August 14, 2009
I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, went through a lot of customs, and then caught another flight to Palmerston North. I soon met Dave who plays for the Canada Under 20s side. Everything was all organized. When we landed in Palmerston North, there was a guy already waiting for us. He had our names and drove us to the hotel we were staying at for that first night before moving into the Academy. We checked into the motel and the owner gave us a couple of mountain bikes to use if we wanted. We went for a ride around town and stopped off for dinner at the Golden Star Restaurant. It was really good. We went back to the motel and were both so tired we went to bed at like 5:00 p.m.
August 15, 2009
I woke up around 6:00 a.m. I was very tired but couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally, our ride came to pick us up and we were on our way to the Academy to check in. We had our first meeting at 10:00 a.m. At that meeting I met all the other rugby players who were attending the camp. There were many from different countries but most of the boys were from New Zealand. After the meeting we went straight to do the fitness test which was extremely hard but it wasn’t too bad for me. We did 10, 20, 30 and 60 meter sprints. Then we had a 400 meter run. That was followed by a 1500 meter run.
After the fitness evaluation we came back for lunch. After lunch, we had our first session with Rachel Svenson about nutrition. She taught us how to eat right and what kind of food we need in our bodies to perform at our peak as athletes. It really helped me understand how to eat right because I grew up in a family that eats heavy breakfasts, heavy lunches and heavy dinners….ha ha, Island Family.
After the nutrition session, we went to the mini indoor rugby field they call the Green Room. We did team building work where we got to know everyone. Wayne Taylor then led us through a bit of a recovery session which was really fun. We went back to the team room and there we met Murray Mexted, former All Blacks great. He talked to us about mental toughness and how to prepare ourselves before and after every game. He also told us not to be too hyped or too relaxed when performing but a balance of somewhere in the middle where we have total self control.
Before dinner, we introduced ourselves to all the coaches that were assisting the course. When dinner was over we went back for the Fitness Presentation with Wayne Taylor. He showed us how important it is to be prepared, fit and strong to be a rugby player.
August 16, 2009
The day started out with a session with Wayne Taylor about the important of hydration. He demonstrated the importance of drinking lots of water to stay healthy. This was followed by a Strength Assessment in the gym. We did pull-ups and max out on benches. I ended up competing with a guy from Spain who had the highest in benching which was pretty cool but I beat him. Then we did Core Strength work with Carolynn Margann. I really thought that I was prepared for this assignment but it kicked my butt. After that we had a Basic Pass session with Dave Ellis. He taught us techniques of how important to stay low, run and pass. He called it Little Johnny’s in the pouring rain.
We dried up and had lunch. Then we had an assignment called Set and Phase Attack with Dave. We learned how to run gaps between the defender. After that session, Carolynn instructed us on self massage and injury. She taught us some pretty good stretching techniques and how to recover our muscles after the games. After dinner we had Value and Standard session with Wayne, Dave and Steve McHardy. They taught us how to trust in and bond with each other, and for all of us to become a family and a strong rugby team. After that session was completed, a few of us hung out in the room just to get to know a little bit more about each other. I went to sleep at 10:00 p.m.
August 17, 2009
I got up at 5:30. I was pretty tired but still got ready and went straight to the Green Room. There we had a Speed Agility and Quickness footwork session with Wayne where he taught us how to look at our opponent while moving our legs sideways at the same time. After that we had breakfast and a 40 minute rest period. Then we walked straight onto the rugby field for a Contact and Breakdown session with the legendary Buck Shelford, former number 8 for the All Blacks when New Zealand won the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Buck taught us what to do in contact and ball placements. We all got muddy and dirty in the process.
We changed our gear and cleaned up a bit and got right back to a Mental Skills session with Warren Smith. He taught us how to not think about the whole 80 minute game but rather to focus on my individual game plan for the match.
That was followed by another Nutrition session with Rachel, who taught us how to eat smart. We played this fun game where we dished each other’s food without their opinion. That was pretty tight.
We broke for one hour and got right back on the field for Tackle and Defensive Skills with Buck. We worked on space and communication in our defending line. Then we had a Quantum Sport session with Eroni Clarke, former All Blacks back. He taught us to aim higher in life. It really made me realize how important school and an education are. Then we were back outside working more on the defense with the same coaches and came in for a recovery session with Wayne. Then we had dinner and straight to bed.
August 18, 2009
We had a Fitness session this morning and practically had the same schedule as yesterday. I know reading this may seem boring but hey its rugby. Breakfast was finished and then we had Mental Skills. That was followed by a Knowledge of Team Pattern Sequencing with Dave Ellis and Buck as they talked about options to do in every certain part of the game. Following that was a laws session with referee Matt Peters. He taught us more about the ever changing laws of the game. We had one last session with Eroni Clarke and then we broke for lunch.
It was back onto the pitch after lunch working on counter attack for about an hour. We then split up into forward and backs. The backs first ran a few drills to warm up and then ran all our plays. After that we had a Hot and Cold Recovery session with Wayne. Then we hit the showers and had one more Mental Skills session before dinner. The night concluded with a Position Specific Analysis. Some of us hung out for a little bit then to bed.
August 19, 2009
The day started early with a 6:30 Fitness session with Wayne. We did squats, dead lifts, etc. and learned the importance of lifting weights with the proper technique. After breakfast we had more Mental Skills work and then back on the rugby field for Back Attack and Unit Skills. Followed that was Defense with Buck. Dave then split the backs and forwards. We ran some drills and plays and then played a little bit of touch rugby.
After that we came in for lunch and had a quiz about our plays so everyone was on the right page. We went back to the field for another training session where we split forwards and backs again and learned some new plays. Then we all went for Recovery in the Hot and Cold pools. That was followed by our Team Meeting where the coaches wanted to make sure we all understand the game plan and our own responsibilities. Then it was dinner and to bed.
August 20, 2009
Game Day! Today, we started at 7.30 with breakfast. That was followed by our Team Meeting. We had a short 20 minute break then went outside for our morning Team Run. We went through everything we worked on through the whole week because today is our game with Manawatu. We had Light Training then we split up with our Specialist Coach. My coach was former All Blacks halfback Stu Forster. Stu taught me simple passing drills and more tips of where to be on line-outs and scrums. We were short of guys in the back line so I also played some wing (#11). I was very blessed to work with the All Blacks Legend, Christian Cullen in the backline. He taught us where to be on defense and offense but mainly on defense.
We regrouped and went for another Team Run and then we broke for lunch. After our meal we all went back to our rooms. I relaxed on my bed and focused on the game. As game time approached, the team assembled in the green room for our Jersey Presentation and Team Photo. There, I met my uncle and aunt who came all the way from Christchurch just to watch me play one game. After the photo we headed back to our locker room to stretch and get ready for the game.
The game consisted of four 20 minute quarters. We were defending the entire first half and rarely got the ball out to the backline. In the second half, they put me back to scrumhalf and I scored a try in the first five minutes with a quick tap penalty from 10 meters out. Although the field was very slippery it was a very good game. Everyone in Palmerston North, even the coaches, told us that Manawatu was a very good team. They were a good team but we end up winning the match 25-10. After the game we had a Recovery session. That was followed by our after-match dinner which included individual speeches from all the coaches who encouraged us to continue on our paths in Rugby. We also had awards presentation and I was voted the Most Valuable Player of the Game. Isn’t that great! I received a rugby ball signed by a bunch of former All Blacks players and all the Coaches that were assisting at the RugbyAcademy.
It was the most enjoyable experience of my whole life. I got to know all the famous rugby players and coaches, and met all the selected boys from different countries. It was especially nice of my relatives that came up from Wellington and Christchurch just to visit with me and watch my game. It was hard for us to say goodbye to each other because we were like brothers over there.
Last but not least, with my great respect, it’s an honor for me to thank the entire U.S. Rugby Foundation, David and Eileen Hovey and Michael DeJong for making this fantastic experience possible. I also want to thank Coach Salty Thompson and John Law (Utah Coach) for their recommendations. I also want to thank my Highland Head Coach, Larry Gelwix, for supporting me while I was playing for Highland. If it wasn’t for his generous love and support of me, this experience would have never been a possibility. I also thank Coach Haloti Moala and all the Highland coaches for their kindness and support. I also thank Coach Burdette (University of Utah coach) and Mr. Dean Kinikini for helping me out in Rugbyand School.
I also thank Murray Mexted, Dave Ellis, Wayne Taylor, Buck Shelford, Steve McHardy, Stu Forster, Warren Smith, Matt Peters, Rachel Svenson, Carolynn Margann, Christian Cullen and Eroni Clarke. My special thanks to my parents, Auimatagi Eliu and Lesina Taupe Pati. I also want to thank my great supporters…..my family in New Zealand, Samoa, Australia and in the United States for their support and love for me.
I appreciated everything. May the Lord’s Blessing be upon you all. God Bless.
Randy (Don) Pati