Yesterday I spoke with Ryan Britain, inside center for Rugby ATL and its development squad, 404 Rugby, looking to learn a bit about what the team is doing during this challenging time and what the future holds for the players.
What I found out, however, is that Rugby ATL truly is more than just a rugby team. It's a representation of its city, its state, and its region, and while the product on the field is something the community can take pride in, it's what happens off the field that makes the club whole.
Helping The Needy
During this tough time with the COVID-19 virus, many people have been left homeless and hungry. To help make their lives a little easier, the Rugby ATL boys teamed up with Sandra Cook and Catered Southern Events & Must Ministries to provide meals for those in need. Although they aren't able to train or take part in youth rugby activities, the members of the organization are still looking for ways to create positive change for those around them.
Ryan Britain's Path To Atlanta
Ryan grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he learned to play the game of rugby as a youngster for his high school team, which was coached by his dad. Following high school, Britain attended Michigan State University, where he was a stand out fly-half for the Spartans until graduating in 2019.
Though Ryan knew he loved rugby and wanted to continue playing after graduating from college, he says he never really had the MLR on is radar. However, an opportunity to try out for Rugby ATL beckoned, when the franchise hosted a pair of combines in the midwest to scout talent and open up pathways for aspiring talent, and he decided to give it a shot.
Britain made the rounds at the combines, and caught the eye of head coach Scott Lawrence. When offered the opportunity to join the setup down in Atlanta, Ryan jumped at the chance. He says Lawrence has been the best coach he's had and that the program has been great for his development on and off the field.
In addition to being a player in the squad, Britain also does double-duty as an assistant administrator for the Graphic Communications department at Rugby ATL. While his focus now is primarily on being a player, the opportunity to work on the business side of things is also going to set Ryan up well for his professional life off the pitch.
One thing Ryan alluded to when we spoke, and something you'll hear frequently around the Rugby ATL organization, was the motto, "Push the P.A.C.E." When the team was founded, one of the goals was for the club to build itself as both a rugby team and as a business grounded on a set of principles.
Britain tells me the board, the coaching staff, and the ownership came up with four key tenants that define who the organization is and will continue to be.
Here they are:
P | People Development
For Rugby ATL, winning on the field is important, but it's not the only goal. The coaching staff strives to foster the development of its players both in terms of ability and in rugby acumen so that they will have better futures for their rugby career. However, more importantly, the coaching staff aims to transform the players into all-around better men.
Furthermore, the club also aims to enhance the staff's, the coaches', and players' professional careers by offering resources and connections off the pitch, as well professional development services so that the men will be set up to be successful once their playing/coaching days are over.
A | Accountability
Accountability is one of the most important attributes any group or team can have. If each and every member of a squad or business can live up to what he/she says they'll do, the team will be in a good position.
For Rugby ATL players, that can look like hitting the weight room, studying the playbook, always showing up in the right attire, or fulfilling obligations on the pitch, among many more. For staff and administration, it may come in the form of meeting your weekly goal of social media posts/engagement, executing on partner agreements, or having pre-game, game-day, and post-game arrangements handled, just to name a few.
Trusting in those around one another, in rugby and in business, is a vital part of creating a team and culture Rugby ATL believes will impact the community on and off the field.
C | Creating Change
Rugby ATL seeks to "Provide an experience that draws people together", and the organization knows that representing a whole community is both a big and honorable task. They want to offer fans a chance to be more than just spectators; to be involved members of the entire operation.
Just one of the ways they do this is through a highly engaged approach to the youth and local rugby scene in Atlanta. Britain says that all of the players are involved in giving their own time to assist with grassroots rugby to help teach and grow the sport to new and young players, as well as connect with a large portion of the community.
Furthermore, the players and the staff also use their influence to help out with the less fortunate, and those who can't afford to live the way that many are blessed to be able to.
In addition to feeding the needy, the team will continue to assist the community during the quarantine period in other ways too. According to team manager Kevin McCorry, the team will also be lending a hand to small local businesses in the Marietta square in the coming weeks to aid them in getting back on their feet and helping out in any way they can.
E | Execution
Lastly, the aspect that ties everything together for Rugby ATL is executing on the principles they have set out to deliver upon. Setting lofty goals is one thing, but being able to achieve them is another. It requires a commitment to focus, hard work, and dedication to the team and the community.
As Rugby ATL likes to say, it's time to "Push the P.A.C.E!"
Ryan's Advice On How You Can Pursue An MLR Dream
Regardless of this coronavirus situation, we have entered into a very unique era for rugby in the United States, as it seems we at long last have a viable professional league that will be strong for years to come. It's a fantastic, yet realistically attainable goal for young rugby players to aspire to one day.
When I asked Ryan what advice he had for young college or high school players who were in his shoes just one year ago, he said it's all about continuing to ask questions. He advises to be proactive, and to reach out to any and everyone you can so as to see what connections you can make. When the door opens slightly, you've got to step right through it, back yourself, and take a chance.
The reward is to become not only a professional athlete, but also someone who can make a true and genuine impact on the community around you. Just have a look at what Britain and Rugby ATL are doing.