Al Caravelli: Batting for the Pinoys

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 26 June 2013  
 
 Al Caravelli: Batting for the Pinoys
Former USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli coached the Philippines through qualifying for Moscow

Former USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli is currently in charge of the Philippines and, having helped them qualify for a first ever World Cup, he is looking forward to seeing his players compete on the highest stage in Moscow. Here he writes exclusively for rwcsevens.com.

These Philippines players really are history boys - they make up the first team ever to represent their country in a World Cup event, and that is a wonderful achievement for them.

Just before we left to come to Moscow, the team received an award for the 'national sports team of the year'. We haven't even competed yet, but already we have a sense of how much it means to the nation as a whole..

It's an opportunity, not only on the pitch but away from it. The players and administrators at the union have been working with schools and orphanages to introduce Sevens and it’s amazing to see the enjoyment that it brings, but also how quickly the children pick up the sport. A lot of that is down to the similarities with basketball - the Philippines loves it’s basketball - but also Sevens is easier to grasp than 15s.

Our final preparations for the World Cup began when the squad got together on 2 June with 24 players. We reduced that number to 14 on the 13 June and our final 12 was announced six days later. The players have not been to any World Series events, with the exception of Hong Kong in 2012, so they are really relishing the challenge in front of them.

Not only are these players not full-time rugby players, they've also had to pay their own way to attend our selection and preparation camps, which just goes to underline their commitment.

Playing for every Pinoy

Once we're in Moscow and out there on the pitch, we want the Philippine nation and all Pinoys to be proud of our efforts regardless of the score line.

We play Samoa and Kenya in our pool, ranked fourth and fifth in the world, and Zimbabwe, one of the strongest in the next tier of nations. It's just about the toughest draw we could have got but the boys are extremely excited about getting the opportunity to test themselves against the world’s best.

That is what Rugby Sevens is all about, and that is what a World Cup is all about: giving a nation like us a chance to be on that stage, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. We believe we should be here.

We have never played Kenya, who are a quality team, very fit and strong as well as being well coached. Samoa finished fourth in the Series last year and Zimbabwe beat us in the last play of the game where we faced them in Hong Kong. So we are eyes wide open, focused on our performance and on improving each and every aspect of our game.

A life less ordinary

While we are still very new to international rugby, we are learning every day and improving constantly. What a team like the Philippines needs now is a second division to the World Series. The Asian Sevens Series is excellent - I believe every region should have such a series, as does Europe - but a true promotion / relegation format for the World Series would give a team like us even more competition, which can only be a good thing.

For me, I must say that my time with the Philippines so far has been a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally. Coaching the US on the World Series was a different kettle of fish and I have grown and learned a lot from the set-up at the PRFU, from the players and the staff.

I think the whole experience has re-invigorated me and inspired me to compete and to coach. We don’t have a lot of resources, so it’s been back to basics, to the fundamentals in all aspects on and off the field, which blend into the same thing after a while.

It's been a rollercoaster, and one you want to stay on for the ride!