Lopes open season against Cal Poly SLO January 19
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
A changing of the guard has brought a new level of energy and excitement to the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby program.
That energy has been evident in the fall training months, where the Lopes have been focused on establishing a new culture and building the body in anticipation of a long rugby season ahead.
First-year GCU Head Rugby Coach Sean O’Leary has been pleased with what he’s seen so far with under a month to go before the team’s first matchup of the season against California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo at home on Jan. 19.
“I’ve been very impressed with the commitment and attention to detail from the players,” O’Leary said. “We’ve primarily worked on basic skill development, culture building and strength and conditioning.”
“There’s been great energy with plenty of humor, but when each session started, everybody was all business,” O’Leary added. “I started to see them ‘get it’ towards the end of the preseason, and I believe the guys are genuinely looking forward to the challenges that the competition in Division 1A will bring.”
O’Leary, who coached at the University of Notre Dame for eight years, has preached culture to his players since accepting the job in August. The players have bought in, creating a contagious environment revolved around accountability, fun and winning.
“Culture building is massive for me,” O’Leary explained. “We created an empowerment environment, and now the players have created a sense of ownership and responsibility. Guys are really stepping up, and it’s not just the seniors.”
While culture has been a primary focus for O’Leary in his first offseason with the team, physical training has not been ignored. The Lopes have spent countless hours preparing the body for what should be a physical and rigorous season on the rugby pitch.
“We’ve put the guys through a lot of ball handling and running lines,” O’Leary said. “Our skills coaches have created stimulating sessions to challenge the players and my strength and conditioning coach, Ronnie Sallee, put some fun conditioning exercises together for the boys.”