SCHOOL OF 7s FOUNDERS REFLECT ON AN OLYMPIC YEAR
What a difference a year makes. Had you asked internationalists and School of 7s founders Scott Wight and Mark Robertson a year ago exactly what lay in store for them, even the most optimistic of the pair may not have predicted a World Series title and an Olympic silver medal. Throw in a selfie with Linford Christie and 2016 became a year that will be not easily forgotten by the Borders duo, who now plan to open the game up to even more youngsters across the country.
It was a game similar to hundreds they’d played before, and yet quite unlike any other. It was 22nd May 2016 and Scotland had reached their first ever Cup Final in the HSBC Sevens World Series, the culmination of a promising weekend which had included victories over Portugal, Kenya, England and the USA.
It was a game they believed they could win. This was, after all, the season in which Kenya and Samoa had both previously taken home winner’s medals, and yet as the seconds passed it seemed to be slipping through their hands. With a minute on the clock South Africa led by 26-15, and many predicted victory for the 44-time finalists.
Then the tables turned. A try by Dougie Fife. A restart by Wight so quick that even the cameras missed it. The last gasp of play and Fife made it over the line once more, clinching Scotland’s first ever win on the biggest sevens stage in the world.
For Wight, the performance was the result of a changing attitude and belief within the squad, and the product of a training regime which looks to constantly challenge its players.
“I pride myself on making decisions within the team, and I got a split second to make the decision to do a short re-start and regain the ball myself,” he explains. “I hadn’t made any pre-calls to anybody, but thankfully everybody reacted to the decision and we were able to get the try. This is something we practise on a weekly basis, and it’s really important to be open to this type of play as it keeps you honest as a player.”
Despite the result, it took some time before the weight of the occasion really sunk in for Wight.
“I think I was in shock to begin with. We’d spoken about Kenya and Samoa winning the previous two competitions, and knew we were capable of it, but for it to actually happen was unbelievable.”
The season may have been over, but the success was just beginning for Mark Robertson who, only a week later, travelled to London as part of a 28 man training squad for Team GB ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio. The competition was fierce. Eight weeks of intense training followed as players from England, Scotland and Wales fought for a place in the first ever British rugby sevens squad to compete in an Olympic Games. Robertson impressed, and in late July called family with the news that he would be one of only two Scots – the other being Glasgow’s Mark Bennett - travelling to Rio as part of Team GB.
“It was a brutal situation,” he says. “We decided as a squad that we wanted to find out individually without anyone else knowing and we did it alphabetically – so being Robertson I was one of the last to find out. I really had no idea. It was an incredibly strong squad, so when I was told that I’d been selected it’s actually difficult to describe how it felt.
“I didn’t realise how much it meant to me until I tried to phone my wife and family, and when I got through to them I couldn’t even speak. It had been a goal for more than two years and it was just a huge honour to be able to represent Team GB.”
Robertson travelled to Brazil in early August and spent five days with the squad in a holding camp in Belo before moving into the Olympic Village in Rio with the rest of Team GB. He found the team spirit within the camp particularly inspiring, with high-profile stars such as Andy Murray and Greg Rutherford sharing accommodation and recreational time with other athletes from across a range of sports.
“One of the highlights for me was meeting Linford Christie in the holding camp and getting a selfie with him. As a kid I remember watching him in the 100m and emulating him, although unfortunately I wasn’t quite as fast!”
The squad, thrown together less than three months before and having never competed in a world series tournament, over-achieved by anyone’s standards. Many had written them off before their first game. Some critics were damning of Amor’s approach, while others were critical of the large proportion of English players in the squad. Any negative publicity merely fuelled the squad’s fire, with Amor displaying cynical newspaper commentaries on large screens in the player’s changing room.
It worked. Day one of the competition saw GB taking home two victories from two and gave Robertson the accolade of being one of the first Scots to ever beat New Zealand in the sevens game. A win over Japan on day two put them through to the quarter final, and they seemed to be an unstoppable force as they chalked up victories against both Argentina and South Africa to reach the Olympic final.
In the end, world number ones Fiji proved too strong but Amor’s team had surpassed all expectations and would return from Brazil as Olympic silver medallists. Having switched off from social media in the lead-up to the competition, Robertson was further buoyed by the reception he received on his return to the UK.
“When you’re out there if feels like you’re in a bubble so it was awesome to come home and see how happy all our supporters were,” he says. “My friends and family were so excited to see the medal. When I saw how much it meant to other people it really started to hit home what we’d achieved.”
The former Melrose and Edinburgh winger was quickly snapped up by schools and clubs across the country, where he shared his Olympic story with pupils and future players. One particularly special moment was his return to Melrose Primary School, the stomping ground of his own youth, where the children had prepared questions, songs and dances to share with the silver medal winner.
Inspiring youngsters to take up and enjoy the adapted version of the game remains a huge priority for both Robertson and Wight, the latter having recently travelled to Rwanda to coach their most promising young players. After successful youth sevens camps in Edinburgh and the Borders last year, they are looking forward to expanding the reach of the School of Sevens further throughout 2017.
“We had a great response to the camps last year, with them both being filled to capacity,” says Wight. “This year we will be expanding our boys’ camps to include Aberdeen and Glasgow, and are currently in the process of confirming two additional locations. There has also been growing demand for girls’ camps, so we’ll be adding at least one camp this year for girls aged 11-17 to come along and get involved.”
And, despite the camps being aimed at youngsters, Wight and Robertson pull no punches in the intensity of the sessions, which are designed to emulate those adopted by full time sevens professionals.
“The camps aren’t easy,” adds Wight. “We want to give a real taste of what training as a professional sevens player is like so the boys are worked hard. We have been really impressed by the attitude and application of the youngsters who’ve come along. We also want to keep it as fun as possible for everyone, regardless of whether they have sevens experience or not.”
With more coaching on the horizon and heading into the next World Series tournament placed fourth in the world – Scotland’s highest ranking yet - the year is certainly off to a bright start for the guys from the Greenyards.
To find out more about upcoming School of Sevens camps, or the sponsorship opportunities available, email email@example.com
EDINBURGH'S FIRST SCHOOL OF 7s CAMP FLOURISHES
Our first ever three day camp took place at Goldenacre in Edinburgh from 9 – 11 August 2016 and was a huge success, selling out weeks in advance.
As Mark was on Olympic duty in Rio, we were lucky enough to have three fantastic new coaches join the team:
Andrew Easson is a former Edinburgh player and Scotland 7s internationalist, and full-time PE Teacher. He also coaches the 1st XV at George Heriots School in Edinburgh.
Nyle Godsmark played in every tournament in the Scotland 7s team’s most successful season in 2014/15. As well as leading the rugby development programme at Earlston High School, Nyle also plays regularly for Melrose RFC.
Robbie Chalmers is the son of Scotland – and British and Irish Lions – stand-off Craig Chalmers and is one of the country’s brightest young stars on the rugby field. He is now training with the Scotland 7s squad.
We have received some great feedback from the players who attended, as well as from parents, with the morning skill stations at the camp proving to be a particular highlight for many. Kicking skills, special awareness and team work were amongst the favourite focus areas.
Scott and Mark would like to thank all the players and coaches for making it such a successful three days, and look forward to welcoming back some familiar faces at our future camps.
SCHOOL OF 7s - BORDERS LEG
Scott and I had a lot of fun running our first ever School of 7s camp. Sun, tries, laughs and learning - couldn’t ask for much more!
SCHOOL OF 7s CAMP #1 - ITINERARY
The inaugural School of 7s day is packed full of fun and challenging sessions for the S1 - S4 boys. The camp will provide an insight into a busy training day of a professional rugby sevens athlete with the inclusion of specialist skills, strength and conditioning, and a nutritional station. Rugby’s a hugely competitive game, therefore each station will have a fun, competitive focus to keep the boys on their toes!
Here’s what the day looks like...
*10:00 - 11:30 - Specialist 7‘s skills into small sided games.
*11:30 - 12:30 - Speed gate testing + strength and conditioning challenge.
*12:30 - 13:00 - Lunch break.
*13:00 - 13:30 - Nutribullet nutrition challenge.
*13:30 - 15:00 - Specialist 7s skills into 7’s ties.
*15:00 - Player of the day jersey presentation by surprise guest.
*15:15 - Depart
SCRUM MAGAZINE: 'SCHOOL OF 7s CAMP IN THE BORDERS'
Two Scotland Sevens stars are to hold a three day camp for youngsters in July.
The School of 7s – being run by Scott Wight and Mark Robertson – is a specialist sevens camp providing a fun, competitive and safe environment for young players to enhance their skills, build confidence and learn about what it takes to excel in one of the world’s fastest-growing sports.
The event will take place at Selkirk RFC in the Scottish Borders on July 14, 15 and 16 2015 and is open to all boys from S1 to S4.
As well as Scott and Mark, who both played in the World Series as Scotland finish seventh in 2014/15, a number of other international sevens players and coaches will be dropping in to share their knowledge and expertise.
The duo also hope to identify players who have the potential to play age-group representative rugby at both district and national level.
SEVENS SKILLS IN DUNS
Scott’s skills being put to the test down in Duns whilst giving the boys an insight into the School of 7s. Some great displays of speed from some of these lads!
A SEVENS TASTER
Having great fun at a sevens taster session at Peebles High School. Proper 7s weather too! Hope to see some of you again at the camp in July.