USA Women’s Rugby National Players Train with UMass Amherst Kinesiology Students and Faculty

Mar 07 2013

Five UMass Amherst Kinesiology student interns are facilitating training sessions with members of the USA Women’s Rugby National team during three visits to the campus this spring semester.

Intern Molly Caffelle (right) assists two rugby players with their form.

Students are collaborating with faculty sponsors Eliza Frechette and Judi LaBranche, both Lecturers in Kinesiology, on instituting a workout program for the athletes as well as participating in other activities including fitness assessments, nutritional education and sport psychology seminars.

The program came together during the 2011-2012 school year. “Department Chair Patty Freedson heard that USA Women’s Rugby was looking for places to host [their training sessions]. She knew I was interested in rugby, and thought our students might be interested in this internship,” said Frechette. Judi LaBranche offered to donate space in the Body Shop Fitness Center, operated in Totman Gym by the Kinesiology Department, and lent her expertise in conditioning and training to the mix. “We had two interns last year and the students had a lot of great experiences so we decided to do this again,” Frechette added.

The workout programs, specified by the team coaches, are focused on strength and conditioning methods. The sports psychology seminars and nutritional education programs were determined by the coaches as well. Fitness assessments this year include tests like the seventy meter shuttle, beep test, and the vertical jump test.

Intern Molly Caffelle said she became involved this year so she can utilize her knowledge of strength and conditioning and build on her coaching skills. The chance to work with Olympic-level athletes was also an experience that interested her.

“They’re all very strong, and as a woman, seeing these powerful females is really awesome,” she noted. Plus, “Rugby players are all different body sizes depending on what positions they play, and a different age than the students I’m used to working with,” she added.

Intern Rich Casella (right) gives pointers on lifting technique to a rugby player (left).

“The internship offers really great networking opportunities,” said Frechette. “I know last year’s student participants were offered opportunities with some of the Boston rugby teams. I think it demonstrates the quality of the work the interns were doing and the opportunities that can come out of nontraditional work outside the classroom.” she added.

The program offers benefits to the rugby players as well, especially with the greater number of interns this year. “It’s a pretty huge benefit because it’s a relatively small group of athletes. They get a really high ratio of people to players,” noted Frechette. Caffelle agreed, and added that the different types of expertise each intern can offer are giving the players a greater variety of techniques and knowledge.

The rugby players made one visit on February 23-24, and will return on March 23-24 and April 27-28. The sessions have been productive for all involved.

“Eight players were supposed to attend and twenty-two showed up. We stepped up to the plate, did what we needed to do, and succeeded with flying colors,” proclaimed Caffelle.

“UMass is a great central location and the staff and students have been great to work with,” said Richard Ashfield, coach for the rugby team.

The students, all undergraduate Kinesiology majors in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), include Molly Caffelle, Rich Casella, Danielle Garcia, and Tim Murphy, Class of 2013; and Steve Karagosian, Class of 2014.