USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli wrote a guest column for IRBSevens.com, describing the Pan Am Games experience and his expectations for the upcoming IRB 7s World Series, which kicks off Friday in Australia.
As we prepare for the start of the new HSBC Sevens World Series it's hard not to reflect first on being part of Team USA at the Pan Am Games.
It was an amazing experience for the athletes and staff alike. In being part of ‘Team USA’ we now know what the tag line “Amazing Awaits” truly means. From our arrival at the Guadalajara airport, where we were met by a USOC team member, to our arrival at the athlete’s village, where we were welcomed by the head of team sports from the USOC, we were instantly welcome and part of the team.
The realization was strong and sudden: we were no longer competing as USA Rugby. We were now part of a broader team that extends to over 1600 athletes, 24 teams and hundreds of volunteers who all help the athletes perform to their potential.
We've been using the Olympic Training Centre at Chula Vista for sometime now, which is superb and has changed our lives, but this was our first experience of arriving at an event and feeling a part of the 'Olympic' family.
At the closing ceremony the Chef De Mission announced that we had reached our goal of 236 medals, and the rugby team claimed the last medal of the games to help us meet that goal.
The athletes were told to wear their medals to the closing and it was a hugely proud moment. It was a wonderful experience mixing with other athletes from our team, but also from all 37 countries.
Our goal in Mexico was to reach the podium and we achieved a bronze medal. We all felt we could have reached the Gold medal game, which we were less than 30 seconds away from doing, but the positives from the rugby tournament were many and varied.
We medaled; we gave four athletes international experience they didn’t have; we tuned up for the start of the World Series and our 15-a-side World Cup players had the perfect chance to adapt back to the Sevens game.
Round 1: Gold Coast
We now set our sights on the start of the HSBC Sevens World Series and are preparing for Round one on Australia’s Gold Coast at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. This is now our home away from home and the site we will be using going forward as our Sevens HQ.
The Gold Coast brings even more excitement since it is a new city and, even though Australia has had a tournament in the past, moving it to a new city makes it feel brand new and the excitement builds.
We also get the job of playing the hosts on day one, as well as South Africa and Japan - a pretty tough draw, but then they're all tough in Sevens.
We will have a mix of brand new players who will debut on the Series at Skilled Stadium, our experienced players back from injury and our most experienced players, who are also our youngest. Now that bodes well for 2016!
Our goal for this year is for the athletes to develop and play to their potential and if they do that the team will perform better than last season.
In every respect we expect this to be the best Series yet.