Interview with Director of Rugby Pat Boyle
We’ve got a special interview this week as 7s season kicks off and we chat with Director of Rugby Pat Boyle.
1) What is your background in 7s and what have you accomplished in your career so far? For anyone who has walked around with you at 7s event, its seem like you know everyone.
Well, it probably just mean’s I’m old. Serious now, I am actually lucky, as I always say I was brought up in 7s. Long before 7s was played in college, the only 7s was with men’s teams. When I was 20, I found Lehigh Valley Rugby Club who were very serious about 7s and coached by Joe Morrison, and the Emperor, Emil Signes. Those 2 coaches really showed me the competitive side of rugby. In those first couple years, I went to Nationals twice with LVRC, played for Atlantis, attended All-American camp, and did a bunch of select side stuff. After that, all I wanted to do was play at the highest level I could. In 2008, most of us from LV had moved away from the area, and that’s when Will Knipscher and I started the 7s program at Schuylkill River. We are now over a decade in and SR has made it to Nationals 8 times. I really don’t take enough time to stop and really appreciate it, but the consistency we have had is remarkable. A lot of that credit goes to Mike Burch and Chris Ryan as well who have been a rock for our program as coaches for many years.
2) Piggybacking off of that, at 34, you are young to be a Director of Rugby of a Nationally recognized 7s program.
Yes, certainly, that is true, but I never really thought of it like that. I started the 7’s program here when I was 23. So age aside, I have over 10 years’ experience. We started this thing from the ground up, so there isn’t a detail I don’t know about, and I think that really helps. Certainly, made some missteps through the years, but we are stronger for it.
3)A lot of talented players have obviously chosen to play 7s for Schuylkill but what do you do to develop talent internally and help all players reach their peak?
Honestly, this is what separates our program I believe from everyone else. We are a true club model. We have never turned away a player no matter their skill level or athletic ability. We have done all of that while still playing 7s at the highest level. From our earliest beginnings, we always had 2 sides, and now we consistently put out 3 to 4 sides every weekend which is unheard of most places in the country. We know we can’t compete with a model other teams have of importing talent. We must build from within, and everyone in the program knows it, its ingrained in our culture, and it’s who we are. 10 years ago, we weren’t alone in this, but over the past couple years, the rise of the all-star 7s sides have really come to dominate the scene. I fully support that and think it’s great for the game, but that’s not who we are. Certainly, our top guys have different goals and focus on that at training, but if you come to Schuylkill, player 1 through 100 is getting coached and developing. I can guarantee that.
4)What can you tell us about the coaching staff that Schuylkill has put together this year?
Our coaching staff is really second to none, and I say that with the utmost confidence. Mike “Beaver” Burch will be Head Coach again this year and we are really excited about his progression. Further, Chris Ryan is stepping back into an Associate Head Coach role. Beaver has been with our program from day one, first as a player, then as Chris’ assistant coach. Beaver is an embodiment of everything this program stands for. I think Coach Ryan’s motivation to come back is the greatest complement for me as Director. He really struggled being away from the boys, the camaraderie, and just everything we built here. It’s a program people want to be a part of and Chris has been involved at the highest level, so it says a lot.
Biddy Boyle is the head man of the U23 Academy. I could go on about Biddy’s credentials, but the fact that this man leads our U23 team, just speaks to the strength of our coaching staff. Biddy is really the perfect for U23 because he’s worked so much with men’s sides, but now does a ton of work with Atlantis U19 program. There isn’t a better man to bridge the gap in a player’s development from High School/College to Men’s.
Josh Mastromatto is such an exciting up and coming coach. Aside from his rugby knowledge his work with agility, and fitness, is just so influential to the program. Josh is such an accomplished athlete, and came to rugby late, so he has a unique perspective on things that’s so pivotal in players development
Ryan McHugh is also back to coach this year. Ryan is a stalwart for us in 15s and this last year has coached with Chris Ryan at Princeton, so really excited to see his development in year 2 as a coach here.
Lastly, Jaime-Pierce Williams is joining the staff this year, and we couldn’t be more excited. Jamie was a SR stalwart in the early years of the program and helped build what it is today on the pitch. He has been to the top of the mountain, and knows what it takes, and most importantly that fire still burns which he imparts in his players.
Top to bottom, you would be hard pressed to find a staff so accomplished in the country with the depth of talented coaches that we have put together which will allow for players to improve within every tier within our program.
5) With all of the other options for 7s, why should someone come and play for Schuylkill River?
One word, consistency. The game of 7s is all about how consistent you can play for 14 minutes. Running a 7s program is the same way. You come to Schuylkill River you know exactly what you are going to get: challenged every day, great coaching, great mentors for young players, play at the highest level.
In the end, we know exactly who we are and how to make players, and teams better. For 10 years, there has been one constant in the Mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia for 7s, and that is River, that doesn’t just happen by coincidence. We have seen clubs come and go and I don’t think they realize how hard it is to play that level, and maintain it. Lastly, It is not easy to play for us, you have to want to the best which has nothing to do with ability. If you really want to be the best player you can be, there isn’t a question where I think guys should play.
6) Tell us about the development and success of Schuylkill’s U23 academy and about some players who have played for the academy but also earned a trip to nationals with the premier side?
The academy side is great and every year we have had multiple players never even play for our top side (or very little) and make the Premier Side which went to nationals. Again, all of that is possible because our U23 side is playing in the exact same environment, and getting great coaching, so for us it’s not you didn’t make the top side this weekend, you are forgotten. Its more, how do I get you there. I always remember, our first year of U23, Biddy Boyle told Brian Keown he would make the top side by the end of the summer. No one knew Biddy told him this, but by the last tournament before Nationals, Brian made the top side and went to Nationals. Now a couple years later, Keown is arguably the best player in the entire club. That’s the beauty of the club, first, we have an environment where that growth could take place, but second, we have a culture where Keown didn’t complain, he simply worked harder. I would tell every college player, give us a summer, I guarantee you come back to school that much better.
7)Going with that, why have so many high level players (All-Americans, MLR, etc.) come to SR to play?
Pretty much everything I said before, but I think the biggest thing is they know it won’t be easy, but the reward is so much sweeter. Nationally, we know we are never going to be favorites yet year in and year out we play and succeed at that level. The reason is simple, grinding for everything both physically and intellectually. We will not succeed unless everyone is a step above our competition in understanding the game, and then also in top condition physically. Even then, it sometimes isn’t enough. At the end of that process though, you are such a better player and guys who have that desire, seek that out here. Again, it isn’t easy to play here, but if you want to get better it will happen. Obviously, if making all-American you have probably have that desire, so the attraction is there.
8) Lastly, tell us the best part about being a member of Schuylkill River 7s.
Cliché, but it’s the brotherhood. 7s is grueling. For 6 or 7 weeks when everyone else is at the beach, you get up at 5/6am and travel to go play rugby for 8 hours in the heat. Trust me, if you don’t have a brotherhood with those conditions, your program is sinking quick. Its why 7s guys get so close I think because just the amount of time you spend together is huge. On top of that, we have 3 or 4 for sides, so the mix of people is crazy, and amazingly entertaining. It’s a family honestly, you have your super talented cousin who is pushing for the Eagles, and then your crazy cousin who is primarily there simply to cheer for said talented cousin and maybe play some rugby. In all of that, it forms a family, and more than anything, probably why we have been successful.