Selecting the USA Tomahawks Squad for the Atlantic Cup - Pay it Forward
The expression "pay it forward" is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. Throughout history there are numerous examples of this selfless concept in action. I tripped over the notion of this when I saw a popular movie on this theme a few years ago. If you ever get a chance to see it, I suggest you check it out. It has nothing to do with the sport of rugby, but it holds true some really specific values about who the AMNRL is as an organization, and what the USA Tomahawks teams represents. Well at least what it represents to me, and may give you an insight as to how we selected the group who will represent us in Jacksonville in November. The USA Tomahawks Squad for the Atlantic Cup has been named. No doubt there will be disappointment for some players, and excitement for others. Not an uncommon emotion in life and sport. For those selected, congratulations. To those who feel like they should have made the squad it will be interesting to see how they respond. My guess is the majority of players will accept the challenge and work harder at their game, improve their skill level, get stronger, or faster and perform at a level in future opportunities that their claims cannot be denied. We will see. AND of course there will be a faction who will agitate as to 'who should' and 'who shouldn't' have been selected. I am OK with that. In fact, I encourage it. If it creates interest in our national team and the American National Rugby League. Bring it on! The truth is. This is a really talented squad made up of American based athletes who I can't wait to work with. We have had the good fortune over the years to have our national team managed and prepared by some quality coaches. Shane Millard, John Cartwright, and Matty Elliott have all added to the development of this program and I have had the good fortune to observe and learn from all of them along the way. Associated to this are great relationships with old coaches and great technical resources such as Brian Smith, and Wayne Bennett from overseas. So taking on the role of head coach of the Tomahawks and being part of the selection process of this group is something I do with great pride. Being able to share the information I have learned from some gifted coaches in an effort to improve each of our players is probably one of the most exciting parts of developing this sport in America. In some small way, it's my way to 'Pay it Forward'. I have great support on the current Tomahawks coaching staff; Marcus Vassilakopoulos, Jeff Preston, and Rob Balachandran are all guys with vast experience at the international level and playing records both in the USA and overseas that are first class. They don't get paid for all the effort they commit. It's their way to 'Pay it Forward'. We have a plan in place to develop the Tomahawks International program such that we qualify for the Rugby League World Cup 2013 in the UK. The coaching staff and I have reviewed and evaluated the skills and abilities of every player in our domestic competition. We looked at who is available playing professionally overseas, and examined the considered judgement from a network of support staff within the extended AMNRL family currently working to establish a foothold for the sport throughout the nation; for example Chicago in the Midwest, Hawaii and California in the West and Pacific, the Pacific Northwest along with Arizona, Utah and Nevada in the Southwest. Texas is another area of development we are breaking ground in 2011. There are numerous examples of high end talent representing the USA Tomahawks from fledgling areas outside our established domestic competition such as Loren Broussard from Arizona, Nate Smith from Kentucky, Vea Ofa and Mo Tuifua from Utah. There is an abundance of rugby league talent and superb athletes throughout this country who have been underserved as we try very hard to establish a presence within those regions. To simply ignore their claims because a dedicated competition was not in place in their city would be senseless. Our current club competition is an excellent example of how the Tomahawks program helped in the development of city based teams. There are a whole host of USA representatives who played international rugby league then returned to their home town with an understanding of more then just how to improve their own skills as a player, but share that knowledge locally and establish their own team:- Jeff Preston - Philadelphia Fight; Fred Gruhler - Philadelphia Bulldogs then Media Mantarays; Ryan McGough - Penn Raiders then Philadelphia Fight; Rob Balachandran - NY Knights; Rich Portale and Curits Cunz - Connectitcut Wildcats; Martin O'Donoghue - DC Slayers; Marcus Vassilakopoulos - Aston Bulls; Daryl Howland - Jacksonville Axemen; We are in a unique situation in the USA. Somewhat untraditional, and certainly working in reverse order to other well established rugby nations around the world with flourishing grassroots programs. Our national team has always been a platform to raise awareness and open up new areas of development nationally. So, I hope you support our team in the Atlantic Cup. It will be your way 'To Pay it Forward'.