by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
I know lots of people think that Rugby Sevens will be participating at the Olympics in London this summer, unfortunately not, but Wheelchair Rugby will be playing a full part in the Paralympic Games and so we all have a rugby team to follow, and a really good one at that! The USA Wheelchair Rugby team are hot favorites to take Gold, and I think its really important that this awesome team gets the credit and recognition that they deserve.
I met Coach Gumby a couple of years ago and we’ve stayed in touch, in fact Coach Gumby participated in our Diversity Group last year and made a great contribution, in short, these guys really impress me. The problem I share with most rugby players is that apart from the words wheelchair and rugby, I didn’t really know much about the sport, so I asked the kind of dumb questions people would like to ask and never do. Fortunately Coach Gumby is a tolerant man and obliged with the answers, I thought I would share them with you..
When we last spoke, Coach Gumby was returning from a site visit in London to check out the facilities and see a couple of potential opponents play, these guys leave no stone unturned, its all about the preparation and I have no doubt when the USA Team arrives in London they will be in great shape..
Here’s a few basics for starters:
A wheelchair rugby team consists of 12 players, they have an extended squad of about 19, but 12 players will be traveling to London. The game is coed, men and women both play together, currently there are no women in the National team, but they have a rising women’s star in the Development team (the USA Force) who should break into the National team in the future.
The game is played on a baskeball court, 94ft x 45ft. The aim of the game is to advance the ball from one end of the court to the other. You have to bounce or pass the ball (forward and back) every 10 seconds and you score one point by advancing the ball over the goal line while having possession of the ball. The rules basketball (over and back), hockey (crease) and soccer are incorporated along with components of rugby. This makes for a high scoring, hard hitting, exciting game. Scores range from 45-60 points a side per game. The game lasts for 32 minutes with a stop and go clock, its played in quarters of 8 minutes, with overtime for ties.
The contact rules are pretty straight forward, ‘Chair on Chair’ contact is OK, but not ‘Body on Body’ contact.
The ball is a competition volleyball.
Q&A with Coach Gumby
So, where do you all come from? Many of the athletes have come from injuries (spinal cord) we also have amputees, neurological disorders (polio, MS Guianne Beret) and some players who were born with disability. A big focus now is on the wounded warriors who are returning home from overseas conflicts. We currently have 2 of them on the USA side.
Who are the stars in the team? You’d have to point at the veterans on the team Andy Cohn, Will Groulx, and Scott Hogsett, who have been to two Paralympics and represent leadership, dedication and proven performance. Look for them to lead this group going into the summer. In truth, the team is a team, as far as stars this is one of the most unselfish groups I have ever been associated with. If they play 3 mins or 30 mins they will give everything for each other. It’s truly rewarding to be a part of.
What’s the teams record going into the Olympics? 72 – 2 since 2005 (that’s a winning record even the All Blacks cant match)
Who are your biggest rivals? It has to be the Aussies, we have seem them in the finals in Beijing 08 and Vancouver 10 (World Championships), but the world has caught up and there are no games or countries that we will look past.
Who will you play at the Olympics? In our pool we have France, Canada and Japan.
What is the selection process? We go through a 6 month process where we evaluate skill, game play, and overall team chemistry.
Is there a National League? – if so who is the best team? We do have a 47 team national league. It’s a toss up between Portland, Tucson, and Phoenix.
Where can we see Wheelchair rugby? Local tournaments happen throughout the US. Our season runs from October through April. Check the calendar at quadrugby.com to find a tournament near you.
How do you recruit players? It’s kind of weird that you have to have something physically wrong with you to play. Typically we have referrals from rehabs, veterans, and word of mouth. Our population is just gaining media exposure so the more who see it, the more the word spreads.
If someone wanted to try out for the team, what would they need to do? For a club side – just come out and bend some steel. From the USA side there is a process where athletes are tapped with invitations and or afforded the opportunity to protest there way in to a tryout.
Do referees need to be qualified to referee? No – they do have to be certified. Usually, it’s the family member or friend that comes out to watch that ends up with a whistle in their mouth. We even had some USA Rugby refs come out in Birmingham Alabama to give it a go.
What are the tactics and how did you become a coach? I played first. Actually at one point it was apparent that I was better at coaching than running down an opponent so the team said pick one – play or coach. It was a easy decision. Tactics are a big part of rugby on the high end of competition. Forcing the opponent to do things they are not good at goes beyond the chair, I see the players on the pitch doing the same thing. Capitalize on your strengths highlight the opponents weaknesses.
Do you have youth teams? We do not at this point. We have probably 10 – 20 players in the league under 20. It has a lot to do with them demographics that we have had to recruit from.
Do you sing songs after the game? Not very well. Some teams do it more than us (Aussies, Kiwis) we need some lessons for sure!
What’s the social side of the game like? When the whistle blows its game on, but at the end of the day we all enjoy the fact we get to play such a cool sport. To a man in any country there are no strangers. If you need a place to stay or a meal, it’s only a call away. Like AB (able bodied) rugby the jokes, lies, and comradery of rehashing games happens with our side as well.
Are you trying to raise money? Absolutely! The US side is not funded by the government as most others are. We are sponsored in part by the USOC and our own fundraising. As you can imagine we are often in a shortfall and are forced to do more with less. We are moving into a new phase for our sport where we have just begun (past 2 years) to solicit national sponsors. It’s definitely a tough area for us. The national league is self funded.
Want to see the game being played CLICK HERE
So good luck to the USA Wheelchair Rugby Team 120 days to go to London 2012. I am going to follow the team through this blog during the games and we’ll be posting regular updates on the USA Rugby website.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
CLICK HERE to read more on Nigel Melville
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.