The Community Olympic Development Program (CODP) is a year-round, high performance 7s program, and its primary concern is developing athletes for the next level of play. And with its connection to Play Rugby USA, the CODP has a unique opportunity to work with selected athletes well before they reach high school.
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“We have a very unique model, allowing us to develop our athletes from a very young age through the Play Rugby USA program,” explained CODP Director Ryszard Chadwick. “We can begin working with kids as young as three, playing flag rugby, all the way up to the Community Olympic Development Program and beyond, to the Northeast Academy, and then to national teams. This pathway not only allows participants to develop their skills on the field, but it exposes them to a high level of competition early on in their rugby careers. Players learn how to manage rejection and failure, how to handle being on tour, and how to be successful when surrounded by other elite level athletes that challenge them.”
Winning games and trophies don’t figure into the core values – nor does a singular focus on rugby. CODP members are encouraged to pursue other athletic endeavors, which helps divert players from the negative long-term effects of specialization at a young age.
“The Girls’ CODP captain, Mia Lancellotti, is a swimmer and a volleyball player,” Chadwick used the Morris, N.J., player (pictured below, left) as an example. “She has missed rugby practices to compete in these other sports, but these sports are part of her overall development as an athlete. Players at the U-18 level, if they are good enough, should be developed and pushed up to the next level of a specific sport when they are ready ... when they are prepared both mentally and physically.”
The CODP values all types of diversity, including coaching. Three-sport athlete Malery Billingy (rugby, track, MMA), for example, is playing with Atavus during the Las Vegas Invitational 7s. As the CODP’s highest try-scorer and one of the fastest, most aggressive players on the team, Billingy’s absence will be felt, but again, development is the goal.
“Despite the value she brings to the CODP, we have all agreed that it is in her best interest to finish out her high school years of rugby working with the Atavus sides. There she will get experience under different coaches, who will be coaching her in the future – hopefully [the Girls High School All-Americans],” Chadwick considered Billingy’s career. “Does this damage our chances of finishing higher in the LVI? Of course it does, Malery is a try machine. However, this is good for her individual development – to step out of her comfort zone.”
And in her place, a younger player is getting the opportunity to compete against a talented international field in Las Vegas – an invaluable experience in terms of development.
Girls CODP Team @ LVI 7s
1 Susan Adegoke - PRUSA Academy
2 Lauren Eisenhart - Morris
3 Tyhira Houston - PRUSA Academy
4 Jordan Cowan - Morris
5 Grace de Poortere - Morris
6 Kye Harris - PRUSA Academy
7 Mia Lancellotti (c) - Morris
8 Lauren Maladian - Morris
9 Isabelle Masi - Morris
10 Allie Mennella - Morris
11 Shikynah Vaz - PRUSA Academy
12 Raquel Villanueva - PRUSA Academy