Thanks to a new partnership between St Paul’s Collegiate School, the University of Waikato and Yale University’s Rugby Club, four Yale students have spent the past month training with local rugby teams, as well as immersing themselves in the Kiwi culture.
Scott Cockburn, Vlad Sychou, Joseph Goode (all 20) and Alex O’Neill (18) arrived in New Zealand mid-May as part of a programme organised by St Paul’s rugby trainer Tama Dean.
“Yale previously sent players to train with the Chiefs; however it became apparent there was quite a gap between the skills level of these players,” says Dean.
“After attending a training camp with the Yale players in Florida last year, I decided to reorganise the New Zealand experience for them. The players can now come here and train at a level better suited to them, but still with some of the best coaching staff in the industry,” he says.
The students have been given training and advice from an array of coaches and sportspeople including the Waikato Chiefs, All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith, the University of Waikato and Melville Rugby Club – “an opportunity like no other”, according to the group.
“Through training with the University’s under 21s, St Paul’s 1st XV and Melville’s premier team, we have been able to see how the three different levels of rugby train and the physicality they play, and what we need to bring to our game back in the States to help our team reach that same level,” says Scott.
“The sessions we have had with the St Paul’s coaches Tama Dean and Paul Hodder have been invaluable, and we have many new game strategies and fitness regimes, like boxing, which we can’t wait to share with our teammates back home,” he says.
The trip has also included some New Zealand sightseeing with visits to Waitomo Caves, Rotorua, Raglan and the Coromandel.
“Between St Paul’s and the University of Waikato, the staff and families have been so welcoming and generous in giving us so many opportunities to see and experience New Zealand first-hand – we are extremely grateful,” says Scott.
The success of this trip has meant the opportunity for a St Paul’s student, studying at the University of Waikato, to participate in an exchange to Yale is now on the cards for next year.
Photo: (L-R) Alex O'Neill, Vlad Sychou, Scott Cockburn and Joseph Goode.