15. Bulldogs & Deserts

Its time to reminisce over my time here with the Ability360 Heat team and focus on the ‘Best of the West’ tournament which is in its 27th year.

I arrive back in the UK on the 9th of December, and I have to say I am really looking forward to it. I have never been one to get homesick. Even as a child heading off to boarding school for the first time aged 11, I can remember my parents having to call the school to check that I was doing ok because they hadn’t heard from me! This year, however, it seems like I have been away for a lot longer and it will be nice to get back to good old Blighty and catch up with friends and family. That’s not to say I am not enjoying my time in Arizona, training and competition have been going really well but it will be great to spend some time at home for a change.

The Ability360 Heat have recently returned from a rugby tournament in San Diego called ‘Best of the West’. The tournament is in it’s 27th year and is widely regarded as one of the best tournaments in the calendar.

For the three years I have been with the Ability360 team we have always driven to San Diego. It is an incredibly beautiful drive, but 6 hours in a car is also very draining. Driving in the USA seems almost bizarre to me, you can travel for miles without seeing anything but desert on a road that has absolutely no corners. The teammate I travel with, Nick Springer , always complains that I sleep the whole way. But I am sure to wake up for the most scenic parts of the drive.

It is still early in the season and teams are just gelling together, the ‘Best of the West’ tournament is a good opportunity to take a look at some of the main competition and test out some of our different offence and defensive strategies. It also gives a good reflection on how the teams seeding is looking.

The Ability360 Heat came in to this tournament ranked No1 in the country and we definitely did not want that to change, we also wanted to lay down a marker that we will be the team to beat this season.

The toughest games came from the Minnesota team, who just so happen to have a GB import playing for them as well. We had Scott Hogsett, our player/coach, win best 1.0 and Joe Delegrave win best 2.0 and I was hugely honoured to win MVP for the tournament. You could say it was a pretty good outing for the Ability360 Heat as we also managed to win the entire tournament.

As well as committing fully to my rugby strength and conditioning program, I have also been trying to make the most of the facilities available to me whilst I am here. There are not too many places in the world where you can still comfortably swim in an outdoor pool in late November. I have also taken the opportunity to try the adaptive climbing wall they have here, it is more of a rope climb than rock climbing but definitely makes pull-ups more interesting. I also took part in the concept2 World SkiErg Sprint championships and, according to their website, I am currently ranked second in my class for the 1000m. I put it all down to our team mascot, Mollie the British Bulldog!

This year, I finally attended my first American Thanksgiving celebrations. Having been in America around this time of year for the past four years, this was the first time I have actually celebrated the holiday. I had always been annoyed that I had not got to experience it before as in previous years I have flown home the week before. It reminded me a lot of a British Christmas dinner where friends and family come together and indulge in good food way too much! Speaking of which, I had better get back to the gym!

So just one more tournament in Tucson this coming weekend and then… home……