Friday, October 10, 2014

A Word From Our Coach: More From Andy Katoa

Full disclosure: I met Coach Andy via Twitter. We were favoriting and retweeting all things rugby back and forth, then progressed to direct messages, then emails and actual phone calls to discuss the world of rugby 7s, of training, coaching and developing athletes, of observations of the iRB Sevens and more. Thank goodness for social media!

Andy has worked with several of the players you'll see on the pitch this weekend at Gold Coast 7s. He has spent significant time in player development and identifying talent as an assistant at the High School All American level with Salty Thompson, in coaching the highly regarded University of Arizona rugby 7s team that produced recent Eagles Peter Tiberio, Brett Thompson and Ryan Matyas, and as the manager for the USA 7s men's team.

 He was highly involved in getting Carlin Isles to crossover into rugby 7s - it's worth noting that Andy is somewhat of a crossover himself having played collegiate football and being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1991. Andy coached Isles at the club level to prepare him for his Eagles 7s contract, working on development when Isles first stepped on the pitch with the Gentlemen of Aspen. The likes of Mike Palefau, Maka Unufe, Leonard Peters and Pila Taufa are former/current Eagles whom have flourished under Andy's guidance. Andy is additionally veteran of a few rugby 7s touring sides and led the Gentlemen of Aspen to a USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship in 2008.

 Grantland's Video: The Fastest Man In Rugby Carlin Isles
 features Coach Andy and his role in developing Isles for the Eagles

This summer Andy recommended several athletes for our Stars program and assisted with some of our funding work for the Calgary Stampede 7s tour. As we spent more and more time discussing the direction and potential of the Stars program, I threw it out that he should join us on a tour as a guest coach. I was a little shocked and beyond thrilled that he said yes not just to our Australia tour but for Tobago 7s and beyond. "Liz, I want to be your Stars men's coach," still echoes in my mind; his commitment becomes even more meaningful given that he was recently named the  Head Coach for the Tonga 7s.

Andy led a the Tonga team into the Oceania 7s tournament last week where he debuted two 19 year olds in the flyhalf and center positions after only having two weeks to evaluate talent and make selections. The young team, which included Star player Eddie Paea, had its trials. Tonga drew a difficult pool of Australia, Samoa and New Caledonia yet still advanced to the Cup Quarterfinals and eventually place 6th. Their appearance in the Plate Final  earned Tonga a spot at Hong Kong 7s.

Eddie commented on Andy's amazing knowledge of the game and on how much the players appreciated his coaching. Andy reported, "It's been a great experience so far with these kids...loads of talent here and in Tonga. I've been given clearance to full access of kids in NZ and Australia. It will make Tonga that much better." 

Here's a quick message from Coach Andy:

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to say hello and that I'm really looking forward to spending time with the Stars 7s in Australia. We know that Liz has been working hard on putting together a mixture of young talent for CCS 7s, soI am really excited to see how we will be able to come together as team and focus on the task at hand.

The focus is for us to do the simple things real well. TACKLE, support, pass, catch, run. We will have about 5 solid days to work out our points of play. With everyone coming in well-conditioned we will be able to execute the basic things at an accelerated pace. This will make things a lot easier on all of us.

Coach Orene and I are really excited to be with the Stars and know the experience will benefit us all. Everyone keep up the hard work and keep the fitness up. We'll see you all soon.

Thank you,

Counting this as Drew Brees, Carlin Isles and Darren Sproles 
wishing Stars Rugby 7s good luck!

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