Playing 30 sports in 30 days is not for the faint of heart, and it took some work to find a guy to do it.
Navy Lt. Commander Sam Tickle auditioned for EAS sports nutrition’s Unstoppable Tour, a promotional event whereby one athlete would participate in 30 spots over a month, using the EAS products to recover and stay energized.
Tickle was selected, and each morning he would take up and be given a kit bag, Inside the bag was a hint as to the sport he’d be playing – he wouldn’t know anything until he opened the bag. To add to the strenuous nature of the tour, he played each sport in a different city.
Stop #3 for Tickle was Boston and the Boston Rugby Club. There he spent a little more than an hour learning the specifics of the game from Boston Rugby fullback Glynn MacKenzie, and then played a three-period game of 7s for the cameras.
Tickle, for his part, loved it.
“I had always wanted to play rugby,” Tickle told RUGBYMag.com. “Stationed in San Diego I was asked to come out a few times, but I didn’t go. Now I think of my friends who played and I’m jealous. It’s a great game.”
Tickle, 35, entered the Navy after completing his degree and ROTC training at the University of South Carolina. He ran into plenty of rugby players in the Navy, many of whom played for the Naval Academy, and he attended the USA 7s when it was held in San Diego. A good athlete, he played volleyball and was a semi-professional in that sport.
He enjoyed playing rugby with Boston, but was also struck by how he was treated.
“Rugby was definitely one of the most intense sports I played on the tour,” Tickle said. “But when I think about Boston I think about how the guys on the club brought me in as one of their own. It’s a great game, but until you play it, you never truly appreciate how intense it is, and what it takes to play it well.”
MacKenzie was impressed with Tickle’s approach.
“What was easy for us was we would tell him things like, run as far as you can, and when you’re tackled, let go of the ball,” said MacKenzie. “We didn’t have to tell him why, or much about the gate going into the ruck, because he was there for one day. So he picked up the actions and how to play pretty well.”
In the third period of play on the EAS film, Tickle finally gets a chance to score.
“What people don’t see on the shortened film is the work he did to score that try,” said MacKenzie. “We talked a lot about support lines and understanding where to be off the ball. On that play he passed to his teammate and then saw the opportunity and looped around. It was one of those things a player does that shows he’s getting it.”
Tickle remembered the rugby through the rest of the tour, in part because the scrapes he got on the turf field in Boston kept opening up on following days.
“There wasn’t a day where I wasn’t bleeding,” he said, laughing. He also mentioned during his tower running day (going up the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower) that a hit he’d taken in Boston was bothering him. That was a power step put in by Craig MacKenzie, Kyle’s brother.
“He said he wanted Sam to remember that we weren’t just guys gathering for a pickup game, we were serious athletes, so the first chance he got he went right into him,” explained Glynn.
“There’s no time to rest when you get tackled or make a tackle,” he said. “You’ve got to get up and keep going.”
Tickle had some other tough days. Going up Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) with firefighting gear was one, playing football with Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald was another, and the last day, when he ran a marathon, certainly one. But Tickle has the memories, and the scrapes and bruises, from rugby too. The Boston club showed themselves well (despite having played the day before).
“It was great, after playing that game they invited me to hang out with them for the day,” said Tickle. “That’s what’s so great about the sport. To bring a stranger in, untested, and welcome him that way and teach him to play this game was a great experience.”
EAS is a sports nutrition brand owned by Abbott Labs.