by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Recently a loyal rugbyrugby.com reader asked me what I thought about the sevens game as a developmental tool for young players. Her question prompted me to remember a time in my own rugby upbringing when sevens was all I thought about.
While playing college football, I took up rugby during the springtime of my sophomore year. At the time my college did not have a rugby team, so I ran out for a local club. Fortunately for me, there were several club members who took their summer sevens rugby seriously and therefore provide a glimpse of what competitive sevens rugby required by way of skill, strength, and conditioning. When the club, Quad City Irish, won the national club sevens championship a few years later, it cemented my desire to play sevens at the top level.
Since I had a solid strength foundation already established in the weightroom, I was able to play sevens and not compromise the strength development necessary to keep playing football. The sevens game quickly challenged me to improve my understanding of the game, and the handling and defensive skills required. Learning how to create space and how to preserve it is no easy lesson. I loved it, and played in as many sevens matches as possible during the summers while in school.
Back then there was less thought given to individual development plans. I just got stuck into trying to do everything in my power to learn how to play the game of rugby, and sevens was a great vehicle to learn rugby’s core skills. Today, many young players have a much better grasp of the game and all it’s nuances, thanks to rugby being so much more accessible via the internet and satellite television not to mention the fact that we host a stop on the IRB’s sevens circuit.
I especially encourage high school players who are relatively new to the game to play sevens this summer. There is no replacement for being on the field, with the ball in your hands, making decisions whether to run, pass, or kick the ball.
The decision of what a player should prioritize working on this summer should be based on how physically strong a player is (or isn’t), and whether their core rugby skills could benefit from getting more time on the field with the ball in their hands.
Playing sevens helped me in many ways as a young player, and changed the direction of my life after being selected to represent the United States at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1989. Sevens, what a great game.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) 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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