All Blues vs. ORSU (9/9/2017)

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This past Saturday, the All Blues took on Portland's ORSU at home. The match was hosted by the wonderful San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club on Treasure Island. Kickoff was at 12PM, and conditions were much more favorable over the previous weekend, with a high of 75F and a forecast of partly cloudy skies. 

The game started a little slow for the All Blues, with ORSU scoring their first try within the first 5 minutes (no conversion). As the first quarter of the game continued, it was concentrated mostly on the home side of the field, leaving the All Blues on the defensive. A second try by ORSU was held up by the home team at the 10 minute mark, and the All Blues continued to try to fight back. Unfortunately, at 17 minutes, the All Blues succumbed to a second try by ORSU (still no conversion). Trailing behind 10 to 0, a great change of pace was made as number 6, Christina Ramos, took a 60-meter run for the first try of the afternoon for the All Blues. Shortly after, a second try for the All Blues was made by number 10, Bulou Mataitoga, ending the first half with a great deal of momentum for the home team.

As the second half began, the game was tied, 10 to 10, with no conversions made on either side. After the kickoff, it was clear that there had been a change in the direction of the game. Within minutes, Flyhalf Mataitoga ran in a third try for the All Blues (no conversion), her second of the day. This was followed immediately by two quick back-to-back tries for the All Blues. The first of these was touched down by number 8, Delaney Chapman, a former San Francisco Golden Gate player. It was converted by number 15, Sam Miller. A quick fifth try was run in after by the forward pack, including number 7, Cassandra "Tard" Tong, and touched down by number 3, Allie Byrne (no conversion). Ahead by 17, the All Blues continued to play hard against ORSU. A great run by Mataitoga with an offload to number 21, Emma Harbidge, scored the seventh and final try of the match for the All Blues.

The game ended with a final score of 32 to 10 for the All Blues. Particularly outstanding performances were made by number 8 (Delaney Chapman) and number 10 (Bulou Mataitoga).

Written by Elena Cuadros

Building Greatness from the Inside Out

A Short Interview with Head Coach Theo Bennett

Theo Bennett. Image courtesy of http://pioneiro.clicrbs.com.br/

Theo Bennett. Image courtesy of http://pioneiro.clicrbs.com.br/

As the All Blues begin the 2017 WPL season, we are excited to welcome new head coach Theo Bennett. Hailing from New Zealand originally, Theo has coached in several countries including New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Kenya, and of course the US. The thing that has stayed consistent since the beginning of his career in 1994 however is the desire to build organizations that foster continuous player development and sustainable pathways towards greatness.

Theo started his career as a player in the wings, but his coaches quickly realized that his rugby mind and athletic potential demanded a leadership role. Step by step he moved inward until he became a flyhalf. His playing career was cut short by an injury before he had reached his full potential. The University he was playing for (on scholarship) had already invested a great deal of time and effort developing Theo into the player he was. Rather than giving up on his playing career Theo pivoted away from the inward journey of developing himself as a player and towards the outward journey of coaching others at the young age of 21. Since then his life has been dedicated to spreading the game of rugby, fostering and mentoring young players, and developing organizations that can lead to the continued growth of the global game.

One might think that the best coaching engagements might be the ones where individual and team glory was achieved. Rugby players are all fundamentally competitive individuals seeking to achieve personal and collective greatness through team sports. After over 20 years of coaching, Theo has seen a broad cross section of the global rugby community. When asked about his favorite coaching engagements throughout this long career he did not pinpoint the team that had the most wins, or the team that had the most epic sports-movie comeback. Instead he points to the teams which had the greatest people.

“It all depends on the people. Any geographical location is someplace you can love or hate based on whether or not you feel welcome or feel good. [...] Wherever the team is that I feel most comfortable is where I love coaching. It’s all about the people.”

It is no secret that the All Blues are one of the the most decorated women’s rugby clubs in the nation. Over its almost 40 year history the club has accumulated numerous national championships and produced a plethora of international caliber players. But like so much else these days, the way that women’s club rugby is played in the US is changing fast. The game is changing and the All Blues must change with it. In order to build the club outwards, the club must first look inwards to get to the core of who the All Blues are.

“We need to find out where we are invested. Not financially, but emotionally. Who drives that?”

We must reassess what is that the All Blues represent and get down to the foundation of what we has always made this club great. Namely: the people. Theo Bennett is poised to work through this process and build greatness from the inside out.

Authored by Dot Mittow

CPC Player Profile (July/August 2017): Alex Boskovich

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Alexandra Marie Boskovich aka Bosko, at one time Alex before there was All Blues Coach Alex Williams...then it became Junior and later Junior Mint (per my request/candy affinity)

Hometown: San Jose, CA
Position(s) played: Blind side flanker (#6), “Prop” in 7s, one time I played outside center and it was fun as hell! I also have locked and 8-manned too.

All Blues since: 2008

Bosko, all smiles, after the All Blues bagged the championship title at the 2017 Tight 5 Sevens Tournament on Treasure Island (with Alyssa B creepin' in the background).

Bosko, all smiles, after the All Blues bagged the championship title at the 2017 Tight 5 Sevens Tournament on Treasure Island (with Alyssa B creepin' in the background).

Getting Started with Rugby

Q: When and how did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

I started playing rugby in the fall of 2002 when I arrived at Pitzer College, the best of the Claremont College Consortium. I had been avoiding the swim team workout because I was pretty tired of being alone with my thoughts while not breathing/dying for long. I knew my dad was going to call me to ask how swimming for my college would be so I had to come up with an excuse/replacement fast. Fortunately, the Claremont Colleges Women’s Rugby Team had flyered the bathroom stalls and I found one. I called the recruiting rep—a super nice scientist from Harvey Mudd—and came out to practice and met a bunch of laughing, kick ass women who had never played the sport before. Dad called the next day and I had officially become a rugger. Go Foxes!

 

Q: Did you play any sports prior to rugby?

Swimming for my high school. Everyone on that team had been racing since they were 2...except for me. However, it really built up my aerobic base/ability to exercise without oxygen which is quite helpful in rugby. I also played volleyball in elementary/middle school. I am great at cheering. And finally, I ran one track meet in 8th grade. I ran the mile and I was on track to come in second to last until my “best friend” passed me in the last 50 yards….I also enjoy badminton.

 

Q: Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby?  If so, what is it?

Get back up. Rugby is such a testament to that mindset. It’s served me well in all aspects of the game and in life. The mantra of “one more” whether it be an extra sprint, an extra go in a practice drill, or even just a kind word to pep yourself and/or teammates up has been so valuable to me. Opportunity especially in the face of adversity is always there so why not get it? I get made of fun of lot for my love of quotes but allow me to reference one that I think also captures this concept: "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other" -Abraham Lincoln. That’s the spirit of get back up.

 

About your time as an All Blue

Q: How did you first find out about the All Blues?

Champagne Classic sometime when I was in college. We were accidentally entered into the senior women’s bracket and had to play against legends like the Mitchell sisters, Ashley English and so forth. I experienced firsthand what premier rugby meant...it did not include tackles because their running lines were so amazing and we were just dumbfounded. My college coach also wouldn’t shut up about Kathy Flores and Jen Crawford so when the time came to return home a few years later, I knew I needed to test with the best!

 

Q: What do you like most about being on this team?

The people. You can win all you want but if you’re not with folks that you can respect and truly celebrate all the glory that comes with rugby and just sport, then what’s the point. I am so fortunate to have taken the field and maybe a round of pub trivia or beer olympics with so many smart, passionate All Blues. All my technical development, and in many ways, personal too, comes from the rugby community, namely the All Blues Rugby community. 

 

Q: In your point of view, how has the team changed throughout the years you’ve played for this team? What things have remained the same?  

I look back and can’t believe sometimes that I’ve been with the club for almost a decade.  From what I’ve seen as both a player and former Exec*, is a constant commitment to evolvement in the spirit of pursuing excellence both on and off the field. Certain things have changed like me now being the old goose and the general decreasing average age of the team but it’s been so cool to witness/run after and hopefully catch up with this new amazing group of players and leaders. Their openness and adaptability to shift with the ever-changing rugby landscape in the US is quite impressive. One thing that I have to give a shout out for in terms of change is media. We actually have a presence now! Way to go media team!! Also, GroupMe. That’s been new and fun. #highqualitymemes

*Editor: Bosko served as President of the All Blues—POTAB—before Phoebe Boone and current POTAB Bridget DeSantis

 

Development as a player

Q: Is there a particular player and/or coach that has influenced your development as a player?  In what way(s) did they help you?

Oh, this is super hard because I actually have a long list of folks in my head about who has contributed to my rugby development. It’s “turn on the music”, usher you off the Oscars stage long. If I had to choose, it would have to be Kathy Flores. She really is the woman, the myth, the legend. She not only taught me to be a better player but also brought out a confidence in me that I could carry both on and off the field.  Literally. I remember turning in my player self evaluation and almost every skill section she scored me on included a note that said “ability but no confidence”. Kathy’s honest feedback coupled with clear and simple goals for me to work on really helped me take my game to the next level. And ultimately, she simply gave space to listen to me when I needed it and kept me moving/”out of my head” when it was time. I’m really very honored to call Kathy a mentor and a friend.

I also have to give Laura Cabrera a big shout out too. My defensive skills really sharpened playing under the pressure of the 7s games. Laura set the bar high and always inspired me to go for it!

 

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

“Come play rugby!” It’s really a life changing decision….

 

Q: As a new mom, how do you balance taking care of Ben, work, [insert other responsibilities here], and playing rugby?

Jared. My husband is incredible and fortunately a rugby player so he gets why my involvement with the All Blues is important. Aside from having his support, I’m also lucky to have All Blue teammates/besties—Julie Kieu and Katie Chou—who help watch Ben, offer to grab me groceries when they’re out, give me a ride to the next conditioning workout, cook together, etc. They say it takes a village to raise a child and that is absolutely true. I’m so happy Ben is growing up in this community.  Finally, rugby involves a lot of direct and clear communication. So when a potential work event may come up, I’m definitely more comfortable saying “No, I have other obligations I need to attend to tonight”.

 

Other Fun Stuff

Q: Who’s your favorite rugby player/team to watch? Why?

I don’t have a favorite but I do really enjoy watching 7s and am pumped about the 7s World Cup being in San Francisco next summer. I prefer Southern Hemisphere style rugby and for some reason the Argentinian National team aka the Pumas are just adorable to me.  But I’ll end with this, watching any of my teammates on a media platform like a live stream or THE OLYMPICS is just incredible and even sometimes emotional #sportsequitynow

 

Q: What is your favorite non-rugby activity?

Eating with friends.

 

Q: If you were an ice cream flavor, which one would you be?

Fenton’s February seasonal “Chocolate Raspberry”

 

Q: Most memorable thing for which you’ve gone to Kangaroo Court for?

Hmmm court, I can’t remember. I’m pretty untouchable. Just kidding. I did receive a team Muilligan award from Coach Alex Williams for tripping over myself super hard in a game against ORSU. I thought no one saw…

 

Theo Bennett to Lead the All Blues into the 2017 WPL Season

We are excited to announce that we have offered the position of head coach to Theo Bennett for the upcoming fall WPL season.  Theo has been coaching rugby around the world since 1994, starting in his home country of New Zealand. His diversity of experience has had him coach both men and women, both 15s and 7s, and he has also developed other coaches throughout his career. He speaks English and Portuguese, and is also a competition athlete of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His current work has him stationed in Brazil where he is the head coach and founder of Atena Women’s Rugby Seven’s club that serves to create pathways for local players to the Brazilian National Team. He also serves as a rugby consultant for the US Air Force men’s team, for which he travels to the US and coaches them in the days leading up to tournaments.  Notably, while coaching in Australia, he successfully coached a struggling team back from a 30+ game losing streak to the top four in their division.

Theo Bennett. Image courtesy of http://pioneiro.clicrbs.com.br/

Theo Bennett. Image courtesy of http://pioneiro.clicrbs.com.br/

Through the coach selections committee’s conversations with Theo, we have seen his genuine enthusiasm for building a strong community both for our team and for himself in the Bay Area and in supporting the All Blues’ team culture and performance.  Theo wrote that, “after talking to Allie [Byrne] and Lisa [Dombroski] briefly, we established that there is a needed long-term plan and philosophy for rebuilding a foundation of sustainable rugby quality, and player and coach development.”  This is in line with our club’s refocused goal of player development, which we started in earnest in the past D2 spring season.  Theo sees his role as “a builder of communities,” figuring out how one can fit people into a place where they feel appreciated and belong, and at the same time “guiding the objectives of all stakeholders, so that we are productive in our rugby culture and have sustainability of positive outcomes.”

Theo talking to the forwards during a recent 7s practice in Bayport Park, Alameda.  Photo: Evan Hoese

Theo talking to the forwards during a recent 7s practice in Bayport Park, Alameda.  Photo: Evan Hoese

The executive board believes Theo’s plans of helping build our community and our players’ confidence through training will be key in elevating the All Blues in the WPL and strengthening our Olympic pathway.  He is currently visiting the area to get a feel for our team culture and begin planning the upcoming WPL season.  He has been very enthusiastic in supporting our 7s players, as well as our team fundraising activities for SF Pride.  Catch him while he’s in town until July 3rd!  We look forward to having him start his official role at the start of the WPL season, which begins in mid-August!

CPC Player Profile (June 2017): Cathy Cai

From last month's featured player, Elvi Figueroa: "I recommended [Cathy] because she's very strong and determined. She's made more key tackles than I can count and is always there for her teammates. She doesn't hesitate when it comes to offense or defense. Plus she's a very positive and happy person on and off the field!"

 

Full Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Cathy Cai

Hometown: San Francisco
Position(s) played: flanker, inside center

All Blues since: 2016

Photo: Travis Prior

Photo: Travis Prior

AB: How did you find out about us (i.e. what/who got you to come to your first AB practice?)

CC: I played for Cal Women’s Rugby, so naturally I heard of the Berkeley All Blues. They are sister teams, right?

 

AB: When and how did you first start playing rugby?  What got you into it?

CC: I started playing rugby my senior year of college. During my freshman year, a floor mate tried to recruit me to play for Cal. I had a lot of misconceptions about the sport and culture. I was hesitant to join, but playing rugby was something that constantly stayed at the back on my mind. Finally, I gave it a shot my senior year of college and haven’t looked back. It was helpful to find a friend that agreed to go to the first practice with me.

 

AB: Do you have a philosophy/mindset when you practice and play rugby?  How do you get into “the zone”?

CC: My mindset when I go to practice is to have fun. I understand there are times when I need to focus and listen to my coaches/teammates, but for the most part I try to laugh as much as possible. We have some of the best coaches so I have the privilege of learning a lot about the game of rugby while also playing with some of the most athletic and amazing teammates.

I don’t really get into the “zone” for rugby. If I think too much before games, I become nervous and get tunnel vision. Something that helps me prepare for rugby games is to stay relaxed and nonchalant. I occasionally will listen to indie folk before games to keep my nerves down.
 

AB: What is your best memory, thus far, as an All Blue?  What do you like most about being on this team?

CC: Sevens nationals last year was my favorite weekend with the team. We played as a team and held our own. I also loved celebrating at the end of the tournament because I was able to see some crazy sides to my teammates. I love the social aspect of the team most. We go onto the pitch and get what we need to get done, done. But the best part is coming together after a tournament to socialize and celebrate.

Photo: Travis Prior

Photo: Travis Prior

AB: Is there a particular player and/or coach that have influenced your development as a player? In what way(s) did they help you?

CC: Evan Hoese [edit: current All Blue; 2017 spring season coach] has really helped me improve my knowledge of the game. She does an excellent job translating her knowledge to less experienced players. Every time I have a question, she clearly and concisely answers it.

Something that was particularly constructive was to have a one-on-one conversation right after our games. The game was still fresh on our minds and it was extremely helpful to ask any questions that may have arisen, answered.

 

AB: What is the best advice you have ever received about playing rugby?

CC: If you start conditioning during the season, you are already too late. Staying in mental and physical shape starts before the season begins. This is something that I struggle with because everyone on my team knows I hate to condition. I have learned that finding friends to do conditioning with is the best way to stay motivated.

 

AB: Who’s your favorite rugby player/team to watch?

CC: I wouldn’t say I particularly have a favorite rugby team. I love watching Women 7’s rugby in general. I am excited anytime this sport gets any exposure. However, if you were twisting my arm and said I had to choose a team, I would have to choose the Black Ferns. They play some of the most dynamic and consistent rugby.

Photo: Vic Abrenica

Photo: Vic Abrenica

AB: What is your favorite non-rugby activity?

CC: I don’t have a lot of opportunity to do this but I love to travel. One country I hope to travel to in the future is New Zealand. It’s a beautiful country with a strong rugby culture. 

 

AB: Did you use to play any sports previously?

CC: In the past, sports that I have competed in are basketball, volleyball, track and field, and Olympic weightlifting.

 

AB: Anything else you’d like to share with us? 

CC: Besides rugby, I am passionate about address health disparities in minority populations. I am fortunate enough to work at UCSF on cancer disparity research that focuses on closing the disparity gap in communities with low socioeconomic status.