When panic and fear sets in: American Eagles learn to handle pressure from Navy Seals
Coach Mike Friday is optimistic the US will benefit greatly from playing Fiji in Las Vegas and Vancouver and perform better than in previous years
United States coach Mike Friday has left no stone unturned in his quest to turn the Eagles into consistent winners - throwing his players to the mercy of former elite Navy Seals.
The US were sent to an intensive three-day camp in San Diego before the Las Vegas and Vancouver legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series to improve their mental resilience.
“It’s about helping the boys grow in their mental resilience in order to become better players and better men,” Friday said.
“It’s teaching us new techniques on how to cope in these high pressure situations when you have the panic and fear upon you, and how you are able to stay in the right frame of mind to deliver at the crucial time.”
Friday has already seen an improvement in his squad and believes the training will play a big role with the Olympics on the horizon.
“You’re starting to see the boys are coming up with coping strategies and ways in which they’re able to be self aware in order to deal with those situations,” he said.
“It’s so, so important if you want to be a top-class professional rugby player and operate and compete on this world circuit and, more importantly, in preparation for the Olympics.
“It was a wonderful experience and one we are continuing to maintain and grow.”
Friday believes improved consistency is crucial if his side is going to take the step from feared opponent to Cup finalist at this week’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The US, who sit in fifth in the Sevens Series standings, have yet to make it past the semi-final stage in Hong Kong.
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Friday hopes experience gained in matches against the best, including absorbing encounters with powerhouses Fiji in both Las Vegas and Vancouver, will be there to draw on when the chips are down.
“You have to get it wrong to get it right and we’ve certainly done that on a number of occasions at crucial times in big matches,” Friday said.
“That’s kind of where we are as an emerging nation. Hugely competitive, nobody wants to play us, everybody’s concerned about playing us, but we’ve just got to make sure our consistency is where it needs to be and that every time we are on the money.”
The US welcomes back Carlin Isles, Zack Test and Maka Unufe for Hong Kong as they attempt to navigate their way through a tough pool C featuring Australia, Argentina and Portugal.
Peter Tiberio has also been added to the squad, earning selection for the first time since the beginning of the 2014-15 season after overcoming injury and working his way back to fitness.
“We know we have to be at the top of our game to get out of our pool in a strong position,” US captain Madison Hughes said.
“In the quarter-finals anything can happen. You need to be playing as well as you can against whoever you’ve got because you don’t get an easy quarter-final.”