Swiss Low Point LondonWRC Write Up
The past weekend (28th–30th Oct) was the 10th Anniversary of the Swiss Low Point wheelchair rugby tournament, a competition I had the pleasure of attending as a player eight years ago. This time my position was coach, a title that I'm still getting use to, can't help but smile when someone calls me coach. The main objective was even court time for our players. It was a good chance for our low pointers to get experience being ball carriers.
For those who don't know wheelchair rugby, the classification of the four players on court normally adds up to eight points. In low point rugby they add up to three and a half points, using a combination of players with the classification of 0.5, 1 and 1.5. So basically no high pointers. Therefore the game is a bit slower but the tactics are pretty much the same.
We flew out Thursday night, check-in and boarding is always an interesting process. I must admit it's funny to see the look of airport staff when a team of wheelchair users roll up with rugby chairs and wheel bags. I think the ease basically depends on how prepared the staff are, we obviously book in advance but no matter what there's always a lot of hurry up and wait. We eventually landed in Zurich, loaded on the transport and headed to the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil. Arriving at one in the morning it was a case of unload, check-in and straight to bed. Our first game wasn't till half six in the afternoon so a slight lay in was also on the cards.
I got up Friday morning and had a bit of time before the first game tipped off. I had a roll around the venue and it's an impressive place to say the least. For starters the hotel is in a large concrete and glass building that also has research and bio labs. Then I was shown the underground departments connected by tunnels and my imagination was certainly in overdrive. Honestly it's like something out of the movies.
Back to the competition and it was time for another tactics chat. Obviously I knew our line ups so planning offence wasn't a problem. However I'm inexperienced when it comes to the international scene, I talked with the captain and team to get some much needed info on the opposition. Our first game was against one of the Swiss teams, Rolling Rhinos. Our plan held out and we had a comfortable victory, winning with over a twenty point difference. A perfect first game to get the guys pumped up and prepared for the next couple of days.
Saturday and we were up to play first. The opposition was the Rugbears from Germany, a tougher game but we pulled ahead and maintained the lead for another victory. By now my nerves had calmed and I was relieved our tactics were working. Our team was working together, performing well and enjoying themselves. I'd soon come to learn it's a lot easier to be confident when you're winning. Next up was Mayhem, the Canadian team. I recognised the players from their national team and we knew this would be a tough match. They pulled ahead in the first quarter and we couldn't get it back. I felt the pressure and my confidence started to slip. I could see the team with their heads down so it was time for a pep talk. We had to forget the loss but use what we learnt and move on to the next game. The Fighting Snakes, predominately a Swiss team but with guests from Germany and Great Britain. I managed to see this team compete earlier in the day, had a chat with our captain and the tactics were set. Our guys did really well to get over the previous loss, again working as a team and pushing hard they secured another victory.
Onto the Sunday and our last two games. First up, Silent Lambs, a dedicated low point team from Switzerland. Their experience in low point rugby was going to be a challenge but I was confident as we also had a lot of experience on our side. That combined with the mismatches we created gave us another win, by now we're four for five.
As it was a round robin tournament there were now a number of outcomes, the most unlikely was us coming first. Even if we won our last game the Canadians would have to loose theirs, by the way they were performing, this was not going to happen. So it was looking like second or third. Our last game was against the Reblows, lowies from the German team Rebels. I watched some of their previous matches and knew we had another tough game ahead. Still confident though and more so after the tactics chat. Tip off started and it was soon clear the same tactics we used all weekend weren't going to be as effective. Relying on passing meant it gave the opposition more chances to intercept. This happened a few times in the first quarter and the Reblows gained an early lead. We got a couple back after both teams time-outs were used by couldn't close the gap. It was tough to finish on a loss but to come third was a major positive. I enjoy looking at the positive, when I can look back at the whole experience and beam a smile I know the stress and long days are defiantly worth it.
I'm so proud to be part of a team and more so for the team. Their individual dedication is something to be admired and I feel as coach, it's my job to bring them together and help play as a team. I can only hope their as proud to play as LodonWRC as I am to coach. With their performance and hard work in this competition, I'd actually say it's a given. A massive thank you to our guest players, Reda Haouan from The Flying Dutchmen and Alan Lynch from the Gaelic Warriors. Your fresh faces and positive attitudes defiantly helped us play as a team. Also much appreciation goes to our bench staff, thanks for your help to the team and their chairs.