News and Announcements
With the first MAC qualifier of the season coming up this weekend Ben Janssen has been named Captain of Schuylkill River’s 7s program. To get to know more about Ben’s background and what he brings to the table check out the interview he recently did for us.
1. What is your rugby background?
I first played in high school with Coatesville Rugby Club, a club that unfortunately received no support from the school and has since disbanded, during that time I also played with Brandywine Men’s Club and eventually found my way to Penn State Men’s Rugby Club. Penn State opened the door to the select sides of Atlantis and representing Philadelphia in the Select Cities tournament in Houston where I met Pudge (Chris Ryan). After the Select Cities tournament, I knew I wanted to play on whatever team he was coaching and that brought me to Schuylkill River.
2. What notable accomplishments do you have in 7s and what sort of select side representation have you been involved in?
As mentioned above I played with Atlantis and Philadelphia Selects but I was also back-to-back first team Big Ten and had the privileged of competing in the first 5 CRCs.
3. What are you going to bring to the table as the Captain of Schuylkill’s 7s program and how would you describe your leadership style?
Well first and foremost I think everyone on the team, the rugby community, possibly the planet knows how much I hate losing so I think that will drive performance but I also bring a solid range of knowledge and a never say die work ethic to the team. When I’m on the field I’m running as hard and as fast as I can till the game ends or you pull me from the field. In the really gritty minutes of sevens I think guys respect a person who lays it on the line for the team.
4. Schuylkill’s 7s program is much more than just the Premier side. How do you intend to help develop the players on the U-23 side and help the less experienced players learn the game?
Aside from recently taking up coaching our U19 program, I start with recruiting. It’s really sad to me that there are not more Penn State Men’s club Alumni in the Philly area willing to play high level rugby so I go after players from my alma mater first. From PSU I move onto the connections I have made throughout my rugby career to pull in as many players as possible. Then comes development, I believe one of the greatest ways elevate your play is to play against higher competition. Collegiate athletes, recent graduates and less experienced players can come to Schuylkill knowing they will get better because they will be competing against a nationally competitive side every practice. Our coaching staff and senior players are exceptional at explaining our style of play and will field any question a younger or less experienced player may have. Schuylkill also has the advantage of entering multiple teams into tournaments and frequently get to watch one another play. This gives the more experienced players an opportunity to watch the U23 side play and critique their individual and team play, conversely the U23 and open sides get to watch the premier at a high level and learn from our mistakes and what we do well.
5. Speaking of helping less experienced players learn the game, you recently helped coach Schuylkill’s first ever U-19 team at the High School Rugby Championship as part of the Collegiate Rugby Championship that takes place in Chester every year. How would you describe that experience and what have you learned from it?
Being a first time coach was incredible. Teaching our U19 players the game I love and seeing their ability to learn and fall in love with it was an experience I will never forget and hope to continue to do. I learned areas where I need to improve as a player and a teacher and learned somehow I am more psychotic on the sidelines as a coach than on the field as a player…… definitely an area for improvement.
6. What do you most look forward to as a member of Schuylkill’s 7s program?
I love everything about sevens; the fitness, the training, all day tournaments, the brotherhood you form with your teammates, and especially winning. My wife has six national championships (four 15s and two 7s) and I have 0, SRE 7s puts me I a solid position to attempt to narrow that gap as we’re nationally completive every year.
7. If someone was on the fence about coming to play 7s for Schuylkill River what would you want them to know?
If you want to become a better rugby player, come play with us. Even if you do not have the premier side time commitment we can accommodate whatever level of 7s you are looking to play but I can guarantee you will get significantly better throughout the summer. No other program in the area will develop your game like Schuylkill.
Bonus Question: You scored a match winning try for Penn State at the Collegiate Rugby Championship against Ohio State and Nate Ebner who currently plays for the New England Patriots. Is it true that the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Superbowl 52 with a backup quarterback and are currently the defending Superbowl champs?
It is in fact true, I like to believe the seeds of the patriots defeat were created that day in 2011. I’m sure the tale of a PA team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat of a “better” team spread far and wide and shook the patriots team to the core.
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 7’s and what have you accomplished in your career so far? For anyone who has walked around with you at 7’s 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 7’s. Long before 7’s was played in college, the only 7’s was with men’s teams. When I was 20, I found Lehigh Valley Rugby Club who were very serious about 7’s 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 7’s program at Schuylkill River. We are now 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 Chris Ryan as well who has been a rock for our program as coach for many years.
2) Piggybacking off of that, at 33, you are young to be a Director of Rugby of a Nationally recognized 7’s 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 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 7’s 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 7’s 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, 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. This year, Chris Ryan, our longtime coach is stepping into an Associate Head Coach role, and Mike Burch is taking over as Head Coach. 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, and we couldn’t be more excited for him. I don’t mean to steal Chris’ thunder, but in talking to him, he felt it was time for Beaver to lead the ship. Chris believes in coaching coaches, and although not walking away, it was time his apprentice led. On our U23 side, Biddy Boyle is the head man. 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. Josh Mastromatto is also moving into a coaching role focusing on agility, and fitness, as well as developing the younger players. Josh is such an accomplished athlete, and came to rugby late, so he has a unique perspective on things. Having someone dedicated to the fitness side of things is a huge asset. Top to bottom, you would be hard pressed to find a staff so accomplished in the country but yet also improving every tier within our program.
One word, consistency. The game of 7’s is all about how consistent you can play for 14 minutes. Running a 7’s 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. Now we have gotten to the point we have a dedicated U23 team and all they have done is win back-to back MAC Open championships in 2 years of existence. This year with mass amounts of work from our President, Dave Codell, we launched a U19 7’s side. This program isn’t slowing down, it’s only getting started.
We have grown All Americans, MLR players, Select Side players, and numerous National Camp invites, so if you want that, it’s here . On the same end, if you are a notch below, you still get all the same access to coaching and that identical environment.
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 7’s, 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 in both years 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. 7’s 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 7’s 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.
Before getting into the Narberth match report let’s take a moment to congratulate Roman Catholic on a strong season. Roman came into the year with a young side and the guys developed quite a bit as the year went on. In their state semi-final match against Father Judge they were narrowly defeated by a score of 27-24. Roman’s try scorers were Stermel, Conway, Wiggins and Kuneck with Stermel hitting 2 conversions on a rainy and windy day.
We’ve seen some of the Roman guys come out and run with our U-19 7s program. They have a ton of young talent and the potential to make a serious run at the D2 single school state championship next year. We are happy to have had the opportunity to work with some of their kids this year and we hope to continue to do so well into the future.
Experience is almost everything in high school rugby and Narberth’s 10 seniors really made a difference in their 61-14 victory over a very physical and tough Blackthorn side. Credit to Blackthorn’s players, and their parents, they had a good turnout on a rainy day and kept their enthusiasm up throughout the match which did end up them scoring 2 late tries.
Narberth’s forwards got things off to a strong start for the Otters with Captain Cameron making a punishing run off of a penalty tap and scoring a try which put him into double digits on the season. Next up was George breaking the gain line and finding Nate for the finish and then a 70 meter break from Ifeyan which led to a try for Phil to put the Otters up 19-0 early on.
Midway through the first half Nick started having a lot of success kicking off the deck, the first time leading to a try in the corner for Jack and the second time leading to his own try following a great pickup of a rolling ball. Jack and Nate ended the half strongly with tries to give the Otters a 47-0 halftime lead.
In the second half Jack scored off of a scrum to complete his hat trick and put the Otters up 52-0. This try was also significant for the fact that as Nate lined up to take the conversion kick he was sitting on 99 points for the season. Nate’s kick was up and good and he crossed the century mark while putting the Otters up 54-0.
Blackthorn’s big second row scored the next try with some really powerful running. I don’t have this player’s name but he deserves credit for battling hard all match. Evan scored next for the Otters followed by another try for Blackthorn to make for a 61-14 final.
Narberth next plays Hempfield at 10:30 AM on Saturday May 19 in the state semi-finals at Cumberland Valley High School.
Tries: Jack (3), Nate (2), Cameron, Evan, Nick, Phil,
Cons: Nate (8)
Season Scoring Total:
Tries: Cam (10) Evan (9) George (9) Nate (9) Jack (8) Nick (6) Mason (5) Ifeyan (4) Antonio (1) Phil (1)
Cons: Nate (29) Cameron (1) Nick (1) Owen (1) Wyatt (1)
On February 24, 2018 Schuylkill River Rugby held a free high school rugby clinic for players in the Philadelphia area. The attendees were mostly comprised of players from the Narberth Otters, North Philadelphia Nomads, and Roman Catholic High School which are all programs with active Schuylkill players on their coaching staffs. Due to the success of the clinic, and based on the positive feedback from the players, it was decided that Schuylkill River would be running a U-19 7s program for the first time in 2018 with the goal of participating in the Subaru 7s tournament on May 19 in Wilmington Delaware and the High School Rugby Championship division of the CRC tournament in Chester on June 2.
Now that the Rugby PA regular season has come to an end we are happy to announce that the U-19 program is starting this week. Practices for the U-19 program will start on Monday May 7 and will be on Monday and Wednesday nights from 5:30-7:30 at Arrow Athletic Field (set your GPS to Arrow Athletic Field, Magdalena St, Philadelphia, PA 19128). If you would like more information please e-mail email@example.com
The U-19 program will be coached by Greg Mininger along with assistant coaches Ben Janssen and Dan Deal. Mininger is a very experienced high school coach who has coached several U-19 all-star teams for the EPRU/Rugby PA previously while Janssen and Deal are top level 7s players who have both played in the Collegiate Rugby Championship, the USA Rugby Men’s Club Championship, and for several elite select sides such as the famed Atlantis program.
Director of Rugby Pat Boyle, who also serves as the Director of 7s for Schuylkill’s nationally recognized program stated that “we are beyond excited to start our U19 7s program, and that was the clear next step in our program’s development. We launched our U23 7s program 2 years ago, and it has been a resounding success. The U23s gave us a lot of confidence we can start developing players even earlier and there is an appetite for it.”
Head 15s Coach Owen Jones, who also ran the U-19 clinic added “rugby is a social game, a global game, and a community game. Our Schuylkill River community extends beyond just our own men’s club and includes local university and U-19 clubs. Past players have given back to the rugby community by taking coaching roles at these clubs and have introduced the game we all love to a younger generation of athletes. Philadelphia is recognized nationally as a rugby community, as evidenced by USA Sevens hosting their Collegiate Rugby Championships in the city with this year’s event being the eighth consecutive year. It is our responsibility as stewards of the game to introduce and engage the younger generation of athletes. We were thrilled at the invitation from Narberth U-19 to attend a practice session of theirs at the start of this spring season as well as have the opportunity for Schuylkill to host a U-19 clinic which was attended by U-19 athletes from several local area clubs. By showing these young rugby players what the sport can bring to them athletically, socially, and professionally, we hope they too will fall in love with rugby as we all have.”
Narberth Head Coach Gabe Gliwa was asked for his opinion of Schuylkill’s recent work with the Otters and had the following to say “This is the second year in a row we have established a working relationship with S’kill. As a guy who played at the college level and men’s level I know the difference in level and style of play from one to the other so I knew the huge difference in style of play from HS to men’s club but that is why I had to have them working together. I want to be sure I prepare these guys for their next step in a rugby career and if possible put them ahead of the guys they will be competing with when they join a college team. S’kill has been fantastic in introducing these guys to other elements of the game that they may not be used to competing against other 15-19yr olds. Beyond that I am only one guy who played a few positions throughout my career, these clinics and joint sessions gives these guys a chance to pick the brains of long tenured players in their position.
Finally, in just a few short years all of the HS players will graduate from college and hopefully be looking to continue with the game on a men’s level. If these introductions, session and clinics can cement the relationship between Narberth and S’kill and lead to my boys playing for my old team…..bonus.”
On Sunday April 29 the Narberth Otters traveled to West Chester to play the Wolfpack and Roman Catholic faced off against the first place Hibernians. The outcomes of these matches were a contrast of how important it is to have experienced players as Narberth was able to rely on their senior leadership to pull off a 38-12 victory while a Roman side full of underclassmen played a solid match against a more experienced Hibernians side before falling 31-17.
Ifeyan got Narberth on the board early to give the Otters a 7-0 lead and Nick followed with a try set up by a nice pass from George to make it 12-0. The Wolfpack stayed in the fight and scored in the corner right at halftime to make it 12-5 at the break. During his halftime speech Narberth Coach Gabe Gliwa made a couple of adjustments and the Otters returned to the field determined to earn the victory.
The tone was set early by senior captain Cameron who took the ball on a penalty play and absolutely smashed the defensive line. When Cameron get the ball again on another penalty soon after that it was clear that the defense was nervous about having to tackle him and he was able to score under the posts to make it 19-5. George was the next Otter to score off a penalty tap by making a nice move at the goal line and George also scored off a switch pass from Phil to push the lead to 31-5.
As Narberth got their subs into the match Nick moved from wing to scrumhalf and scored a nice try on a pick and go to give him his first multi-try game since his epic 4.5 try (Nick swears he and Nate scored a try together simultaneously, I’m just gonna go with it) performance against Coventry back in 7th grade. West Chester’s flyhalf then made a great line break and earned a penalty try in the process to make it a final score of 38-12 in favor of Narberth.
In the Roman Catholic match John Stermel opened the scoring with a penalty kick from 30M out to give Roman a 3-0 lead. This was followed by two quick tries from the Hibernians to make it 12-3 in favor of the Hibos. James Kuneck was able to beat the opposing fullback to the ball on a kick and chase to make it 12-10 following a conversion from the steady boot of Stermal. The half ended 12-10 in favor of the Hibernians.
This year’s Roman Catholic team is predominantly made up of underclassmen and the experience advantage showed when the Hibernians were able to score two quick tries to extend the lead to 24-10. Roman didn’t give up though, and they managed to score another try to make it a 24-17 match before the Hibernians iced the match with a late try to earn a well-deserved 31-17 victory. We’re looking forward to seeing the Roman players continue develop over the next couple of years and win these matches that are close at halftime.
Tries: George (2), Nick (2), Cameron (1), Ifeyan (1)
Cons: Nate (4)
Season Scoring Tally:
Tries: Cam (9) George (9) Evan (8) Nate (7) Jack (5) Mason (5) Nick (5) Ifeyan (4) Antonio (1)
Cons: Nate (21) Cameron (1) Nick (1) Owen (1) Wyatt (1)