If a potential high school rugby player wants to impress the coaches, more than ability is required --- other necessary ingredients are overwhelming resilience, a devoted group, focus, a rounded lifestyle and a passion to improve the team culture. Talent, Coach John Royal says, is not the over-riding factor.
Royal said, how a player conducted himself off the field was as important as his on-field presence. When asked what he looked for in a rugby player, Royal explained: "They've got to have the talent. First and foremost the critical component is probably toughness, the ability to persevere. That involves character, their ability to offer to the team even when their own selfish needs aren't being met."
On Long Island there are many athletes who fit the category, because probably the most dominant trait of Long Island high school athletes over the decades has been "their toughness." You can never write any Long Island high school team off, and if you do, it is at your peril," Royal said. "I hope that trait remains, and we add a bit to it. There's a lot of talent out there, and there might be more than we realize. I'm pretty keen we stand for something in youth sports on Long Island" he said. "It is more than just a win-loss sheet. Off the field is as important as on the field. It's not just about our time here and now, but serving the game of rugby and the community as well."
Royal added: "You gravitate towards the lowest denominator whether it's on or off the field. If your standards are high off but low on, you tend to gravitate. And if your standards are high on, but low off, you tend to sink to the lower of the two. That's been my experience. It's a brief window these players get, and the holistic approach to life is important. A player who just lives to play is generally poorer than the player who has some balance in his life. He tends to cope better with the fluctuations. It's like if you want a job done, you give it to a busy man."
John Royal, originally of New Zealand, knows what busy means, as he juggles coaching, two jobs, is a PE student at Queens college, and family roles. The Long Island Colts are the only high school rugby team in Nassau County. The boys play in the New York metropolitan high school rugby championship starting in March. The Long Island Colts have open practices for new players with no experience necessary.
All high school students in Nassau County are welcome to try rugby. For more info call 516-395-6977, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com rugby videos search for John Royal.