by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
If you are like me, you have played team sports the whole of your life. Being a part of a team can be a very rewarding experience as you go through the process of setting goals and then getting busy with your teammates working to accomplish them. The process of taking a collection of athletes and building a team that shares a common goal is something that happens every rugby season all around the world, but when a team gets it all the pieces of it’s make up correct, the experience for those team members can be very memorable.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend some of the USA Sevens held in San Diego at Petco Park. What a terrific time it was, but it wasn’t the rugby played by the 16 competing nations that made the weekend. It was my teammates.
What made my experience so fantastic was being able to visit with so many teammates I have competed with over the years in the colors of our country. In fact, not only where there several former teammates in attendance, one former teammate, Dan Lyle, is the tournament director of the USA Sevens. Another teammate of mine on USA Sevens team during the early ‘90’s is John Hinkin, who was the organizer of the San Diego Invitational, which was a series of matches played on Thursday and Friday leading up to the sevens competition. Incredible rugby men like Dave Hodges, Tony Ridnell, Bill Leversee, Don James, Tim Peterson, Sean Allen, Tommy Smith, George Conahey, Ray Lehner, David Niu, Jim Burgett, Michael De Jong, Kevin Dalzell, Mark Williams, Chris Lippert, Ramon Samaniego were all present. Each and every teammate brought back strong memories of being in a highly competitive and emotionally charged environment somewhere in the world where we were working hard to achieve our goals. I found my brain speeding backward in time to be suddenly standing shoulder to shoulder with these men on the field, and having an overwhelming feeling of not wanting to let the guy on my left or on my right down.
My experience this past weekend wasn’t one of those “glory days” type of situations, in fact I can’t recall a single conversation this past weekend with any of these men about team experiences we shared earlier in our sporting lives. It might well have just been a place only I was travelling back to, but boy, did it make me realize how much I appreciated each and every one of them for the efforts they made during those hard fought matches, both in sevens tournaments and the test arena. During the course of any of these contests, we faced great odds because we were from a country where rugby was not a mainstream sport. Often times, we were in a foreign country competing as the Eagles for the first time in USA Rugby history. This made our teams, and the teammates who comprised those teams, even more memorable to me.
As I travelled home after the first day of the tournament I felt like kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to tell each one of them how proud and privileged I felt to have had the chance to play for the United States with them.
Maybe I just did.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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