“It’s a ton of work and it certainly is not for everyone, but the boys that are here are willing to make the sacrifice and put in the time to take the USA forward.” – Colin Hawley
Team USA Eagle 7s star, Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, who is also now working with Serevi, contributes weekly every Thursday on Rugby Wrap Up – technology permitting.
MH: Colin, thanks for joining us, we know you’re a busy man.
CH: No problem. I know you’re busy, too.
MH: Yes, so let’s get to it. The past few years have been a whirlwind for you; playing for Cal, breaking into the Team USA ranks in both 7’s and 15’s and recently, achieving the milestone with the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
CH: My schedule for the last year or more has been extremely busy with rugby. I put together a schedule goal at the beginning of this “whirlwind” that included the sevens circuit, The Churchill Cup, the pre-World Cup games, then the World Cup. Then it was off to the Pan Ams and finally to the beginning leg of this HSBC Sevens season. I wanted to make all of these squads and made up my mind to just get stuck in and keep going and see what exactly I could accomplish. I was fortunate enough to achieve all the goals but it was an immense amount of work; not only playing rugby, but keeping my body able to play the game as well. This time period has definitely been the most challenging in my rugby career… and the most rewarding.
MH: You come from an athletic family, your dad and brother were and are great athletes, do you believe that’s played a big part in your drive, thats got you to where you are today?
CH: Growing up, I was the second son, so when I was young a lot of time went to my brother, understandably, so since he was the first into competitive sport. I watched and copied on the sidelines and all I wanted to do was be as good as my brother growing up, which was a huge driving factor in my work rate and mentality at a young age. When it was my time to come into competitive sports, the old man coached my teams and was always my personal coach in every sport I played. His passion for sports, even being in his early sixties, was a major factor on why I continued to play at a high level and continue right now.
MH: You have competed on the HSBC Sevens circuit and been involved with the US 15’s set-up. Could you shed a little light on the different experiences you’ve had both on and off the field.
CH: The Sevens squad has a small number of players and our time is pretty regulated every day, so we are in constant contact with one and other, which can be a good and a bad thing. Nonetheless, we all care for each other and there is a definite closeness on the squad. In Fifteens, there are alot more players, obviously, which exposes everyone to a wider range of people and personalities. The best thing about our American teams is that there is a strong core leadership, like Todd Clever, Mike Petri and Paul Emerick, who can bring all these different people together to strive for one goal. In that bond, the guys have become extremely close regardless of differences, and I can personally say that I am close friends with people I thought I would have never been, without that element.
MH: You recently completed the longest leg of the HSBC Sevens circuit, with events in Australia, Dubai and South Africa. How did that tour go for you personally ad for the team and how was the trip with all those stops in just 3 weeks.
CH: The three stops on the first leg was a new fixture in he schedule and I would say it went well; not great and not bad, but well. As a team, we competed strongly in a few really good games against really good teams and unfortunately they did not go out way. Sevens is like that sometimes though, anyone can win on a given weekend. There were times though, that we certainly underachieved which we are looking to remedy at this upcoming leg. We know our issues and we are continuing to work on them every day. As for the three stops? A bit long, but every team had the same schedule and I think Americans would have a better chance of gritting out a win on the third tournament than anyone else.
MH: On a personal note, you recently relocated to San Diego to take up a full-time contract with the USA Sevens team. Was that a hard decision to make and are you happy to call San Diego home for now?
CH: I have relocated and I am acclimating to my new life and surroundings. I can already tell that being with other professional athletes, not just rugby players but everyone here at the OTC, will benefit our mindset and play extremely in the future. It was a simple decision for me; I have given up pursuits in other careers for now to chase the rugby dream. I dont want to juggle two things and do both under my ability, instead of concentrating on one and giving it my all. I am extremely honored to be given this opportunity and I am looking to make the most of it.
MH: Last question before we let you go. How does the progression from amateur to professional feel now that you are pretty much eating, living and breathing rugby these days?
CH: Essentially, it is an athletic immersion. It gives the athlete the opportunity to focus on one thing. With that mindset being applied every day instead of just a week before camp is going to allow our players to become more confident and comfortable with one another and the structure of the pattern, which will certainly result in higher competency on the field. It’s a ton of work and it certainly is not for everyone, but the boys that are here are willing to make the sacrifice and put in the time to take the USA forward.
MH: Thanks so much for your time Colin, we understand that you have a very busy schedule with your social life outside of rugby.
CH: Thank you.
Please feel free to comment below and tune in tomorrow for Phaidra Knight’s on-camera interview with Jen Sinkler. Also, please spread RugbyWrapUp.com to your mates. Safely. 😉