College A Valuable First Step On The Pathway To Becoming An Olympian

Two Eagles Sevens share how college and the College 7s National Championship was beneficial in reaching their Olympic dreams.

The USA Rugby College 7s National Championship is a special time for college rugby teams as they compete for national titles. Beyond reaching for these titles, the tournament offers athletes a unique opportunity to be recognized by National Team scouts - thus starting their Olympic journey.

"The Collegiate pathway allows for players to have the rigor of a daily training environment while developing essential life skills and preparing themselves for the eventuality of life after playing. The good majority of our former and current Men's & Women's Eagles 7s have come from the collegiate landscape" said National High-Performance Development Manager, JD Stephenson.

More specifically, Stephenson expressed that the Championship is a valuable place for identifying those future Olympians.

"The ability to have on showcase the wide array of programs with different patterns of play that can compete at an Elite level across the Men's & Women's game makes for a great weekend of talent identification," He said.

"I always knew I wanted to play for the national squad, but I knew I had to complete this task before I made a jump up anywhere else," said Marcus Tupuola, Men's Eagle Sevens player and Notre Dame College graduate. "College is a great place to hone in your skills," he added.

Kayla Canett, Women's Eagle Sevens player and Penn State University student, agreed with Tupuola, "College helps in so many ways – both academically and athletically. Going to Penn State and being in an environment where I work with amazing athletes, day in and day out, has proven helpful during the times I come to the training center to work with the athletes here."

For both athletes, college played a crucial role in their development as a player by teaching them patience, cohesion, and trust. It also gave them the time to put in the hard work to hone in their skills on the pitch.

Beyond the many growth opportunities that Canett and Tupuola credit college for, each expressed that the College 7s National Championship had a certain charm that made it that much more exciting.

"When you play in college, you start to know people on other teams. So national championships became a big reunion to reconnect with people you played with or played against," Tupuola said.

Additionally, Canett expressed that having scouts present adds an extra element to the tournament.

"Having scouts around heightens what you want to be able to do as a player. It reminds you to stay focused, think of the basics, and try not to get overwhelmed. Because in the end, you just need to trust what you can do," Canett added.

"I tried not to let the idea of scouts being present get into my head. I knew that no matter where I was, someone could be watching. So anywhere I played, I knew I was going to give it my best."

Women's Sevens Head Coach, Chris Brown added, "There are a number of the age group pathway players competing in this event, so it's good to see how they execute and perform in one of their biggest events of the season. It's also a chance to see if any new athletes to the sport are able to stand out in specific aspects of the game."

Stevenson added that they look for the complete package in athletes, "We are looking for talented players on and off the pitch that can show that they are willing to compete at a high level and carry themselves respectfully to their opposition and peers. The culture within a Sevens locker room must be tightened up due to the smaller squad size than traditional sports - one bad apple can upset the whole apple cart." Tupuola added.

Tupuola concluded with a piece of advice for aspiring Olympic and National Team athletes, "Start where ever you can and keep pushing when you are there. Once you’ve put in the hard work, you'll start to make the connections you need to get noticed by National Team scouts".

The 2019 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship is set to take place this weekend, May 24-26. Tune in to see who will be become this year's national champions as 63 teams compete across six divisions in Tucson, AZ. Get tickets HERE or watch it live on FloRugby.