Connecticut native Michelle Perna makes a cross-country move to pursue her rugby dreams. She found the most opportunities, the best coaching, state of the art training facilities, and a team she loves in Seattle.

Michelle Perna was aimlessly surfing through her social media pages when she stumbled upon a tweet by @SereviRugby. In 140 characters or less, the tweet openly invited all rugby players to the Harvard “Bubble” for a High Performance Training Camp featuring USA Rugby players and coaches. It was conveniently scheduled during a break from her college classes and gave her another reason to visit her sister in Boston. Without hesitation she registered for the training camp unaware of how it was going to change her future.
As part of the USA Rugby Academy powered by Serevi, Training Camps bring developmental and high performance rugby instruction to players across the country. USA national team coaches and players Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 1.00.02 PMwork together with Serevi Rugby professionals to design age-appropriate training programs that can be brought to schools and teams or put into a 2 day camp format. With National Team coaches participating in the design and execution of the programming, Training Camps have become a talent identification component for coaches at the collegiate and national team level in both 7s and 15s. Although it is one of the most exciting benefits of Serevi’s Training Camps, it is not the priority. Perna explains, “My favorite part about the camp and what made me fall in love with Serevi, was the emphasis of fun.” Despite the organic competitive atmosphere and the high level training designed by National Team coaches and players, the mission behind Serevi is to provide a fun, safe, and educational atmosphere. The programming encourages all participants to unlock their potential and exceed their own expectations all the while putting the “fun” in the fundamentals of rugby. Players like Perna who are competitive and looking to climb the ladder to international rugby competition, find comfort in knowing they can work hard, commit themselves to their dreams, and still maintain the enjoyment that got them hooked when they started.
The two day training camp camp to a close with a personal invitation to Serevi’s High Performance Resident Camp from USA Women’s 15s player, Serevi’s High Performance Director, and former Boston local Emilie Bydwell. As a full time resident of the USA 7s Program at the time, Bydwell emphasized the importance of being a high performance athlete not just during games or at practice and camps, but also off the field, in the gym, and in the dining halls. The Serevi Resident Camps are designed by Serevi’s internationally recognized coaching staff and USA National Team coaches, gives participating athletes a 360-degree experience of being a professional athlete. The 4 separate programs are specific to high school boys and girls and college/post-college men and women. Each program is 5 days long, held at an official rugby facility, and are open to athletes by application only.

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Perna applied immediately. After having such a positive experience at the Serevi Boston Training Camp, she knew a Resident Camp could only be better. Weeks after applying, she opened her acceptance letter with tears of joy. “Attending the Serevi High Performance Resident Camp was one of the most incredible opportunities I have ever experienced.” A week at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA with some of the most competitive and committed high school and college aged female rugby players took Perna’s game to the next level. “I focused all my efforts on the training and being the best athlete I could be.” It’s hard not to be at the top of your game when you’re surrounded by professional and Olympic athletes as well as your peers who are as committed to their success as you are your own.
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Photo by Judy Teasdale Photography
After the two day training camp, and the five day Resident Camp, Perna still wanted more Serevi Rugby! We don’t have bunkbeds in the office, but she opted for the next best thing. She decided she wanted to pursue rugby professionally and with that in mind, Perna moved to Seattle. The only full-time professional rugby in America is playing for the USA Eagle 7s based out of Chula Vista, CA. With that as her newest goal and knowing Serevi Rugby can expose her talent to the National team coaches, she searched the Serevi website for more training camps. Along the way, she came across the Serevi Women’s Institute. The Serevi Rugby Institute for men and women, provides local athletes with a healthy combination of the immersion of the residency program, the competitiveness of the training camp, and additionally include custom strength and conditioning training. Perna admits it was a long shot… Literally, it is 3000 miles away from her home in Connecticut, but with the support of her parents and the help of Serevi Headquarters, she planned her cross-country move. She was personally welcomed by Serevi Staff and introduced to the Rugby Institute coaches including 7s legend Ben Gollings, USA Eagles Assistant Coach Justin Fitzpatrick, and professional strength coach Matt Stahlberg at NS Performance. The Men and Women’s Institutes at Seattle are three days a week with two gym sessions and one field session each scheduled around players’ club team practices and games. The gym sessions provide custom speed, strength, flexibility, agility, and conditioning in a group format with other training center athletes. The field sessions touch on evasive running, ball handling, strategic kicking, position specific skills, defense and attack patterns, and field vision. The Serevi Rugby Institute offer local athletes the closest thing to professional level rugby training the United States has to offer.
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Photos by Judy Teasdale Photography
Since moving to Seattle, Michelle has been training at the Serevi Rugby Institute and playing for Seattle OPSB’s Breakers. She will be returning to the Residency Program this summer in addition to playing competitive 7s for OPSB. “I finally feel like I am truly working towards my dream.”
For more information on the High Performance Resident Camps for Boys, Girls, Men, and Women or the Serevi Rugby Institute visit the Serevi Rugby Website.