During my yearly summer college break (which started in May) from Wesleyan, I would head back to good ol’ Weston HS in Massachusetts and help out with the lacrosse teams. One spring I was even made the JV Head Coach for the last third of the season because our Varsity HC at the time, John Lewis (sadly now deceased), was dealing with a really tough bout with cancer. During that time, I met and coached a great young man by the name of Marcus, who went on play lax at Hobart. Marcus was a really great athlete and he picked the game up quickly. We always tried to convince his brother, Miles, to come out for the team as well but it never took.
After reconnecting with Marcus through the wonderful bookface, I learned that Miles is doing some pretty amazing things nowadays as well on the athletic field. Although it isn’t lacrosse, he’s still ripping it up and I figured what better way to spread the word about a low profile sport, than on a blog about another lower profile sport?!?! Really I just wanted to show Miles some appreciation for all of his hardwork and when I fired off 6 short questions, I got an UNREAL interview.
There are also a LOT of valuable lessons in here for coaches surrounding the strength of willpower, project players and their evolution and converting a natural athlete into a sport-specific star. So from my email to your eyes, here it is…
LAS: Tell us a little bit about yourself right now… where you’re living, the teams you play for, what you do for a day job…
Miles: Living out of a suitcase! Ha, but really, this past year has been pretty crazy. After coming up from Florida, training down at Velocity Sports Performance in Naples for NFL team workouts, I got in touch with the Olympic Rugby 7s Men’s Head Coach, Al Caravelli. Al recommended that I come train with the NYAC Rugby 7s team for the summer if I was at all interested in pursuing a possible career with rugby. I accepted the invitation, and decided to dedicate my life to the sport of rugby. Every week I traveled to NY to participate in practices, which were held every Tuesday and Thursday of the week, and then play in a weekend tournament every Saturday and possibly Sunday.
I went into practice having never played the sport before, but all credit/training/learning goes out to the NYAC 7s players for schooling me up and taking the time to teach me the game in such short notice. They were all really friendly, patient, and understanding of my lack of knowledge and made the transition as smooth as possible. An extra special thanks to the New York Athletic Club, Tom Rooney, Jim Egan, and Al Caravelli for their commitment to coaching the squad this summer. Our NYAC squad ended up winning the New England Championships, competing in the USA Rugby Men’s 7s Championships in San Francisco, and then sending 5 of us to the USA Rugby Men’s 7s All-Star Championships this past weekend in New York City. And this brings us up to the current date.
Looking forward, I just received an invitation to the National Rugby Sevens Selection Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista on Sept 23rd. I am currently training for this opportunity so that I’ll be prepared for the rigorous days of competition that will be held. If I get selected for the squad, I’ll have the opportunity to represent the USA in international tournaments in Singapore, Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, England, and Scotland to name a few. I am excited for that which to come, and eagerly waiting to make a name for myself on the ol’ rugger field ha.
I am also a GMovement sponsored athlete. Gatorade and Action Against Hunger teamed up to sponsor athletes during their athletic challenge. My role as a sponsored athlete is to fulfill my athletic challenge (‘get into the NFL’, which has been diverted to ‘making the USA National Rugby 7s team’ for the time being) all the while raising awareness about global hunger. You can learn more on my Journey Blog.
How did you get into Rugby? I know we didn’t have it at Weston HS (we only got a Varsity Lacrosse Team in 1998!) so where did you pick the sport up? What sports did you play in HS that got you ready for high level rugby?
Miles: In high school I played football, basketball, and ran track. After high school, I was granted the opportunity to do a post graduate year at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT; where I played all three sports there as well. After my post graduate year at The Loomis Chaffee School was complete, I had a number of scholarship offers for both track and football. I chose to focus on the latter, and decided to take my talents to Providence, RI (ha, Lebron James voice).
Did you and Marcus train together at all? If so, were the any similarities to what you guys were trying to accomplish?
Miles: My brother, Marcus, and I always trained together. Being twins and all, we spent most of our time together, whether it was in school, on the playing field, hanging out around town, or working out in the gym. We fed off of each others motivation, determination, and pursuit of athletic and academic success. I always laxed it up with Marcus on a number of occasions to help his craft, and he did the same to me.
I really enjoyed playing lacrosse, although I never had the opportunity or time to play the sport in an organized setting. Much like what lacrosse used to be, rugby is trying to make a name for itself within the US. I remember when the sport of lacrosse really started to pick up in the US a number of years back, and to see its presence now and popularity in the US, gives hope to upcoming US sports like rugby.
If I make it through camp and stay in San Diego, I hope to catch a friend from Brown (Thomas Muldoon – Team New Balance) play in the LXM PRO TOUR during their stop in San Diego on Jan. 8, 2011.
What position do you play and how would that relate to someone on say, a soccer or football team? lacrosse?
Miles: I play the Wing position in Rugby 7s…. it’s kind of like the running back/receiver/defensive back positions in football, and the midfielder position in lacrosse (because of the fast transitions from defense to offense, and how much endurance is necessary to sustain yourself on the field). Rugby takes the aggression and physicality of the sport of football, mixes it up with the fast transitions of lacrosse, and combines it with the technicality and endurance of the game of soccer…for 7min straight, no timeouts.
What is it like playing somewhat of a fringe sport (at least here in the US anyway)? What is rugby trying to do to expand their audience?
Miles: USA Rugby’s goal is to inspire our nation to fall in love with the game. They have begun to tap into all social media networks, gain a viral presence over the internet/ustream, and just make their presence known to the athletic world. Before this past summer, I had no clue what rugby was, nor did I realize how competitive and fun the sport is. I believe once kids learn that there are alternative sports they can pursue, other than football and basketball, the window of opportunity for growth with this sport is limitless. A friend of mine, Dominic Wareing, Director of Fitness & Nutrition for Play Rugby USA, along with his co-workers and Founder/President Mark Griffin, have ventured into an untapped market within the USA, and developed a national youth development program (“The Program”) pioneering the development of youth through rugby. Their works go beyond the domain of the ol’ rugger field, and give children the tools they need to succeed in life on and off the playing field.
Any thoughts on going abroad and playing some semi-pro or pro ball? I lived in Australia and know it’s huge all throughout the Commonwealth States… could be fun!
Miles: Depending on the success I have if granted the opportunity to represent the USA in international competition, professional contracts will def be discussed
Finally, you come from a pretty athletic family! Why don’t you toot your own horn a bit and fill us in on what the Craigwell family is up to athletically.
Miranda Craigwell – Basketball at Brown University
Bianca Craigwell – Volleyball at University of Maryland at Baltimore County
Noah Craigwell – Basketball at DePaul University
Marcus Craigwell – Lacrosse at Hobart College
Maurice ‘Mo’ Vaughn - Baseball with the Boston Red Sox, Anaheim Angels, New York Mets
Logan Jones – Track&Field at UConn and the University of Oklahoma
Rashadd West – Basketball at Hampton University, now playing professional basketball overseas
Thanks to Miles for giving us a quick run down on what it’s like to play a fringe sport other than lacrosse! Best of luck with the Rugby7s tryouts and a future pro career!