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Rugby Tip of the Month – Be A Successful College Rugby Player

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Sean Duffy, Head Coach, University of Arizona

Guest Post by Sean Duffy, Head Coach, University of Arizona  Updated 5/30/19

University of Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy shares with us some key off-field tips for future college players. Seniors especially should take note before heading off to college this fall!

Time Management

You’ll have way more time then you are used to having, and will have the urge to procrastinate. USA Rugby requires all student-athletes to be in good standing with their university to be eligible to compete, which for most universities that are on a 4.0 scale is a 2.0 GPA. Some teams go a step further and do grade checks or require higher GPAs.  Texting your coach asking to miss practice because “I have to write a paper” translates to “I was assigned a paper and I’m waiting until now to do it so my lack of time management is going to affect the Rugby program.” Many rugby programs require not only daily commitments to rugby such as practices, strength & conditioning, team meetings and such, but consider that many teams also have lots of travel in their regular season. Having to get on a plane Friday night and not returning to campus until late Sunday night will certainly affect your ability to write that term paper that’s due on Monday. -Check out this BlogPost from MIT that explains how to use breaks effectively. (High School students: If you haven’t already gotten used to using some sort of a planner (whether it’s one you write in or on your phone), now is the time to build this critical habit. Here are some great College Daily Planners to choose from).

Study Location

Don’t make the library your only study location; maybe it’s fine during the year, but around exam time or mid-term time? Packed. Good luck getting that table in the corner on the 3rd floor that you always go to. Have 2-3 go-to locations where you know you can study. Study lounges in dorms on some campuses are hardly used and usually fantastic. The student union/dining hall/cafeteria on most campuses empty out around exam time too because everyone’s in the library. Secondly, never study in your dorm room. Keep that as a place to hang out, relax, sleep, and play PS4. Your roommate or roommates have different schedules than you most likely as well. (High School students: think about where you do your homework now and whether that location is really conducive to studying. Find a place that allows you to focus and not get distracted by TV, a computer or even other people. Many students might find the best place to study is in their school library after school or at a local coffee shop. What is important is finding what works FOR YOU).

Get To Know Your Professors

Introduce yourself to your professors on Day 1 – Little secret for you. To college professors on day one, you are not a special snowflake, you are student ID #. Beat this on the first day by introducing yourself to your professor. It’s a lot harder for a professor to drop the hammer on you when you have a face and you’re not just a number. All professors also host Office Hours each week. Take some time to drop in and find out more about your professors or get clarification on that week’s material. If you feel yourself struggling, ask for help. Here are more tips on how to Effectively Use Office Hours.  (High School students: you can begin this habit by making sure you also get to know as many of your teachers too! Ask him or her where s/he went to college, why s/he went there, what advice s/he would give you about the college planning process.)

Go to Class!

Take your family’s tuition bill for the year, divide it in half so you have the semester costs. Now take that semester cost and divide it by the number of courses you have. Take that number and divide it by the number of class days. When you skip, you’re literally wasting that money. Show up. First semester can be difficult because class schedules tend to be more prescriptive for first-year students. And yes, I know 8:00 AM classes are tough to make sometimes. But, if you’re like most college students, in the remaining semesters you’re in college you’ll get to make your own schedule. So, suck it up for the first three to four months of freshmen year and then your 8 AMs are likely gone forever. Don’t forget if you’re missing class, more than likely your grades will suffer and sooner than later, your roster spot may be long gone. Don’t risk it! (High School students: Register for your classes as soon as you are able. If possible, try to schedule classes around times when you know you are most productive. e.g. late owls, try to schedule evening classes).

Health Insurance

Get your insurance sorted out before play starts, so that if (and likely when) you have an injury you are ok. If you’re attending a college out-of-state, sometimes it’s better to purchase the university’s insurance plan which will open up more doors for you care-wise in the event that you get hurt. Having to travel to the neighboring city because your family’s insurance plan isn’t accepted in the city of your college is a hassle. This is something that can also be easily figured out during your Summer Freshman Orientation. (High School students: If you are on your family’s plan, make sure to look up in-network doctors, know your deductible etc. before you leave for school! Know your primary care doctor’s contact info, your dentist’s info etc.)

Medical Responsibility

Communicate with your coaches on your injury status. If you make them chase you to see a trainer (if your team has one) or doctor, or if they’re forced to operate not knowing your medical status, most will simply just rule you out. Coaches will pick the #2 choice player knowing s/he’s healthy and available over you if they just don’t know what your status is. The second part of this is if you’re sick…stay home. A small flu, virus, or case of strep throat can quickly spread through the team. (High School students: Start taking ownership of your medical care now by making your own doctor and dentist appointments. Also, take a walk through a local pharmacy and get familiar with medicines you usually take; don’t know the difference between Robitussin DM vs CF? Now is the time to find out!)

Buy In

Photo Credit: Goff Rugby Report

If there’s an optional pre-season camp, go. If there’s an opportunity to move in early, do it. If there’s an off-field thing where your coach needs help, do it. Service project, do it. Get to practice early, volunteer to help with field set up, and stay late to help with break down. Showing buy-in to the program is the #1 way to earn the respect of your new teammates. Don’t be the kid that talks about your high school rugby success all the time and wears your high school rugby gear to every session. Your new teammates don’t care. Work hard, buy in, and you’ll have a full team of new brothers or sisters before you know it.

Manage Crisis

Transferring is an option if things really get bad, but quite often students that do regret it. Many times, those thoughts come from homesickness, frustration with rugby, academic troubles, or minor things which at the time will feel huge like your roommate situation, weather, etc. Just remember – every single person in college has gone through something similar at least once. Establish allies in the university, such as a teammate, particularly one who’s an upperclassmen. I can guarantee someone in the program has gone through what you’re going through. Take a breath. Don’t make rash decisions. After a year, still not a fit? You tried. Explore options. After two weeks? Relax. Take a breath. Your family has likely paid for the semester already anyway. All college campuses also have Mental Health & Counseling Centers. 35% of college freshmen report having experienced anxiety and depression. It is ok to ask for help. If you are really feeling overwhelmed and anxious, stop in to speak with a professional to help you through this tough time. Here are some great tips from University of Michigan to help yourself maintain your mental health.


Once you know where you are attending, make sure to communicate this to everyone who helped you along the way – ESPECIALLY any college coaches you had been talking to prior to your decision. Don’t leave them hanging! A quick phone call, email or text will do. Just let them know you appreciate their time and let them know where you are headed.

Lastly, we know college life is exciting, but don’t forget to stay in touch with your family. Send your parents the game schedule. Call/video chat with them once a week, once every few days to start the first year.

Want to be a Wildcat?

Rugby Tip of the Month Brought to you by US Collegiate Development Camp

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