Cam Dolan's Day to Day Experience at the IRANZ Advanced Player Course
August 6, 2008
I started off this long and agonizing journey to New Zealand at about 11:00 A.M. EST today. It’s going to be about 29 hours in all to get to Palmerston North, but I know once I’m there it’s going to benefit me in the future for the one sport I love; Rugby. I originally departed for this trip in my hometown of Ft. Myers, Florida. I had a 2 hour or so flight to Houston where I would have a 2-hour layover before departing for Los Angeles. I met up with my fellow USA teammates about 2 hours before our flight departed for Auckland. Unfortunately all of our seats separated on the Air New Zealand flight, but it turned out to be a good flight because I slept almost the whole time because there was very little turbulence to wake me from my deep slumber. I knew that I was going to need my sleep because the next 7 days were going to be very long and excruciating.
August 8, 2008
So we landed at about 5:00 A.M this morning, which is equivalent to 1:00 P.M. on August 7th back home. Unfortunately the baggage claim took ages and we missed our original connection to Palmerston North, which was supposed to be at 6:50. Luckily the next flight was soon and took off at 8:20. We loaded up at about 8:05, but I found it kind of odd because there was no security check to get on this plane. It sat about 40 people and was probably the smallest plane I’ve ever been on in my life. It turned out to be a nice flight, which took about an hour or so. When we arrived in Palmerston North we were greeted and driven to a local hotel called Harrington’s Motor Lodge where we would spend our first night before camp started.
We arrived at the hotel at around 9:30 A.M. and all showered up before we hit the town. We went to a local restaurant called O’Rielly’s to grab some lunch. After we all pigged out on some potato skins we checked out some of the local shops to try to grab a rugby ball so we could have a kick-about back at the field across from the hotel. We tried a few local shops and had no luck finding a cheap ball that we were going to use for a day, and finally found a ball that was $16 dollars, or so we thought. We were deciding who was going to pay what for the ball, and then finally Hanno decided to just pay for it by himself and keep the ball. He pulled out a $20 bill and the lady looked at him like he was crazy and said it was $60. Apparently we must have misheard what she said because of her thick New Zealand accent. Luckily Dave at K-Mart helped us out and we found a cheap ball for just $2.
After that we started our trek back to the hotel to boot up and get the jet lag out of our legs. It’s now about 4 in the afternoon but feels like it’s 9. I believe we’re going to head up to a restaurant to grab some dinner and to watch the local rugby team play in their NPC Air New Zealand Cup match. I’ll fill you in with more details tomorrow, as it is our first day at the academy. Cheers
August 9, 2008
The day started off pretty smooth and fun, or so we all thought. Everyone showed up around 10 A.M. and checked into our rooms. Each room consisted of two beds, and were actually pretty spacious. My roommates name is Mitch and is from the Palmerston North area. So he filled me in with details about the camp and the team we are going to play on Thursday, seeing as he is on it and usually captains them. We both unpacked and then proceeded to the green room, which was a 30m X 30m room with synthetic turf and even had a set of goal posts up on the wall.
There we started a game of touch with all the boys, and from then on I knew this camp was going to be good based on the handling skills of everyone. After about 20 minutes of touch we were all called in to the team room, where we would be spending quite a bit of time learning about nutrition, quantum, mental toughness, and reviewing team plays. In the team room we met the owner of IRANZ, Murray Mexted. We also met the general manager Steve McHardy, along with our course facilitators, All Blacks Legends Jeff Wilson and Arran Pene. Jeff and Arran were going to be our coaches for the next 7 days.
Murray started off with a speech about mental toughness and how he used to use it when he played number 8 for the All Blacks. He went around the room asking every one of us what we thought mental toughness was. After that he told us that mental toughness is the ability to perform at your highest-level every time you do something, whether it’s on or off of the pitch.
After about an hour in the classroom we all went to the track to do our fitness testing. These tests would consist of a 60m dash, 400m dash, and a 1500m run. The 60m dash also tested our 10m, 20m, and 30m dashes. I actually did very well in the 60m and 400m, being the 2nd fastest forward in every run up to the 400m, and 3rd in the 400m. Unfortunately, I fell to about 6th in the 1500m run.
Afterwards we went back indoors to eat some lunch. This was good because it gave the boys some time to get to know each other. After lunch we had another mental toughness session with Murray in the team room where everything actually started to come together. There he explained that you have to be that much better then the next guy wanting to be where you’re at, as well as being better then your opposition. We spent about 2 hours or so talking about this, and then were sent outside to do basic skills with our skills coach Dave Ellis. We practiced proper passing techniques off of both hands and did simple hands drills. It actually did help me out tremendously teaching me not to swing my arms when passing, and to keep my arms and hands closer to my body and point to my target after passing, sort of like throwing a baseball or football actually.
We were outside for about 2-3 hours and then went back inside to do our recovery baths that consisted of a hot and cold contrast. We then all got changed and went to eat dinner. After dinner we had a meeting about what was expected of us on the course and what we are and aren’t allowed to do. We all went to bed pretty early because of the long vigorous day.
August 10, 2008
The day started off at 6:30, where we found out that’s what time we would be starting for the rest of the academy. Luckily this morning wasn’t going to involve any running. We were to do weight lifting max outs on the Bench, Squat, and Chin Up. I started the lifting off with the squat, where I would lift more than any of the other players here at the camp, coming in at 169kg. The next lift I did was the bench press, where I didn’t do too well, coming in at 95kg. Lastly, was the chin-ups, where I did 4 straight-armed chin-ups with a 15kg weight attached around my waist. Which was pretty good seeing as the majority of the other tight 5 players could hardly do any without any extra weight.
After all the lifts were done I noticed that many of the kids either had never lifted before or had very little technique when lifting. I asked a few players and none of them had a lifting class available to them in school. We then all went to breakfast and filled up on carbs and protein to help the muscle repair quicker. Throughout the day we were on and off in the green room and the rugby pitch to do our runner calls, decision making, and lineout lifting and jumping. We then all got together and went through team defense for about 30 minutes or so.
After the team defense run through we then had to do Pilates with Carolynn Margan. This was actually really hard for most of the boys because it worked our core muscles and muscles we didn’t even know we had. This was a great workout for our core and we all came to realize how much we actually need these muscles in order to become better players. After dinner we were back in the green room to do another session with Carolynn, which consisted of self-massage and injury prevention. This was a good session because we got to tend to our sore legs and massage them to be ready for another hard day in the morning.
August 11, 2008
The morning started off at 6:30 again with a repeat of the Pilates and stretching with Carolynn. It was less than 12 hours ago that we did our session and I already felt a lot stronger in my core. Throughout that day we would do some more mental toughness, as well as some position specific analysis. On the physical side of the day, we had a hard contact session that involved placement at the breakdown and multi-phase ball. We split forwards and backs again today, and the lifting got a lot better and I felt much more comfortable in the air now that I knew my lifters had better technique and were supporting me better.
At the end of the day we had our recovery baths again which is always a fun process with everyone becoming a little bit soft due to the cold water. After dinner we all played a little bit of ping pong in which I went on a 12 game or so winning streak and then one of the boys from Singapore beat me in extra points. I dozed off pretty early again due to the long agonizing day.
August 12, 2008
We started the day off with gym techniques with Darryl Cochrane in the green room. Darryl works at the university that we are at and is a personal trainer, as well as an instructor to those who wish to become personal trainers and others who study in sports health science.
After breakfast we had some more lineout sessions which got better again with everyone communicating well and everyone timing their lifts and jumps well. After the lineouts we then had a referee session with Lyndon Bray who is one of the top referees in the game right now. He refs international matches as well as Super 14 and NPC matches. This was one of the most useful sessions of the course because he showed us what referees look for and what is and isn’t allowed at the breakdown. We learned that as long as you’re attempting to get the ball before a ruck is called, the referee will usually let hands in the ruck slide as long as the player releases the ball and you are able to get it within 3-4 seconds.
After the referee session we had a scrum session. At first we were collapsing the scrum almost every time but after everyone sorted out their little problems with footing and hand positioning the scrums started to go a lot better.
After scrums we went inside to do career planning with Sarah Leberman. She was a big help discussing options for life after rugby and re-assured us that we could do whatever we put our mind to as long as we work hard enough on it. After dinner we had 1 on 1 meetings with our positional coaches. These meetings consisted of what we had learned so far and what we thought of the camp as well as what they could work on to make it better for the players.
August 13, 2008
So another 6:30 A.M. start again this morning. This time we were in the green room with Darryl again doing SAQs. SAQs are strength, agility, and quickness drills, which involve footwork in ladder drills, as well as small hurdles and cones.
Afterwards we had breakfast at 7:30 like usual. Today wasn’t too bad because it was the day before our match and the coaches didn’t want to push us too much and have anyone get injured before our match against Horowhenua U-18s. So the day consisted of the forwards and backs splitting up to work on our position specific skills and then at the end we all came together to do a team run.
At about 4:00 P.M. my position specific coach, Ex-All Blacks second row Keith Robinson, came in to work with us for the next three days. He was going to teach us better lineout techniques, as well as jumping on the kick-off returns. The techniques he was teaching us for jumping and lifting were really helping everyone out and I was jumping higher then I ever had, so I was happy with this session.
After some of his drills we went outside to work on receiving kick-offs. Unfortunately it was extremely windy and we were having a lot of trouble trying to read where the ball was going to land. I was starting to get very frustrated with myself because I couldn’t quite get the ball spotting correct. Luckily Keith made me feel a little bit better when he told me it took him years to become comfortable with jumping on the kick-offs. After that was over we went into the cafeteria and had dinner. The coaches gave us the rest of the night off to sort our stuff out for the game the next day.
August 14, 2008 GAME DAY!
Today started a little later then usual. We woke up at 7:30 A.M and had breakfast as usual. Then at around 8:30 we all met in the green room to meet the rest of the specialist coaches that had come in that morning. Some of these coaches included All-Blacks legends Craig Dowd, Scott Robertson, Dave Loveridge, Eroni Clarke, and Christian Cullen. After a long and intense scrum session with Craig Dowd, all of the forwards went back into the green room to critique our line-out jumping and lifting just one more time. Craig showed the props how to lift correctly and it made me feel a lot more comfortable jumping because I now knew that they had proper technique and they weren’t going to slip and drop me.
After the split, we all did a team run on the main pitch, which went very well in the forwards and the backs. After the run through we went in for lunch and to have a couple hour break to ourselves for mental preparation prior to the game. Most of the boys either went and took a nap, or just chilled out in the lounge area and watched some rugby.
We all met up in the locker room about an hour before the match to get our shorts and socks on, as well as see the trainer for strapping and other adjustments that were needed. After that we all went into the green room where we were met by the coaches and a bunch of parents for the jersey presentation and team photo. I was very excited to play because I was announced to start at lock with a New Zealander by the name of Sam. We then had to go from there to the pitch for our pre-game warm-up. We got 20 minutes to ourselves to stretch out what we needed, and then were taken through some simple hands drills with Dave.
Unfortunately it started pouring rain and hailing during the warm-up and everyone was freezing because the weather changed so quickly. Then it was what we had all been waiting for, Game Time. The game flew by quicker then any game I had ever played, which probably had to do with the pace at which it was played. The ending score to the game was 39-3, which was a very convincing win for us seeing as we had just met each other just 1-week prior. I felt very good with my performance in the lineouts and open play. I was also happy because we successfully pulled off an open field lift on the kick-off, which we had been practicing all week. After the game we went and socialized with the opposing team and had dinner. It was a late night for once, because we had all finally completed that team bond and seemed like we had known each other for years.
August 15, 2008 Homeward Bound
We met for one last time with our position specific coaches and teammates today. Everyone was feeling pretty happy because of yesterday’s win. After getting final words of advice and encouragement from Keith, I was on my way to the airport and preparing myself for another long day or two getting home.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United States Rugby Foundation, the Hoveys, and all others who made this opportunity possible. I look forward to putting those things I learned at IRANZ into practice to help me become a better player.
Read about Hanno Dirksen's IRANZ Experience.
Read about Kevin Kimble's IRANZ Experience.