Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On USA Sevens Rugby & "Marketing" Women's Rugby

It has been quite some time since I've had the chance to sit and write. In running Stars Rugby 7s with 10 tours in 2016, in adding fifteens tours to our schedule, in upping our recruiting, in growing our network, in getting into rugby commentary, in traveling with other teams to experience their operations, in negotiating new sponsorship details, and in the never-ending role as rugby accountant there simply hasn't been time to write the kind of composed pieces I prefer. In 2016 I had the fortune to travel to 8 different countries and within the USA and Canada I've ventured to many states/provinces -- just last weekend I was on a 10 state recruiting/kit distributing/networking rugby road trip over 3 days. All this coupled with being a single mom, with gym time and additional rehab from a calf strain in Spain that became a tear at Cape Fear, and with my other business ventures.... time has become the mortal enemy of meaningful blog content.

At some point soon I'll write recaps of our Lindenwood  Women's 15s match, our spectacular 2 week tour in Australia, our Life Men's & Women's 15s matches, of the successes of our players in year 2 from the Olympics, Rugby 15s, PRO Rugby, Collegiate National Championships, All American camps/honors and more. But for today my focus is on the recent USA Sevens marketing of one of our #starsfamily of players in Georgia Page, on Her Rugby Counts and their vital ongoing conversation surrounding their reaction and positive steps forward.

I am still pressed for time - yes you can "do it all" but it takes efficiency and brevity - so this will largely be a stream of consciousness post relying on my facebook comments to the matter. I first saw the post by another #starsfamily player - Josie Ziluca - and at first thought, "Meh, I don't have the time for this, Georgia posted that photo on her own social media, I liked her photos from her downtime as well as her rugby accomplishments and I have to get my son from school to religion class to therapy and it's below zero, why do I live in the Midwest, I want to  be back in Australia."

And then I sat on it all day, I thought about my stance, thought about the voice I do have. And I recalled my outrage at the treatment of women's players by the CRC and my outrage at other times I've taken a stand for players rights and the formulas of rugby marketing and growth. I thought about the times I have been marginalized as a player and a coach from being told "You're too pretty to play rugby" while in Scotland and when I had high school boys players I was coaching against tell me to "Shut your mouth you fat dyke". And then the amount of times I've been the head coach of men's teams and been dismissed by those assuming I was the trainer/wife/girlfriend. I also thought of the pride I felt in coaching collegiate men to a national ranking and in the playoffs while 8 months pregnant, and of how one of my son's first babysitters is one of our Team USA Rugby Olympians (I paid her extra to help support her rugby endeavors) and how much she rocks.

I had a few conversations about this with Coach Rebecca Carlson who runs Her Rugby Counts - an engaging and through provoking page/movement that acknowledges the other side of any dialog and invites conversations on the growth & promotion of women's rugby for youth/college/senior players/fans/coaches/parents alike. I thought about my past phone calls with representatives from USA Sevens, United World Sports, and Penn Mutual. I thought about the epic phone calls and online conversations and tweets by women's rugby advocates like Julie McCoy, Lisa Rosen, Wendy Young (Your Scrumhalf Connection), Jackie Finlan (The Rugby Breakdown) and Ali Donnelly (Scrum Queens) and on the work a lot of Rugby Canada Women -- Jen Kish, Maria Samson, Brittany Waters, and Barbara Mevin come to mind -- have done to have a voice and in working with ChampionHer. I thought about our USA Women's Soccer team and their fight for merit-based pay, for better playing fields, for being more than Brandi Chastain ripping off her shirt to celebrate the 1999 World Cup. I thought of the WNBA players that have taken political stances, I thought of Elena Della Donne leaving UCONN for Delaware to be closer to her disabled sister. There's more to every story.

So here are my reactions with a few minor grammatical edits,  to the recent USA Sevens post in which they lifted an image of Georgia Page from her personal social media account, changed the caption, and allowed a storm of typical internet commentariat to run rampant without moderation or guidance. This is in a comment thread on Her Rugby Counts where in addition to points/counterpoints about the image and the perceived/assigned sexuality, there was a bit of confusion between USA Sevens who runs the Las Vegas tournament and USA Rugby the National Governing Body:

Please note there is a HUGE difference between USA Sevens/United World Sport and USA Rugby. They are NOT one in the same.

Other issues here - USA Sevens has benefited greatly from the marketing of Georgia, but what consent did they ask before sharing her photos and images? What compensation have they given her to be their clickbait over the past year and a half? Why are they the only ones marketing in this way - Wellington 7s, Sydney 7s, Canada 7s, Hong Kong 7s, Dubai 7s, Singapore 7s, Langford 7s etc do not operate this way with their media and marketing. This is not consistent with how World Rugby presents itself and USA Sevens is a World Rugby Sevens Series stop (it's also inconsistent with how the NCAA, WNBA, USATF, and other women's sports organizations/teams/entities market).

Further, while I know and love Georgia, why isn't USA Sevens marketing a USA player? Two sides could apply to those like Shaina Turley who is a military helicopter pilot or Carmen Farmer as a lawyer or Nicole Heavirland in her uniform from West Point or Jillion Potter survivor cancer or Joanne Fa'avesi dressed up for church or honoring her Tongan roots or Kelly Griffin as as a mom. Where is the two sides of the Davenport women's player also dressed up receiving her rings? Why not post Georgia with her lab coat on in her osteopath program? And as stated before, where is the two sides of the men?

Contrast all of this to England Rugby's Wear The Rose campaign or how Australia is treating their Golden Girls, and you can see what a strong marketing campaign not based on lifting others' social media posts looks like. USA Sevens has long been tacky with what they share and they don't produce/provide their own professional content.

Continued when I couldn't edit and add to the post:
When a paid, professional soccer player like Mia Hamm is in a Head & Shoulders commercial showing her working hard & sweating on field and then with her "cleaned up" outfit and luxurious locks, she is choosing how her image is used, is consenting to the endorsement, and is being paid for her time and appeal. When Mia Hamm is in a Gatorade commercial to "Be Like Mike" she is controlling her own narrative.

USA Sevens has repeatedly taken advantage of Georgia (and many other athletes) in an unprofessional way that is inconsistent with sport. And then that brings us to the fact that the last time Georgia played at USA 7s she was relegated to a side field with no streaming, no grass, no lines. Our Women's Elite teams were on fields without assistant referees, sometimes without game balls, and old, faded lines. The Old Boys divisions, College, Grad Schools and Men's Elite all got to play on real grass fields with lines, where there were more food tents, support tents, water, and the games were streamed.

Further, when you look at the current marketing for USA 7s and their website, cover photos and the like, the women's game isn't present -- there is one image of women's rugby compared to 3 of men in the lead photos. There are recaps of Dubai 7s & Cape Town 7s with only the men featured despite Dubai being a Women's Sevens World Series stop. It's Carlin Isles used to sell tickets despite the fact that USA Sevens is justifying raising ticket prices this year because the women will be playing in the stadium too (per a phone call I had with the LVI directors). There is an article on Fiji winning gold but not the same for Australia women. There are writeups of the USA men's Olympic performances and a guide to pool play, but not the women (and THIS despite our USA women finishing higher than the men as they also have in every Rugby World Cup 7s or 15s). The Dubai 7s recap has details of each USA men's match and a photo to match and not one mention of the USA women. All the "Latest News" is about men's rugby.

This despite the fact that USA 7s is a Women's Sevens World Series stop yet again -- it sends the message that all USA Sevens cares about when it comes to the women is using them to raise their follows/likes/shares when a convenient enough photo/video comes along that the can lift, re-caption, and re-purpose for their own benefit. They do little to nothing to promote/grow/fund the women's game -- they take and take and take from the female athletes to grow their social media presence and ticket sales without offering anything in return. In the past the women's games haven't streamed, these games haven't had the jumbotron on during their matches, and with the CRC it's even worse, but that is a whole other post. I'd write in/have calls again with United World Sports, with Rhino, with Penn Mutual but everyone I know that was working on their women's rugby initiatives have left the companies or have been fired. 

Someone else commented about Sonny Bill Williams being objectified having his shirt off... the difference here (and in most cases of sports marketing) is the All Blacks, NZ 7s, Wellington 7s, and World Rugby are not the ones pimping out said image. Those organizations are not actively encouraging internet trolls to make mysoginist, vulgar, objectifying remarks. This is a matter of taste, and it is extremely poor.

In response to Georgia's rights being "signed away" to United World Sports based on a potential media waiver at the CRC and USA Sevens not "being able" to promote one of the other athletes I referenced above as they haven't played in a UWS property:

Shaina did play for USA 7s and 15s both so could easily be promoted by USA Sevens ... just like USA Sevens promoted that recent video clip of Japanese players and their unique training methods or the clip of the DU prop or of that 9 year old kid "beasting" everyone. I am fairly certain sure none of them have played in a UWS property!

I also don't think that Georgia signed away all her images from all her personal social media accounts in all perpetuity to UWS and she certainly hasn't given them the license to change captions or change the narrative. I reckon they only hold the "rights" to those in her in LU/Rhino uniform at 2015 CRC (remember that one that UWS/USA Sevens didn't see fit to televise and women's matches, didn't stream, didn't tweet women's results, didn't post the women's results or game times on facebook, didn't list results/show women/didn't profile the women's teams? The same CRC that was the entire impetus for #HerRugbyCounts?).

(note -- upon hyperlinking sites for this post I visited the CRC website. It persists with extremely poor content in regards to women's rugby. It skews heavily towards the men -- to wit there is an article on Kevon Williams of New Mexico Highlands on USA 7s and it contains a list of CRC players that are playing for USA 7s. The article doesn't mention Life U Women's Champion Nicole Strasko debuting for USA Women's 7s in Dubai, or the whole host Penn State women like Hope Rogers, Meya Bitzer, and Tess Feury playing for USA Women's 7s and 15s, or Richelle Stephens of Lindenwood playing in the Olympics. There are no women included in their list. "Forgetting" the women's players, not including them more prominently in features, in articles, as teams entered in the tournament is a glaring and willful oversight -- this aside is not about equal coverage, it is about ANY coverage. Women's Rugby is an afterthought in their article on 2017 teams and all the game results/pool standings shown on the landing page are from the men's competition, the photo used for the Olympics tv schedule piece is an outdated USA 7s photo that doesn't have the actual women's Olympic team pictured....yet the CRC still relegates the women to side fields and maintains their ticket sales quotas to be the same as men..... I could go on but dissecting the continual failure of the CRC in regards to the women's game - despite lengthy phone calls with ideas/improvements/contributions I have had with their staff to try and offer solutions - but I won't.)

I see this a bit like the lawsuit filed by NCAA athletes as to the rights of their own images and likenesses.... the NCAA was profiting from them being in video games while the athletes received nothing in compensation. Those athletes would have faced sanctions had they sold their images on their own - that would fall under the clauses of improper benefits. Georgia hasn't had any significant contributions to her rugby career or to her bank account from USA Sevens - I say this with a dose of healthy speculation as she is paying for her Stars Rugby 7s tours on her own dime and is managing her time/money as a student and rugby player. She has declined trips due to costs in the past and I have engineered a way for her to play in Vegas and Vancouver this year.

I have engaged in fundraising to help her (and all our players) make it on tours. With her permission and approvals we made tshirts with her famous broken nose image and #bloodygoodrugby as the statement. Half of the proceeds from those shirts went to her specific tour fees, and the other half to help our entire women's team for Australia 2015 tour. I have been helping her raise funds/create ideas for the 2017 USA Sevens... because while she's being exploited by USA Sevens to promote their platforms, they have yet to fund her travels to be at said event and be an actual spokesperson.

The way I see it there is one side to USA Sevens story -- in using women's rugby as a media spectacle when it is convenient for their purposes.

And in further conversations with Rebecca Carlson/Her Rugby Counts we came up with a solution, a way to spin this into a positive, inclusive campaign. 

With Stars Rugby 7s we have athletes of all genders, races, sizes, shapes, religions and socioeconomic statuses each with unique and multifaceted stories to tell. We have had athletes represent their nations on the world stage from the USA, Canada, Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji ,Denmark, Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, England and more and we appreciate what each of them brings to the team. The diversity in cultures, in playing styles, and in beliefs makes Stars Rugby 7s a more brilliant and vibrant community with talents on and off the rugby field. We have students, coaches, physicists, lawyers, Olympians, PROs, mothers, fathers, military service members, geologists, nurses and more in our midst.... we have many stories with many chapters.

We support Her Rugby Counts in a new campaign to show #TheWholePicture:

Hello HERRUGBYCOUNTS supporters and fans! 

We wanted to reach out to you and thank you for supporting our page but also to ask for your assistance. As we believe we have opened up dialogue to encourage entities like USA Sevens to represent and market the women's game to its fullest potential, the notion of two sides of the story is more for us about #thewholepicture. 

We want to start an online ask of the athletes in our HERRUGBYCOUNTS community demonstrating "the whole picture" of both them on the pitch but also in their everyday lives of being successful and contributors to the workforce, at their institutions of learning or in society. 

We already know YOU are our key advocates in the community for the women's game that are connected to countless successful and accomplished rugby athletes who may be interested in supporting this campaign. 

WHAT WE NEED: We are asking for brief captions and side by side photos showing our players on the pitch and off demonstrating their value and contribution as athletes, professionals in the workforce etc. We want you to accompany these photos with #THEWHOLEPICTURE. 

We want this campaign to be successful in bringing awareness but we need to gather some initial interest from our rugby community and players willing to post their pictures of "the whole picture". We want to show the marketers of our games that there IS a way to positively create awareness, respect and interest in our sport outside of traditional click bait tactics driven by physical appearance. 

Please send this to any of your contacts who are interested in elevating the awareness

- Our very best, 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Stars Rugby XVs Women Traveling to Lindenwood

new Stars logo.pngImage result for lindenwood logo                      

09 October 2016

Stars Rugby 7s inaugural tour  took place in 2014 at the Las Vegas Invitational featuring players from the USA, Canada and Australia. One of those first players hailed from the newest varsity women's collegiate program at Lindenwood University and Amanda Divich (nee Martin) will once again be sporting the Stars #10 jersey taking on her alma mater in the first Stars Rugby XVs vs LU clash. Since that first tour Divich has suited up & captained the Stars Rugby 7s side in Tobago (2014) and Las Vegas (2015) and led her LU Lions side in D1 & D1 Elite 15s as well as USA Rugby 7s Nationals and the Collegiate Rugby Championship

Divich was the first of many Lions to represent the program with Stars -- in 2015 in Las Vegas Georgia Page (Stars #66), Jolene Steibel (#67) and Anne Marie Reed (#71) and made their Stars debuts; of that trio Steibel competed again with the Stars in the 2015 Calgary Stampede 7s tournament, Page spent time with the team at the 2015 Byron Bay 7s & Central Coast 7s in Australia, and Reed matriculated at LU in the fall of 2016 and will suit up for the Lions against the Stars this weekend. Sierra (SiSi) Gribble (#82) came to the Stars on that same Stampede 7s tour in 2015, then hailing from Sacramento State and transferring to LU for fall 2015. LU alumnae Morgan Crowell and Annalise Evans are the newest Lions to join the Stars program playing prop and #8 against their former team.

The tradition and growth of the Stars and LU programs have been long intertwined with players, coaches and staff from both teams having spent time at the American Rugby Pro Training Center camps (players Cyndi Campbell and Abby Smith of this Stars roster, Nene Persinger, Hannah Gauthreaux and MacKenzie Hawkins of LU, Stars Coach Anna Kunkel, LU Coach Billy Nicholas, and Stars Director Liz Entwhistle) and with many of the Lions representing with Atlantis in Tobago and Las Vegas against the Stars. The teams also share lineage with the Old Blue Women's 7s program -- LU Coach Nicholas led Old Blue to the USA Rugby 7s National Championship in 2014 where they fell to the San Diego Surfers with Stars and Lions both on the squad. Stars players including Kaitlyn (KB) Broughton (#34), Tiana Granby (#56), Corinne Heavner (#48), Phaidra Knight (#3), Shamira Robles (#54), Amy Verdonik (#92) have come to/from the Old Blue ranks the past 3 summers.

This year's Stars 15s roster features several new names with many players coming to the team from Coach Anna Kunkel's Kansas City Jazz and MidAmerica Selects teams including Julie Bode, Anna Clouse, Alissa Lockard and Abby Smith. With week-of roster changes (the Minnesota Valkyries were set to send as many as 6 women this weekend but scheduled a last minute scrimmage) Stars also added a few players from the local Saint Louis Sabres courtesy of Director Liz Entwhistle's former Chicago Women's Rugby teammate Elizabeth (Lu) Morrison. Flyhalf Tori King returns to Stars after a strong showing on the Cape Fear 7s and Calgary Stampede 7s tours in July 2016 and introduces her Wichita Valkyries teammate Amanda Urbanek to the mix.  Scrumhalf/center Angela Cole of the DC Furies is one of two Stars that have represented on the Capital Selects team out of the Washington, DC area.

Despite being in the heart of the fall collegiate 15s season, the Stars welcome Simpson College veteran Katelyn (KB) Behounek was originally slated for this summer's Stampede tour but was unable to travel; her 2015 NSCRO 7s Championship pedigree will add strength a back three trio that also features Illinois U-23 All Star Jess Dombrowski of Illinois State University, scouted at the 2016 Midwest U-23 All Star Championships, and speedster Abby Smith. The W1823 sevens program also sends a few representatives -- flanker Chip Bell of Tiffin University was recognized for her strong play with a spot on the 2016 NSCRO All-Stars at this year's CRCs  while center Cyndi Campbell of Ohio State University is no stranger to USA Rugby Women's Collegiate All American camps earning invites for both 15s and 7s alike.  Hannah Graham plays her rugby with the Saint Louis Sabres while studying at Mizzou and former USA Rugby High School All American Sarah Niswander has been seeing time with the University of Iowa, the newest addition to Midwest Division 1.

The roster is rounded out with a strong 2nd row pairing in Emma Wedel of North Dakota State University and Rian Van Nordheim, a San Diego Surfer alum now captaining James River and seeing time with the Capital Selects. Van Nordheim played with the Stars at Cape Fear 7s and will continue a month high level rugby in traveling to Australia for Stars 7s tour October 11th-25th, back again with Stars 15s against Life University on November 12th. 

Coach Anna Kunkel is making her Stars debut as well and tackles an interesting challenge with the team having convened in St Charles just the night before the match. She inherits a  strong roster with years of cumulative rugby experience despite the majority of the squad being under the age of 23. As a veteran coach at many USA Rugby Age-Grade assemblies, Coach Kunkel is certainly qualified to lead the team and has prepared the players with advanced emails detailing attacking structures and support play. With a mantra of simple rugby executed well, of attacking behind the defense and going for the try, the team will make quick work of Sunday morning classroom session, a walkthrough to institute the game plan and create cohesive set pieces. Coach Nic Benson is coaching on his third Stars tour and will oversee defensive schemes with extra focus on backs play. The services of physio Kemba Noel-London, also on her third Stars tour, will prove invaluable as most of the team played league matches Saturday with their home clubs. 

Stars Rugby 7s is honored to play this match versus Lindenwood University and thrilled for the future development of both programs. A high school girls match serves as the curtain raiser for Sunday's clash which is being billed as a Breast Cancer Awareness match. The teams will be selling RUGBY headbands at the gate with profits donated to the American Cancer Society. LU will sport pink socks for the game while Stars have pink headbands/armbands.

Katelyn (KB) Behounek - wing - Simpson College
Chip Bell - flanker/8/center - Tiffin University
Julie Bode - prop - KC Jazz
Cyndi Campbell - center - The Ohio State University
Anna "Dozer" Clouse - prop - KC Jazz
Angela Cole - center - DC Furies
/Morgan Crowell - prop - at large
/*Amanda Divich - scrumhalf/flyhalf/wing - at large
Jess Dombrowski - fullback/hooker - Illinois State University
*Liz Entwhistle - 2nd row/prop - at large
/Annalise Evans - 8/flanker/prop - Little Rock Stormers
*T Fletcher - 8/flanker - Raleigh Venom
Hannah Groom - flanker - University of Missouri/Saint Louis Stormers 
/*Sierra Gribble - wing - at large
*Tori King - flyhalf/center - Wichita Valkyries
Allissa Lockard - wing/lock - KC Jazz
Elizabeth (Lu) Morrison - hooker/prop - St Louis Sabres
Sarah Niswander  - hooker - University of Iowa
Abby Smith - wing - KC Jazz
/*Jolene Steibel - fullback/wing - Little Rock Stormers
Amanda Urbanek - scrumhalf - Wichita Valkyries
*Rian Van Nordheim - 2nd row - James River
Emma Wedel - flanker/8 - North Dakota State University
Head Coach: Anna Kunkel, Kansas City
Assistant Coach: Nic Benson, San Diego
Physio: Kemba Noel-London
Director: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours
/ indicates veteran of Lindenwood University

Friday, August 26, 2016

Serevi Rugbytown 7s Tour Roster Release

26 August 2016

Stars Rugby 7s has returned to Glendale, Colorado for the prestigious Serevi Rugbytown 7s tournament featuring teams from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, and Caribbean. Last year's debut campaign saw the Stars defeat the Bermuda National Team in pool play before falling to Upright Rugby and the Glendale Raptors. The Bowl Quarterfinals seeded the Stars against the Mexico National Team where the team came from behind, playing short-handed 6 vs 7 rugby for much of the 2nd half, to win on a Jojo Tikoisuva try at the death. The victory earned the young squad a Bowl Semifinal matchup against the USA Rugby Collegiate All Americans and it was the All Americans that advanced to the Bowl Final.

Photo: Justin Purdy
To prepare for this year's event Stars competed in additional 7s tournaments - adding New York 7s, Vancouver 7s and Cape Fear 7s to the normal schedule of Tobago 7s, the Las Vegas Invitational and Stampede 7s - the team placed in the Plate or Cup finals of each tournament save for an injury-laden Tobago 7s tournament. The team notably added rugby 15s to the touring calendar with matches against Life University's Elite Training Group and the Capital GU Selects - these fixtures expanded the Stars player and coaching pools alike.

This year's Serevi Rugbytown 7s promises to be a thrilling event where the Stars are grouped in Pool D alongside Ramblin Jesters (GB), Upright Rugby Rogues (Canada), Negro & Azul (USA), and Tiger Rugby (USA). A week of preparation saw players arrive on Sunday to better acclimate to altitude and focus on both physical and mental preparations. Monday's activities included a stadium tour of Infinity Park, a gym session at the High Altitude Training Center followed by use of the hot/cold tubs in the Recovery Room, and a trip to Pike's Peak to summit the mountain and train at 12,000 feet. Tuesday welcomed a 2-a-day field session to institute playing patterns and work on position specifics to solidify the lineups for Wednesday's annual Tackle and Tunes scrimmages with Air Force, Coast Guard and Black Dragon. USA provided a full complement of emerging referees to cover the matches and aid in development.

Photo: Justin Purdy
Two 21-0 wins over a strong Air Force side left the Stars confident in defensive capabilities and in the speed & ball skills of tour veterans Marcus Satavu and Ryan Guercio (two tries each), the 100% accuracy in the kicking of Keagan Barnes and Garrett Jones, and in the pace of rookie Ricky Layton who impressed on the wing. A challenging match for the Stars reserves against Coast Guard left the team with some focal areas when it comes to the contact point which were addressed Wednesday night at a chalk talk and walkthrough. Another gym session, recovery room visit, final training and team meeting solidified the Stars for their pool play matches Friday against the Ramblin' Jesters at 2:17pm MDT and Upright Rugby at 7:37pm.

Photo: Justin Purdy
Game Roster:
Keagan Barnes - scrumhalf/wing - Utah Lions Rugby Academy, Salt Lake City, USA
*Ryan Guercio - prop/hooker - Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, USA
*Raphael Henriquez  - wing - Sacramento Lions, Sacramento, USA
*Lee Hoskins - prop - Bulldog/Metropolis, New Haven/Minneapolis, USA
*Garrett Jones - scrumhalf/flyhalf/center - OMBAC, San Diego, USA
Ricky Layton - wing - Youngbloodz, Minneapolis, USA
*Even Pierson - wing - Kansas City Blues, Kansas City, USA
*Cal Randleman - hooker/center - Life West, Hayward, USA
*Marcus Satavu - flyhalf/scrumhalf/hooker - Bulldog, New Haven, USA
*Zack Schell - prop - Pittsburgh Harlequins, Pittsburgh, USA
*John Sullivan - prop - St Bonaventure University, Buffalo, USA
*Bradley Yandle - prop/hooker/center - Austin Blacks, Austin, USA

Non-Rostered Reserves:
Hampton Pelton - hooker/wing - Tallahassee Conquistadors, Tallahassee, USA
Spence Purnell - center/wing - Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA
*Johnny Taele-Unutoa - prop - OMBAC, San Diego, USA 

*COACH: Nic Benson, San Diego, USA
*DIRECTOR: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago, USA

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours 

Photo: Liz Entwhistle

Stars Rugby 7s would like to thank the following tour sponsors: Samurai Sportswear, Ruck Science, Optimum Health & Performance, Erica Black Wellness, All American Training Center, Rugby 12.

About Stars Rugby 7s
Stars Rugby 7s was founded in November 2013 with the mission of developing rugby 7s players in elite tournament settings. Teams compete in multiple high performance assemblies and international tournaments each year with a deep talent pool combining internationally capped 7s and 15s players, elite prospects, athletically gifted players new to the game of 7s, and crossover athletes. There is a major focus on recruiting players that lack regular exposure to high level coaching /playing opportunities due to geographic restraints and the lack of resources which varies greatly throughout the United States. While mostly US based, the Stars rosters include players from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK and welcomes any players committed to the team and rugby camaraderie. Tours have included the Las Vegas Invitational, Calgary Stampede 7s, Australia Central Coast 7s, Tobago 7s, Serevi Rugbytown 7s, and Atlanta 7s, Cape Fear 7s, and select 15s tours with numerous championship appearances and titles won.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cape Fear 7s & Stampede 7s Recap/Preview and Rosters

Stars Rugby 7s has embarked on back-to-back July tours making their debut at Cape Fear 7s last weekend in Wilmington, NC and returning to Stampede 7s in Calgary for the third year in a row this weekend. The team has entered developmental men's & women's squads in each tournament to prepare for August's Elite tour to Serevi Rugbytown 7s for the men and October's Elite women's tour to Byron Bay 7s & Central Coast 7s

The teams return a number of veterans from past tours including Cape Fear captains Tee Kawaihoa-Marquez of Hawaii (Vegas '16, Vancouver '16) and Zack Schell of Pittsburgh (Vegas '16, Vancouver '16); Kawaihoa-Marquez retains the captaincy for Stampede 7s and is joined by veteran Antony Fitch (Vegas '16, Vancouver '16) guiding the men.

Cape Fear saw each team open the tournament with forfeits as 1823 dropped out of the men's Elite competition and the Orlando Phoenix dropped out on the women's side. The men had a tough Saturday falling to Charlotte and Trump 7s in pool play and earning a quarterfinal berth against Atlanta Old White. The women opened the tournament with a win over Charlotte and a nailbiter, last second loss to NOVA after leading much of the match. 

Sunday saw the women's team come up against the Raleigh Venom in the quarterfinal and walk away with a 15-5 win setting up a semifinal with the Scion where they fell 24-5. The men fell to eventual Cup Runner Up Atlanta Old White 33-10 in the quarterfinal after suffering 3 tournament ending injuries. The experience of being in Wilmington including yoga, CrossFit, a STARBQ benefiting Cape Fear HS Rugby and the wonderful hosting of tournament director Bob Bogen all but assures the team will return for the 2017 tournament with an eye on the Cup Finals.

Following Cape Fear half the roster stayed on for the flight to Calgary early Tuesday morning to prepare for Stampede 7s. Three nights of training camp in Banff saw the squads quickly integrate new team members and a new coach as Nic Benson led the women in NC and was replaced by Liam Hutchinson for the Canada event. Again yoga, gym sessions, field training, hiking at Lake Louise, and an excursion to watch the local Bow Valley Grizzlies host the touring RAPTC Apostles side allowed for quick cohesion among the team. Stampede 7s kicks off Friday night where the Stars seek a return to the Cup Finals as in the 2014 campaign.

Cape Fear Roster Women
*Tahlia Brody - prop/center - SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, USA
Jazz Harrison - prop/hooker - Severn River, Annapolis, USA
Jen Johnson - scrumhalf - Little Rock Stormers, Little Rock, USA
*Tee Kawaihoa-Marquez - prop - Lady Harlequins, Honolulu, USA
Victoria King - wing - Wichita Valkyries/US Air Force, Wichita, USA
Renee McLane - prop - Hurricanes, Charleston, USA
Melissa Thompson - prop/center - Cincinnati Wolfhounds/US Air Force, Cincinnati, USA
Rian Van Nordheim - prop - Severn River, Annapolis, USA

COACH:  Nic Benson, San Diego, USA
ATC: Sarah Hayden, Atlanta, USA
DIRECTOR: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago, USA

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours

Cape Fear Roster Men
*Ethan Baldino - flyhalf/center - Naples Hammerheads, Naples, USA
Matt Bales - wing - DC Irish, Washington DC, USA
Chase Brooks - scrumhalf - West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA
Matt Cooper - scrumhalf/hooker - Louisville Rugby Club, Louisville, USA
*Mike Fletcher - prop - DC Irish, Washington DC, USA
Danny Heisterkamp - flyhalf/wing - Xavier University, Cincinnati, USA
*Bobby Kling - hooker/center - DC Irish, Washington DC, USA
*Quentin Koonce - center - Rocky Gorge, Laurel, USA
Maika Polamalu - wing/center - DC Irish, Washington DC, USA
Matt Reilly - hooker/wing - University of Maryland, College Park, USA
*Matt Ryan - prop/hooker - Old Aztec, San Diego, USA
Jose Sanchez - back - Xavier University, Cincinnati, USA
*Zack Schell - prop/center/wing - Pittsburgh Harlequins, Pittsburgh, USA

COACH: Togamau Fanueli, Washington DC, USA
ATC: Sarah Hayden, Atlanta, USA
DIRECTOR: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago, USA

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours

Stampede 7s Roster Women
Ashley Delaney - prop - University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada
Mackenzie Doughty - wing - St Albert RFC, St Albert, Canada   
*Tee Kawaihoa-Marquez - prop - Lady Harlequins, Honolulu, USA
*Victoria King - wing - Wichita Valkyries/US Air Force, Wichita, USA
*Ruby Kinsella - back - Calgary Hornets, Calgary, Canada
Brie Leslie - prop/wing - St Albert RFC, St Albert, Canada
Catherine Ohler - flyhalf/center - University of British Columbia, Victoria, Canada
Emily Oor - scrumhalf - St Albert RFC, St Albert, Canada
Tiffany Wideen - flyhalf - University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada

COACH: Liam Hutchinson, St Albert, Canada
EMT: Heather DesRoches, Calgary, Canada
DIRECTOR: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago, USA

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours

Stampede 7s Roster Men
*Brandon Baker - wing - Campion Grads, Regina, Canada
Trace Bolstad - scrumhalf - University of Minnesota-Duluth, Duluth, USA
Luc DesRoches - prop/hooker - University of Minnesota-Duluth, Duluth, USA
*Dave Evans - prop/center - Calgary Saints, Calgary, Canada
Orrin Farries - prop/hooker - St Albert, St Albert, Canada
*Antony Fitch - scrumhalf/flyhalf - Bournemouth, Wimborne, England
Ryan Guercio - prop - Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, USA
*Danny Heisterkamp - flyhalf/wing - Xavier University, Cincinnati, USA
*Matt Reilly - hooker/wing - University of Maryland, College Park, USA
*Jose Sanchez -back- Xavier University, Cincinatti, USA
Daejon Street - center/flyhalf - Maryville College, St Louis, USA

COACH: Togamau Fanueli, Washington DC, USA
EMT: Heather DesRoches, Calgary, Canada
DIRECTOR: Liz Entwhistle, Chicago, USA

*indicates veteran of previous Stars tours

Stars Rugby 7s would like to thank the following tour sponsors: Samurai Sportswear, Ruck Science, Optimum Health & Performance, Erica Black Wellness, All American Training Center, Rugby 12.

About Stars Rugby 7s
Stars Rugby 7s was founded in November 2013 with the mission of developing rugby 7s players in elite tournament settings. Teams compete in multiple high performance assemblies and international tournaments each year with a deep talent pool combining internationally capped 7s and 15s players, elite prospects, athletically gifted players new to the game of 7s, and crossover athletes. There is a major focus on recruiting players that lack regular exposure to high level coaching /playing opportunities due to geographic restraints and the lack of resources which varies greatly throughout the United States. While mostly US based, the Stars rosters include players from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK and welcomes any players committed to the team and rugby camaraderie. Tours have included the Las Vegas Invitational, Calgary Stampede 7s, Australia Central Coast 7s, Tobago 7s, Serevi Rugbytown 7s, and Atlanta 7s, Cape Fear 7s, and select 15s tours with numerous championship appearances and titles won.