoks on Sundays and social matches at my annual university alumni game.
In late 2011 I was asked to help recruit players for the United States Maccabi team, to compete in 2013.
Then the mental pain started. Like, real bad.
I was privy to each and every email that came in from young guys that wanted to try out. They listed their experience, stats, and current club. From across the country, guys wrote in that they thought they had what it took to be a part of this team.
I was walking around in circles mad, like a bulldog chewing on a hornet!
I wanted to play!
Long conversations with my mom followed long conversations with myself.
Did I still have the desire? Did I still have the health to compete at this level? Did I have the drive to train for the next year to prepare my mind and body for what is undoubtedly the hardest mental and physical test I know of: 4 or 5 full on games in 13 days..in Israel..in the dead of summer..following an unquestionably long season of top grade rugby with Santa Monica RFC.
There is no dress rehearsal in life. You get no second chances.
All in. This will be my swan song. Let’s make it a good one.
I contacted the staff from Santa Monica Rugby Club to let them know that I was keen to play for them as preparation.
I want another National Championship.
I notified the coaching staff that I would be removing myself as recruiter, but wanted to throw my hat in the ring to try out as a player.
I want a Gold medal.
I started to hit the gym. Eating right. Getting more rest.
I started making hard decisions.
As a side note, with the new goal in mind, I found my tolerance for BS to go through the floor. No more time for folks that were slugs. No patience for complainers. Folks that had nothing positive going on, got nothing from me.
My body started to improve. BeachBok weekends with the cheetahs helped my hands get softer and wind enter my lungs. Heavy practice with Santa Monica RFC hardened me to be able to hit and get hit. I met new players on the team and started to gel with them on and off the pitch. I learned the nuance of a different brand of rugby from a new generation of coaches.
I suppose the results speak for themselves.
At the time of this writing Santa Monica RFC is 5-1, losing by only 4 points in a slug fest with the defending National Champions. We are just now beginning to hit our stride.
I have also been appointed to represent the United States in the Maccabi World Games in July. This team has been lauded as the best ever assembled to compete in this tournament.
The coaches and my peers went on to elect me Vice Captain of the team.
I am humbled and I am honored.
Long hours and a hard road lay ahead. Training takes place daily. Food, rest, and study are scheduled. Sacrifices, large and small, are being made such that we can play at the highest level.
The family that is this team in incredible. The tournament is the epitome of all that is good about sports.
To me, the Maccabi World Games are about heritage, awareness, peace, and athletic competition. So much about a positive life experience is learned with the ball in hand on a grass field joined by friends.
In addition to the training I must do to prepare myself physically and mentally, I am also required to raise a bit of money for the organization.
The funds help subsidize flights, hotels, food, training facilities, medical treatment, and uniforms… they also go to help other athletes that may not be able to afford the cost to attend in the form of scholarships.
If you have the means, I would appreciate your help in raising my share.
Contributions can take 2 forms.
- Non-tax deductible : You’ll get awesome raffle tickets in exchange for your contributions in excess of $100. Raffle prizes include tickets to the Super Bowl, the Masters, $5,000 in cash and more. You’ll need to contact me directly to get these tickets.
- Tax deductible : Out right donation. You’ll get no raffle tickets, but I have a few personal items to offer.
To sweeten the pot for folks interested in supporting my effort to represent the United States in the 2013 World Maccabi Games I am offering the following:
$20 or more – Free Tablet Volume
$100 or more – The above, plus I will volunteer for the charity of your choosing for an afternoon.
$300 or more – The above, plus an exhaustive analysis of your business’s online efforts via all the resources I have at my disposal through my company, BusinessFrame.
$500 or more – The above, plus an evening dinner for 6 people aboard A Moveable Feast, a kinetic sculpture I helped Dan Busby build with friends.
$1,000 or more – The above, plus I’ll streak down the Venice Boardwalk (this is a rugby team, after all)
Really and truly, even $1 helps. You can contribute here.
During and after my travels I will be documenting the learning experience and rugby excitement right here on my blog and hope you’ll follow along.
I sincerely appreciate you helping me, my team, and the rest of the athletes that will be competing in this tournament. Competitive sports, specifically rugby, make life better.
In my final effort, your support means the absolute world to me.