Nike rugby camps debut at Norwich
On June 27, twenty-five youths checked into Goodyear Hall on the Upper Parade Ground of Norwich University, ready to embark on a brand new sports venture. The boys, ages 12-18, were registering for the Nike Rugby Camp, a subsidiary of US Sports Camps. According to camp director Bob Weggler, US Sports Camps sponsors over 500 camps in sixteen different sports, but the camp at Norwich is the first residential rugby camp to be sponsored by Nike in the East.
US Sports Camps partnered with Weggler, currently in his fourth year as Head Men's and Women's Rugby Coach at Norwich University, to establish a camp in the East, where high school rugby is rapidly on the rise. Nike is sponsoring a second residential camp at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA from July 19-23, 2004.
"The fact that Nike has decided to sponsor rugby camps indicates the sport's mainstream acceptance in the United States," said Weggler. "Norwich and Stanford were selected based on their excellent facilities and national rugby reputations."
The Norwich rugby program, established in 1970, is coming off its most successful season ever, culminating in an appearance last April at the National Sweet Sixteen tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Assisting Weggler for the week are Tony Fletcher, Head Men's and Women's Rugby Coach at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and Eric Corbett and Kris Beaudoin, Norwich rugby players from 2000-2004.
Rugby is a game that spans the globe, and besides campers from all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, there are participants from England, France, and South Africa. From closer to home are two children of Alumna Mary Clisbee '82, who played rugby on one of the very first women's teams at Norwich. Dr. Clisbee, Deputy Executive Director at the Merrimack Education Center in Chelmsford, Mass., was excited to see that Norwich was offering one of only two Nike rugby camps in the country.
"Rugby is a tradition on 'The Hill'; therefore, it is so appropriate that Norwich is on the cutting edge of rugby history ... training our next generation of ruggers!" said Clisbee.
Even though Clisbee's sons, Luther and Anthony, had never played rugby before, Clisbee had no hesitation about sending them to the camp.
"It was without reservation that I sent my two youngest boys, ages
12 and 13, to this fine camp. How exciting to hear them talking about
scrums, rucks and lineouts!"
"Newcomers to the game are quickly indoctrinated into an exciting new sport," said Weggler, "while the more experienced players are challenged to upgrade both their skill level and depth of understanding of the game. My goal is that everyone will leave here not only having improved their individual skills, but also having gained a useful body of knowledge that they can bring back to their own teams."
The camp's primary emphasis is on rugby fundamentals and incorporates both individual and team concepts and skills, rules and safety into its curriculum. In addition, Justin Goulet, the Norwich strength and conditioning coach, works with the campers on conditioning and weight-training techniques. With two outdoor training sessions per day and nightly classroom instruction, campers are kept busy from sunup to sundown.
On the second evening, Charley Bates of the New England Referees' Society gave an inspiring talk on the spirit and laws of the game and the player/referee relationship.
"In American sports culture, everyone wants to blame someone else, and oftentimes that person is the referee," said Bates, whose son, Jack, is attending the camp. Bates advised the campers to always treat referees with respect, but not to expect to influence them.
"You can't change the ref, anymore than you can change the goal post, so you might as well focus on what you can change." Bates concluded his presentation with a film and discussion on the updated laws of tackling and rucking.
Following Bates' talk, the campers, tired but happy, headed back to Goodyear Hall for a well-deserved night's sleep. Come morning, they would awaken refreshed and ready to start another full day of rugby.
by Diana Weggler