Life West has exploded onto the Club rugby scene in the USA in just it's 2nd year with the men’s side winning the DII National Championship this year (and in its first year they were in the Final Four). Now less than 3 months after winning the 15s title, they are in the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship where the men are looking for a possible clean sweep. The Gladiators are in a position to possibly take both the women’s and men’s 7s titles back to the East Bay. The men have the opportunity to win both the 15s and 7s title in the same year.
The Gladiators take to the arena this weekend being one of several California teams competing for the titles in Des Moines, Iowa August 8th-9th. The women in their first full season of 7s are contenders to bring hardware home.
We caught up with Coach Ferris of the Life West Gladiators to see how their “ludum gladiatorium” are preparing for this coming weekend’s Championship Tourney.
Rugby Republic (RR)- We presume that most of your men's 7s players were also players on the National Championship 15s side. Has the fact that they've gone from a long 15s season right into a 7s had an impact?
Adriaan Ferris (AF)-The squad is split 60:40 with players from our National Championship winning 15’s Team and new players who have come into the program during the 7s season. Winning the National Championship was a great experience for the program and the players involved however on the flip side, our preparation window for the 7s program was virtually non-existent. We arrived back from Colorado on Monday 15 June and only started 7s training on 25th June two days before the first NorCal 7s Series tournament. It was important that all players had some time away from the game – especially after such an intense playoff run. We’ve come a long way since then but it hasn’t been an ideal preparation for our 7s season. We have not been able lay an effective foundation i.e. strength & conditioning.
RR- When Life West (Men & Women) started the 7s season did the club come into it with the expectation of being at nationals or just looking to be competitive?
AF- This is the first season Life West has been involved in the 7s Series and whilst we were not prepared as well as we would have liked, that was always our goal (to play for a National Championship) so we set out with the expectation of qualifying for the Nationals, for both teams.
RR- It seems the pool of 7s teams in the USA is at an all time high right now, do you see this weekend being tougher than anticipated based on the number of quality sides in the tournament? Or do you treat it the same as any other competition?
AF- Of course, it’s a National Championship so naturally there will be higher caliber of teams (and players) involved so for that fact alone, we anticipate things will be a lot more difficult than in other tournaments. There are 32 of the best teams in the nation will be on show and having played the defending National Champions, Seattle (Men) and San Diego (Women) in previous tournaments, we know what is required to be competitive.
RR- Both the women and men's side for Life West are playing for a 7s National Championship to what do you attribute the clubs success?
AF- Firstly, we have the full support from the Board of Regents and College President, Dr. Brian Kelly so we have effective leadership who are committed to building a strong program. We set clear objectives for the club and work hard to meet or surpass the expectations. Ultimately we have a committed group of players and coaches who are prepared to challenge themselves on a regular basis.
RR-For the women (but also the men’s) the 7s season is short so how do you prepare and get the team to play at such a high level so fast?
AF- Our women’s team has had longer to prepare for the season than the men’s side. We started training the last week of May for the women’s team, this allowed the ladies to establish good foundation to draw from. With a short preparation window the key is clarity and continually working on fitness every session. Our periodized training plan meant that some tournaments we went in after a huge conditioning workload throughout the week. Players would be going into tournaments fatigued and not feeling at their peak physically, however, we have had an end goal in mind from the outset.
RR-Has the success of the men's winning the 15 national championship provided momentum for the ladies as well?
AF- Yeah I guess so. I’d like to believe it’s the overall environment we are creating here at Life West. Players are being challenged on a regular basis, they are asked to work hard and have fun along the way. We have attracted some players (both men and women) that have seen this (playing for Life West) as an opportunity to help them grow and develop as a player.
RR-It's a big if, but "if" both the men's and women's sides come home with the National Championships in 7s would it be fair to say that Life West really doesn't have an equal in terms of a club right now?
AF- That’s a huge if and I tend not to speculate on things like that. All I know is that we are a very young program that has got to continue to develop and create consistency in our performances. We have engendered some early success but we know that we need to focus on continued growth and development.
Once again we want to thank Coach Ferris for his time and Life West for making the interview happen! Best of of luck to the Gladiators. You can always learn more about their program via their website www.lifewestrugby.com and for update follow them on Twitter @GladiatorRugby