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. 

 

2017 7s Season Information

 All Blues 7s Head Coach Jack Baird

All Blues 7s Head Coach Jack Baird

The summer 7's season is fast approaching! We are lucky enough to have our wonderful 7's coach from last summer coming back to us, Jack Baird. Hailing from England, he is currently the Director of Rugby at King's College School, Cambridge. Jack is also the head coach of Cambridge University women's, and has worked as an assessment coach for England Women's Squad. Last year, he was an instrumental part of helping our team compete at the 7's National Championship. We are also lucky to be joined by Irene Gardner and Lucy Croy as assistant coaches. Both Irene and Lucy are All Blues alumnae who have competed at some of the highest levels of rugby in the United States.

7s is a great introduction to both the sport and the team, and we love new players! College players in town for the summer are also definitely welcome. If you are interested in joining us this year, please email jointheallblues@gmail.com or fill out our website contact form.

Important Dates

More information will be coming soon, but the following dates have already been confirmed.

  • May 11 - 7's Informational and Kickoff Meeting at the blue barn at 7:30 pm at Gabe Catalfo Fields
  • May 16 - 7's first practice! at 7pm at  Gabe Catalfo Fields
  • June 17 - NCRFU Tournament @ tbc
  • July 8 - NorCal Club 7s Qualifier Tournament 1 @ Silicon Valley
  • July 15 - NorCal Club 7s Qualifier Tournament 2 @ SFGG
  • July 29 - CR1 Club 7s National Qualifier Tournament @ Tacoma, WA
  • Aug 12/13 - National Club 7s Championship @ Blaine, MN 

CPC Player Profile (April 2017): Courtney Hendrickson

Name (plus any rugby nickname(s)): Courtney Hendrickson (Corn Dog/Corny)

Hometown: Escondido, CA

Position(s) played: Center, wing, fullback

All Blues since: 2016

Studied: Wildlife Biology and Geography

 The Courtney Hendrickson.  Photo credit: Vic Abrenica

The Courtney Hendrickson.  Photo credit: Vic Abrenica

     Although a relative newcomer to rugby, Courtney is not a stranger to high-level competition.  She played field hockey for Cal, where she was named NorPac West Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, registering 136 saves with a .791 save percentage that year. During her last semester at Cal, she decided to join the women’s rugby team (and “not a second too late”).  Asked how she first started playing rugby, Courtney answers that she figured that she “[liked] contact…and running with a purpose.  It just made sense.”  She learned about the All Blues through the many members of the team who visited Cal as “celebrity coaches”, listing Katie Chou, Irene Gardener, Katy Augustyn, and Lisa Dombroski as some of those who came “and imparted their knowledge on us young plebs.”

     Last winter, Courtney was invited to participate at the National All-Star Competition (NASC) in Tigertown, FL.  The NASC is one of the pathways that the USA women’s national team has to identify players that may be a good fit for its international 7s and 15s program.  The competition was eye-opening for Courtney.  She found that “people [were] REALLY good at rugby” and that she “[needed] to consume more protein and lift more.” On the first day, unsure about what position she should play, she got put in to train with the wings.  Later, however, her coach decided to put her in as a center, which became the position she played throughout her time at the camp.

     While at NASC, she was roommates with Kelly Griffin, who is on the women’s national team and is also an All Blues alum. Courtney relays her “super awkward” first encounter with Griff a couple weeks prior, at a Santa Barbara camp.  Courtney had just found out that she was paired to be roommates with Griff at NASC, when suddenly Griff walks into the room.  Courtney happened to be sitting almost right in front of the doorway.  Completely star-struck, she hurriedly got up, repeatedly trying to shove the chair away so that Griff could get by.  All the while she stumbled on her words.  Griff, confused, just asked her, “What are you doing? Just give me a hug,” to which Courtney acquiesces “ooooooookaaay.”  She ended up asking Griff for a lot of advice. Courtney thought it was “so freakin’ cool” that the veteran player never ran out of patience with her questions.

     As an All Blue, Courtney’s favorite memory thus far this D2 season was “watching our rookie, Masha Kourjanskaia score her first try.” She says that what she likes most about being on the All Blues is “being surrounded by people who genuinely want you to be your best…and who are okay with how weird I am.” And as much as the team supports her in rugby endeavors and in being her weird self, so does Courtney return the favor.  Evan Hoese, current All Blues backs coach for the D2 season, says that over the past year Courtney has been “constantly seeking new opportunities to improve, and always building up the people around her. Courtney's speed, strength and vision always make her a threat on offense and defense. However, her true strength comes from her indefatigable spirit. She always puts the team first.”

     When Courtney is not playing rugby, her favorite pastime is annoying Oya.  She also likes to raise fish and house them in fancy space-themed aquariums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Blues Player Awarded Residency in Chula Vista

 Bulou Mataitoga at flyhalf, challenging the Raptors defense.

Bulou Mataitoga at flyhalf, challenging the Raptors defense.

We would like to congratulate current All Blues player Bulou Mataitoga for being offered a residency at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista! Women’s Eagles coach Richie Walker saw her potential during her performance at 7s Nationals just this past summer (where she also co-captained the All Blues), then at All Americans camp this past year. Sarah Davis, who helped coach our most recent 7s team, says that Bulou’s “love to tackle” was one of the things that caught Richie Walker’s eye.  Sarah adds that Bulou is “absolutely tenacious at defense...[making] multiple try saving-tackles in one sequence.”  Indeed, Bulou earned a “good teammate play” award for our first game this season for exactly that, preventing ORSU from scoring just a few meters shy of our try line.  

 

But more than Bulou’s technique and work rate as a defender, Sarah says that what makes her special is her “completeness” as a player.  According to her, “[Bulou] has always been a talented finisher, but this year she added the ability to create to her repertoire.  Lastly, her attitude is fantastic. She is really coachable and is really coming into her own as a team leader.”

 

Bulou’s residency runs from October 1st to December 31st.  She plans to balance her residency with playing with the All Blues through Nationals, which is in early November.  For anyone who might be interested in a similar opportunity, Bulou’s advice is “to keep playing with your local club, work hard, and you'll get seen by the coaches at tournaments. And above all else, never stop believing in yourself.”