Offside Chats: Mike St. Claire
This is: OFFSIDE CHATS- where Rugby United New York athletes, coaches, and staff give you never before seen insights into the inner workings of a professional rugby team. Each week, a member of the organization will write a blog discussing any topic they see fit.
When I was first offered the opportunity to play on the Jamaica 7s team, I thought it was unreal. I didn’t believe it and I didn’t think it was actually happening. Regardless of the team, the opportunity to play at that level is rare and there are a lot of assumptions that go along with playing at that level. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
In all actuality, I was a bit unsure if I deserved to be on the pitch but over time with the experience playing against the other teams in the MLR my view began to change as opportunities like this began to open up with the standard of competition rising like it is.
Throughout the experience, preparing for the matches, competing on the field, and even breaking down the game afterwards felt surreal. A lot of the people you play against are people that you see on videos and highlights on social media, people that many look up to and idolize.
It became a thrilling sensation changing the view I had from expectations to the reality of being competing opponents on the rugby pitch. Those feelings subsided quickly once we laced up as the natural competitiveness kicks in; once you’re on the pitch there’s no star struck feelings.
As the matches went on, a strong sense of pride definitely came up. I say that as in prideful because I realized that I’m not playing just for myself as an individual but I’m also playing for this team and for Jamaica, the beautiful country where my father was born, where had anything been different, I would not be here. And that feeling resonated a lot with me because of the added representation I now had.
Playing rugby in NY and representing RUNY has been amazing as well since it’s much bigger than just myself and now I get to also represent Jamaica and play 7s on a field for something much bigger than just myself. It’s something not many others get to do and it’s an opportunity to truly be proud of and take pride in.
In America as a black man, the truth holds that we never represent just ourselves, but we represent all that look like us with every action we take and it was something exhausting until now. I viewed it as a burden instead of a privilege to do so until I got the opportunity to also play here.
Following the conclusion of the tournament, it’s been something I’m extremely appreciative and grateful for. Being able to play rugby at this level has been possible because of the increasing quality of rugby in America, in New York, and the growth from being a part of Rugby United New York.
Getting exposure to high standards of excellence and constantly learning from players and coaches who come to share their knowledge and collectively move us forward has been invaluable. Moreover, it’s left me feeling optimistic for the team as we’ve had multiple sparks of greatness and being able to build that chemistry and consistency will be key.
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