WK2 PRESEASON | The Progress and Process
Herriman City, Utah – Crazy to think it’s only week 2! The team and staff have done so much work already that it feels like we are way ahead in the process than just the second week. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the amazing coaching staff we have and a group of players who are both eager to learn and work hard. Those characteristics are what is going to allow us to build a unique culture and I’m excited to support the players and coaches as they work towards that goal.
I’m also excited to write this week 1 review to share with everyone what we accomplished in a big week 1. So, throw on your favorite piece of Utah Warrior gear (You see our new jerseys!? They are awesome!), kick those feet up and enjoy this update.
Preseason for me has always been a lot like Christmas. There is this excited energy that you can feel that is mixed with anticipation for what is to come. What is unique about this preseason is it is my first with the Utah Warriors and my first in the role of Director of Rugby of a professional team so there was also a feeling of nervousness. Truthfully, I haven’t been that nervous to meet a group of people since the first holiday I spent with my wife’s family.
The kickoff meeting was our first event as a whole group together. This was our chance as a staff to set our expectations and to meet the players. I personally think we nailed it. The players were engaged and excited to hear what we had to say. When you speak to a group you can always tell if you are reaching them by how they react to you. You look for signs like eye contact, nodding heads, note taking, and posture. I saw all of that through every coach’s introduction and expectation setting conversation.
From there the players went through a testing cycle laid out by our new strength and conditioning coach Matt Maddison. It was awesome to watch Matt’s energy and passion be met in equal by the players as they worked through their tests. Assistant Head Coach Ben Nicholls told the team that our future success would be determined by the work we do away from the stadium. After watching the eagerness, the players had to work hard, and the knowledge and passion Matt is bringing to the team I’m confident they are doing the hard work needed to achieve on field success.
One of the most powerful experiences this past week was our team going to the Festival of Trees event to honor a young fan and his family. Being new to the team and Utah community I was unaware of Nixon Whatcott story of battling childhood cancer while living his life to the fullest with the support of his family. Sadly, Nixon last his battle with cancer last Summer and to honor his memory his family was participating in Intermountain Health’s Festival of Trees which raises money for the Primary Children’s Hospital. Listening to Nixon’s mother tell us their story, the mission of the Nixon Strong Foundation, and watching John Cullen present her and Nixon’s siblings with an honor Utah Warriors cap was both humbling and inspiring. It also reinforced the duty we have as team and organization to support our community and causes like this.
Our highlight of the week was the community combine. This combine was set-up to give the new coaching staff a chance to see players from the local teams around Utah. Let me tell you, the rugby community of Utah did not disappoint! We had 55 attendees who worked with our coaching staff through fitness assessments and small sided games. 6 of these attendees were invited directly from the combine to join our preseason on a trial period. The rest of the combine attendees will join our Warriors Select developmental team. The Warriors Select will be our local talent entry point for our pathway. This team will train and play together once a month during the MLR season. This team’s primary focus will be developing player’s skill set to give them the best chance to progress to our MLR roster. While every player will not make the MLR roster, every player will train and develop which will raise the standards of rugby in our community. We are also working with local community shareholders to find up and coming rugby coaches that will work on staff for the Warriors Selects and be mentored by our MLR coaching staff. Rugby in Utah is some of the best in the country and it is our responsibility to support its development with initiatives like this.
We finished the week strong by Chris, Shawn and Shaun introducing the players to our systems and processes for the upcoming season. We also scouted the D1AA and D2 national championship looking for future Utah Warriors. Congrats to all the players, coaches, and referees for a successful event in Charlotte last weekend!
I hope you enjoyed this update and a peek behind the curtain of the Utah Warriors. We are excited to finally have the season under way and to be working hard towards what we plan on being an exciting 2020 campaign! Happy holidays and we look forward to seeing you at a game!
Director of Rugby Operations
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