MetroSports Magazine Nov-Dec 2022 CG

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MetroSports Magazine November-December 2022 MCMLIX New York Rugby 7s U.S. Coast Guard Rugby 2022 Annual Army-Navy Football Erin Bauwens NYC Boxer Vanimals Rugby Remembering Hector “Papa”Roca

4 New York Sevens Rugby Tournament

The NY Rugby Club hosts the 63rd NY7s on Thanksgiving Weekend 8 The United States Coast Guard Rugby Sevens Teams

Highlighting the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard in their NY7s appearance

Annual Army-Navy Football Game

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Football prevails over Navy in a double OT win

Nothing is Going to Stop Me

Highlighting NYC Boxer, Erin Bauwens

Gleason’s based boxer shares her story of determination 25 Full Tanks. No Brakes. Can’t Lose

NYC based Vanimals Rugby Team rides out of the 2022 NY7s a winner 28

In Memory of Hector ‘Papa’ Roca

The boxing world mourns the passing of Gleason’s based trainer, Hector Roca

Contents
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November-December 2022
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2022 New York Rugby 7s Tournament

On November 26th, New York City’s Randall’s Island came alive with over 1,000 athletes, representing over 130 teams from across the United States and abroad, competing in the 63rd Annual New York Rugby 7s (NY7s) Tournament. Hosted by NYC’s own New York Rugby Club, the NY7s is the nation’s oldest and largest single-day Rugby 7s tournament getting its start in 1958.

The history of the sport of Rugby Football dates back to the early 1800s when the codes of Rugby Union were first developed in England. Some sources trace the origin of the sport back to a 16 year old named William Webb Ellis who, in 1823 as a student at the Rugby School, ignored the rules of the soccer-like game of football at the time, and ran with the ball rather than advancing it with a kick. The Rugby School, founded in 1567, is still in operation today in the market town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

Rugby 7s, a variant of the original game of Rugby Union, dates back to 1883 in Melrose, Scotland and has grown in popularity becoming one of the most recent additions to the Olympic sports, first introduced at the 2016 Rio Games. As opposed to Rugby Union which is played with 15 on-field participants on each team, Rugby 7s is played with only seven on-field participants per team. It is also a much faster game, typically played in two seven-minute halves, rather than the 40 minute halves of the Rugby Union style of the game.

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Above: Randall’s Island Rugby Field under NYC’s RFK (Triboro) Bridge.

Randall’s Island, NYC

Home of the New York Rugby 7s

ew York City’s Randall’s Island is not only the site for the New York Sevens Rugby Tournament, but it is also a well-known NY Metro area mecca for sports of all types. Randall’s Island has served as the home for New York’s first professional soccer team, the NY Cosmos on which international soccer star, Pele, played. In 1936 in front of an audience that included President Franklin Roosevelt, Jesse Owens qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team with a victory in the 100 meter dash at the Randall’s Island Olympic Trials and went on to win 4 Olympic Gold Medals at the 1936 Berlin games. Jesse’s victory was reenacted in 2004 by U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Justin Gatlin to celebrate the opening of the island’s Icahn Stadium and recapture a bit of Randall’s Island history. On May 31, 2008, six time Olympic Gold Medalist, Usain Bolt, set a new world record for the 100 meter dash, also in Icahn Stadium.

The history of Randall’s Island in NYC dates back to 1637 when Dutch Governor Wouter van Twillin purchased it from the Lenni Lenape tribe of Native Americans. Since that time, the island has been used for a number of purposes including a Civil War veteran’s rest home, burial ground, a juvenile delinquent detention center and various medi-

cal facilities. In 1933, by act of the New York State legislature, Randall’s Island was designated a recreational facility. New York City Parks Commissioner and builder Robert Moses oversaw the construction of playground, ball fields, and a sports stadium, originally known as Triborough Stadium and then as Downing Stadium and which was replaced in 2002 with the modern Icahn Stadium. The lights used at Icahn Stadium to light the field were taken from the old Ebbets Field, the former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to their move to L.A.

Back in the days when baseball was a segregated sport and before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the Black Yankees of base-

Tournament

ball’s old Negro League played their 1938 season in Triborough Stadium on Randall’s Island although most of their home games were played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Also calling Triborough Stadium their home field were one of New York’s earliest professional football teams, the New York Yankees of the old AFL. Triborough Stadium was renamed Downing Stadium in 1955 and, in 2002, was torn down to be replaced by Icahn Stadium in 2004 and which is still in use on Randall’s Island today.

Although the NY7s moved to Randall’s Island in 1967 the NY Rugby Football Club has been using the Island since the 1930s.

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Photo Credit: (c) Roy Googin 2015. Creative Commons License Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International

2022 NY7s Results

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Celebrating the Proud Women and Men of the U.S. Coast Guard at the NY7s

On Saturday, November 26, 2022 over 130 teams competed on the waterfront at NYC’s Randall’s Island Park in the 63rd Annual New York Sevens Rugby Tournament (NY7s). Among these competitors were the United States Coast Guard Men’s and Women’s Rugby 7s teams, resplendent in their commemorative bright yellow uniforms, overlooking the New York City waterways they serve to protect. To join the Coast Guard visit www.gocoastguard.com

The team’s commemorative uniforms, first on display at the NY7s for both teams, prominently featured the letters SPARS across the front of the jersey and a picture of a female Guard member on the back, inspired by World War II recruiting material. They were specially designed to celebrate the 80th anniversary of SPARs (Semper Paratus Always Ready), the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve.

The founding of the SPARs and integration of women into the military was vital to the US effort in World War II. During this time the Coast Guard and other U.S. Armed Services found themselves in

great need of more sailors at sea and more troops on foreign soil. They acknowledged that filling U.S. shore jobs with women would allow more men to serve elsewhere and hasten the war effort.

On Nov. 23, 1942, legislation was passed creating a new arm of the U.S. Coast Guard, one that would pave the way for Coast Guard women of today - The U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, better known as the SPARs. They joined the then recently formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, formed in May 1941) and the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES, formed in July 1942).

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Above: USCG Heritage Series Jersey-SPARs. Courtesy U.S.G.C Facing Page: Top. USCG Men’s and Women’s 7s Team Members posing under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Bottom left -photo by Clark Thompson. Bottom rightPhoto by Warren Rosenberg
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Adding to the significance of the USCG teams competing in the NY7s on Randall’s Island is that SPARs trained at Hunter College Bronx campus, now Herbert H. Lehman College, and at the Coast Guard training station in Manhattan Beach Brooklyn, now Kingsborough Community College, both nearby from the site of the NY7s competition.

All members of the USCG’s teams competing at the NY7s had the honor of signing the back of the new uniform, carrying the number 27, which will be presented to USCG Admiral Linda Fagan at an upcoming ceremony. Admiral Fagan is the 27th Commandant of the USCG and the first woman to lead a branch of a United States military service.

The USCG fields a men’s and women’s rugby team at the United States Coast Guard Academy (https://uscga.edu), who compete in NCAA Division II, and there is the Coast Guard Service teams, who compete annually at the Armed Forces Rugby Championships. The Service teams are comprised of enlisted members and officers stationed around the world. Coast Guard Rugby (ie the Service team) was founded in 1983 which competed annually in the Armed Forces 15s Rugby Championships, winning the Championship in 1991 and taking 2nd in 2010 and 2011, before Armed Forces Sports (https://armedforcessports.defense.gov) shifted formats to align with Rugby 7s as an Olympic sport. The men’s 7s program was established in 2012 and the women’s 7s program was established in 2019. Both teams best finish has been 3rd at the annual tournament. To highlight other recent accomplishments, the Academy women’s team won the 2022 ACRA National 7s Championship and finished 2nd in the 2022 15s National Championships.

The NY7s team was comprised of cadets from the USCGA, a midshipmen from the Merchant Marine Academy (a hopeful future Coast Guard Officer from the Maritime Graduate (MARGRAD) commissioning program), along with enlisted members and officers from all over the country and Puerto

Rico, one of the first times cadets and active duty members have competed together. Support for the teams was provided by USCG Sector New York and the non-profit Coast Guard Rugby Foundation (https://coastguardfoundation.org), which has provided support for several tournaments since its inception in 2018.

NY7s has a special place in Coast Guard Rugby history as the origins of the 7s team. From 20012003 a group of cadets from USCGA competed in the collegiate division, highlighted by the 1st ever 7s tournament championship at the 2002 NY7s. So 20 years later not only did members of the USCG Rugby 7s teams distinguish themselves through their play on the fields at Randall’s Island, in their respective communities, and the Armed Forces Rugby Championships but they brought with them a distinguished record of service to the USCG, their country, and those all across the

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Above: U.S.C.G. Admiral Linda Fagan, 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Photo courtesy U.S.C.G.

globe who’ve benefitted from their service. Here are a few highlights of these amazing individuals of Coast Guard Rugby:

Petty Officer 2nd Class, Meghan “Carrlisha” Carr (#12), Captain of the women’s side at NY7s was also the lead planner assisting with all of the logistics for NY7s. She is a Health Services Technician currently stationed at Maritime Safety and Security Team Cape Cod where she leads and manages the medical readiness and overall medical care for her deployable unit. A pharmacy school graduate, Meghan was deployed to southwest border in 2021 and provided direct medical care to the migrant families. A competitive field hockey and softball athlete growing up in Topsham, Maine, she enjoys doing CrossFit, hanging out with friends and family, and exploring the Cape with her dog Winnie.

Ensign Jordan “JDay” Day, who just recently earned her commission as an officer, is stationed at Sector Jacksonville where she serves as an Enforcement Division Officer. Prior to earning her commission she was enlisted as an Operations Specialist. She graduated Norwich University in 2017, where she first discovered rugby. Jordan was captain of the 2022 Coast Guard Women’s Team at the Armed Forces Championships at the Cape Fear 7’s in Wilmington, N.C. She was selected to be 1 of 7 service members across all branches to be on the Armed Forces All-Tournament team. She is also pursuing a master’s degree in Securities at Troy University. When not working or playing rugby, Jordan enjoys staying active, finding a new beach, and hanging out with her wife and dog.

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Above: There’s no escaping the grasp of Meghan Carr and the U.S.C.G. Women.

Petty Officer 2nd Class, Savanna “Sonny” Brewer, enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2014, just a couple of months after graduating high school and is a qualified Flight Mechanic on the Coast Guard H60 helicopter (Jayhawk). In August 2021 when a major earthquake hit Haiti she was one of the first crews to fly into Haiti and start the around-the-clock disaster relief efforts and, more recently, was part of one of the first USCG crews to help with the rescues in Florida after Hurricane Ian. “Helping those people during that life-changing time is why I joined the Coast Guard. To serve others in need. I received a Commendation Medal for the work we did in Haiti, and was invited to have a seat at the State of the Coast Guard Address- where they highlighted the work we did in Haiti.”

Equally impressive on the Men’s side are LT Jacob Perkins, GM1 Carlton Marshall, AST2 James Chandler, and CAPT (retired) James Hubbard among others.

Lieutenant (LT/O3) Jacob “State Farm” Perkins (#10), Captain of the men’s side at NY7s, just graduated from the Coast Guard Civil Engineering postgraduate program at the University of Washington and was selected for promotion to LT (Lieutenant). He has played for the Norfolk Blues, Seattle Rugby Club, and the Washington Athletic Club. His next assignment will be at the USCG Civil Engineering Unit Oakland and is looking forward to joining one of the great teams in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Coast Guard Rugby is special to Jake because “the team transcends rank, unites us with a common goal, and I have a strong support system no matter the location of my next assignment. Rugby has taught me about leadership, thriving in chaos, supporting my team and trusting them to support me.”

Gunners Mate 1st Class (GM1/E6) Carlton “Cakes” Marshall is one of the original members of the USCG Rugby team starting with the 15s side. He started playing rugby in 2006 when first deployed to Bahrain and subsequently being stationed in Guam with stops in Southern California in between. On the rugby pitch, he represented the USCG in the 2007 and 2009 Armed Forces Championships 15 side where he made 2nd team All-Tournament, and with the USCG 7s since 2017. “Some of my best memories of playing rugby are experiencing the game internationally as well as scrimmaging with the USA Eagles as they played against Life University in a warm up game prior to playing against Canada.” Scheduled to retire from the service in 2023, he was unable to compete with his team in the 2022 NY7s due to a knee injury sustained while competing at the 2022 Armed Forces Rugby Championship in Glendale, CO (Rugbytown 7s).

Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class (AST2/ E5), James Chandler, has played on the development team of Major League Rugby’s Houston Sabercats and has represented the USCG for 3 years at the

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Above: U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flyovers were part of the celebration of the U.S.C.G teams at the 2022 NY7s

Armed Forces Rugby Championships. He was recognized by the Coast Guard Foundation in 2021 for his heroic lifesaving actions during Tropical Storm Imelda. He has been head coach for the St. Petersburg Pelicans and Houston United Rugby Teams. In addition to rugby, James also competes in Powerlifting where he finished in 2nd place at his first national competition, the Houston Summer Power Fest. About a month before the NY7s, his son was born.

Captain (CAPT.O6) James Hubbard, USCG retired and a Coast Guard Rugby old boy, was inducted into the ‘Hall of Heroes Wall of Gallantry’ memorial at

the Coast Guard Academy on October 21st, 2022. Hubbard was formally recognized for his efforts during two helicopter rescues that he played an integral role in during his Coast Guard career. James was also on the 1991 Armed Forces Championship team. In this year’s New York Sevens Rugby Tournament, the USCG Women’s Team finished in 3rd place in the Women’s Club Division of nine teams, just ahead of the team from Canada’s Royal Military College. The USCG Men’s team claimed 6th place in the Men’s Club Division of fourteen teams, both respectable finishes for this proud group of U.S. service members.

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Army Edges Navy 20-17 in Double OT of America’s Game

It is the Army-Navy Game, arguably the great est rivalry in sports and undeniably the greatest example of pure amateurism in any athletic competition. And the 123rd annual edition of this iconic American competition, a 20-17 double overtime thriller won by Army December 10 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, will stand prominently among its predecessors and those games to come.

What makes the Army-Navy Game so special? It involves a sport that is uniquely American (while baseball has been embraced by Latin America and Far Eastern countries like South Korea and Japan), and it involves players who play the game for only one reason – the love of the game.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD (and the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs) present the greatest challenge in existence for a student athlete. Beginning with academic requirements that equal or surpass those at the most highly regarded learning institutions in the land (beginning with Harvard, Yale and Stanford), these military academies add the rigors of learning how to be a soldier, sailor, aviator, or marine. That mixture takes up more time and effort than can be found at any other institution; add the requirements of mastering the skills and building the strength and endurance necessary to compete against the best athletes in the toughest inter-collegiate competition in the land makes it easy to see that the football players at Army, Navy and Air Force represent the absolute best of what an American student can be.

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It is called America’s Game and the name fits well.
Above: Army (left) and Navy (right) front lines facing off in the 2022 Army-Navy Football Game

More than just a physical test, football at a military academy is a mental exercise that forces players to maintain high quality of performance when others have yielded to fatigue. That test happens because these players are generally a fraction smaller and have a fraction less speed or strength than those at power houses like Alabama or TCU or Georgia. Military requirements involving running while carrying a 50-pound pack for five or 10

miles below a certain time limit; players weighing more than 300 pounds generally find it impossible to accomplish. Toss in the requirement that any graduate of a military academy must also fulfill a five-year commitment of military service and, in an age when most people want easy success with minimal work, few top athletes would give Army, Navy or Air Force the slightest consideration as a place to go to college.

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To compensate for any physical disadvantages Military Academy football teams have when playing most other teams during the year, the players tend to have greater intellectual capacity, resourcefulness, endurance, mental toughness, and discipline – attributes that enable them to adapt and fight opponents in a way that usually keeps scores close. These are also skills that prove to be invaluable in battle and explain why football is regarded so highly among senior military leaders; to them, football is the best teaching tool in existence that prepares a student for combat. Just how much football matters in building character and leadership among the cadets and midshipmen can be seen on a brass plaque usually mounted on a wall at the southeast corner of Michie Stadium at West Point. The bronze tablet carries a few words supposedly spoken by General George Marshall, then the Chief of Staff of the Army, during World War II. They are a simple but powerful testament to the value of football: “I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point Football player.”

As a result of the size, speed and strength disadvantages military athletes have against most opposition,

the three service academies must play a style of football that is an anachronism -- a time capsule illustrating the way the game was played 50 or 60 years ago. The military academies play “oldschool” football – a run-oriented offense called the triple option. The quarterback usually takes the snap, swings out, starts to run and watches the play unfold. He waits until the last moment before deciding whether to keep the ball, pitch it to another back, or pass it.

All 11 players must execute their jobs properly for this type of attack to succeed, and even then the gains will usually average a mere 3.2 to 4.5 yards per play if a team is to win. Players must work as a team but must also be ready to seize an opportunity to make extraordinary individual effort, all while experiencing pain and fatigue. Like boot camp, it is a grueling experience that makes men better.

For 60 minutes every year, the players from Army and Navy play with all the intensity they can summon. But after the game ends, they solemnly embrace each other and respectfully stand at attention as the bands play the alma maters of the two schools (winner sings last). It is a touching and emotional reminder that, for the seniors, within six months they may very well be absolutely relying on the players they had so desperately wanted to destroy. Indeed, their very lives might depend upon those former opponents.

With the stakes so high, it is easy to see why the Army-Navy Game is truly America’s Game. It earns that title because it is so much more than a game. Nothing else comes close.

It was with this history – known by all on the sidelines and by most of the 69,117 fans attending the contest in Philadelphia – that the 123rd Army-Navy Game was held on December 10. The game was far from the extreme scoring seen in the college football playoffs a month later. Statistically, Army and Navy had horrible offensive statistics – Army

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Above: Some of the Army team members in post-game celebration. Below: Army coach Jeff Monken (green jacket, no hat) giving post-game hug to Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo (blue jacket); Army and Navy players showing support for eachother post-game
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Above: Army and Navy paratroopers in pre-game show. Below: Signs of the long-standing rivalry between Army and Navy football teams

(6-6) had been averaging of 304.4 rushing yards per game (second-best in the country) but advanced a pitiful 33 yards on 14 carries on the ground in the first half and had just 153 total yards for the game (vs. an average of 385.5 ypg coming into Saturday’s competition). Navy (4-8) logged just 284 total yards – far fewer than its 330.7 ypg average for the first 11 games.

The offensive squads did not forget how to play nor did they stop trying. There is always cause and effect. In the 2022 matchup, exceptional punting and stunningly effective defensive play carried the day. Brief outbursts of offense came from rare defensive failures. This was classic “smash-mouth” Army-Navy football. The punters – Riley Riethman for Navy, Billy Boehlke for Army – had nine boots each and most put the opposition inside its own 30 yard line. Fearing a turnover that could easily allow the defensive team to score, both offenses played conservatively.

The defenses used a mixture of quick reactions, anticipation, correct recognition of the threat, and proper execution of fundamental training – characteristics that are familiar to those who serve in the military. Army defenders Leo Lowin (16 tackles), Marquel Broughton (10), Chris Fey (10), Jimmy Ciarolo (9), and Camden O’Gara (8) were matched by Navy’s Nick Straw (9), John Marshall (8), Jianni Woodson-Brooks (8), Colin Ramos (8), and Clay Cromwell (6). They all demonstrated excellence.

The first quarter was scoreless, but Navy took the lead at 12:36 of the second when Bijan Nichols drilled a 44-yard field goal. As clocked ticked down towards the final minute before the halftime break, Navy had to punt when trapped on its own 14 yard line and Army’s Noah Short found a hole and blocked the Navy punt. As the ball bounced back into the Navy end zone, Army’s Jabril Williams fell onto it for an Army touchdown.

After the break, Navy’s Anton Hall Jr. charged 77 yards – the longest running play by Navy in the history of “America’s Game”– for the touchdown

and a 10-7 Navy lead at 4:09 of the third quarter. Army benefitted from good starting field position as the final four minutes ran down, and the Black Knights advanced 25 yards to set up Maretzki for game-tying 25-yard field goal that tied the score 10-10 and sent the game to overtime for the first time since the series started in 1890.

On the very first play of the extra session, Army’s Markel Johnson found a hole and dashed 25 yards for the TD. Navy responded with a touchdown pass from QB Xavier Arline to Maquel Haywood that again knotted the score.

Double overtime decided the outcome. Six plays in, Navy was on the Army 3 when Hall made hard contact with Army’s Austin Hill. The ball popped out and Army’s Darius Richardson fell on the ball on the Army 1, ending the threat. Knowing a field goal would give Army the victory, the Black Knights focused on keeping the ball in the middle of the field. Maretzki booted a 39-yard game winner that just stayed inside the right upright, giving Army a 20-17 win.

“What a game,” said Army Head Coach Jeff Monken, 5-4 in Army-Navy Games. “That was two football teams that fought just as hard as they possibly could. It was an epic battle. It’s one that I’ll remember for a long time, probably forever, just how we managed to win.

It feels like every single play, that the game is hanging in the balance. That’s the intensity of this game. It was fought that way from start to finish. That’s what’s great about this game and about these teams. We want to win this game. We want to beat their pants off. I want to beat them every time we play ‘em. But I respect the fight that the competitors have in this game. Their guys, our guys. It’s what makes our military the best fighting force this world has ever known, because of people like that leading soldiers.”

It was the second loss by Navy in the last three ArmyNavy Games and that, combined with Navy’s poor overall record for the last three years, resulted in Niumatalolo, the all-time leader in victories (10-5) in America’s Game, getting fired a day later.

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Nothing is Going to Stop Me

Given the prominence of women in today’s athletic competition, it’s hard to imagine that in 1896 Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, said that “an Olympiad with females would be impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and improper”, largely because “no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.” Thankfully this has been disproven time and again in modern athletic competition and here we feature one example.

On November 18, 2022, Erin Bauwens, a young boxer from Brooklyn, New York, and fighting out of Gleason’s Gym, prevailed over her opponent, Daisy Terrones a member of the U.S. Army’s West Point Boxing Club, at the Legacy Boxing Club in Wayne, New Jersey. In doing so, she improved her amateur boxing record to five wins against only one loss.

A determined competitor, Erin stated that, “I always envision myself winning, I always envision myself coming out on top, no matter how rough

“Often we blame others, but at the end of the day it’s you vs you.”
Erin Bauwens
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Above: Erin Bauwens (blue) in her recent bout against West Point’s Daisy Terrones (black). Photo courtesy Justin aka ArtByZest (@artbyzest on Instagram) Facing Page: Erin and her coach Leon “Cat” Taylor at Gleason’s world famous Boxing Gym in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy - Erin Bauwens

the battle to get there is. This is important - I go into the fight thinking it is impossible for me to fail. I learned the visualization skills in part from my strength and conditioning team, CounterStrike Combatsports, and I also took some of this from a book I read called The Cus D’Amato Mind. Cus emphasized that confidence was integral to fighter success, and its true - once I’ve been able to build up my mentality in the way I have, I haven’t lost and do not plan on doing so.” Take that, Baron Pierre de Coubertin!

Besides being a boxer Erin Bauwens is also an attorney, a graduate of the Syracuse University Law School, and is a member of a four person team providing in-house legal counsel for Gympass. Erin told us that she first started boxing in 2018, “I was working as a corporate lawyer in a big firm with insane hours and working out has always been my stress release. I’ve always wanted to try boxing, so when I realized there

was a boxing gym near my new apartment I decided to check it out”.

In relating her law school training to her preparation for a fight, Erin noted that “when preparing for mock trials, I would think of different arguments or responses opposing counsel would present and plan how I would respond and counter. I would put myself in their shoes and try to consider their plans of attack. I would look for weaknesses in my case and plan defenses in the event they were exposed. I do similar work when I prepare for a boxing match - while in the amateurs you often know little to nothing about your opponent and matches are so short it’s difficult to come up with a true game plan, the week up to my fight I visualize every second of the match - from making weight, to waiting for my bout, to walking into the ring, through every round of the fight until finish. I see the fight happening in every way I can imagine it, especially situations that create adversity - maybe

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Above: Erin Bauwens with her team from Gleason’s posing with the belt from her win on November 18th. Photo courtesy - Justin aka ArtByZest (@artbyzest on Instagram)

I’m down a round, maybe I get caught with a hard shot, maybe I get a standing 8 count - and more importantly, I think of how I will recover and keep moving forward.”

Training at the world famous Gleason’s Boxing Gym in Brooklyn, NY under the tutelage of Leon “Cat” Taylor and frequently consults with friend and fellow boxer, Kurt Scoby. At Gleason’s Erin is surrounded by the memorabilia of long-past champions, and the presence of current champions including several we’ve featured previously in MetroSports Magazine including Maureen Shea, Keisher “Fire” Mcleod, and Melissa St-Vil.

Erin has great respect for boxer Claressa Shields whom she regards as “absolutely fearless and on a different level than anyone else she competes with and she also has a really fun fighting style - her last fight against Savannah Marshalls showcases this, she has a lot of swag in the way she fights and as someone who is pretty much always the shorter fighter, I learned a lot watching her fight inside against Marshall. Most importantly, she is not afraid to take hard fights. Marshall is the only person she’s ever lost to, and after this last fight she made it clear she is more than willing to have a rematch. I think that’s the attitude every champion should have - to want to consistently fight the best.”

One can’t help but notice Erin’s growing collection of tattoo art, the first, a shamrock, acquired when she was nineteen. Since then, the collection has grown and serves as way for expressing herself and memorializing important milestones in her life. “The sleeve on my left arm is still in progress and it’s a Norse mythology sleeve. It’s being done by Maks at Bang Bang Tattoo. My last name, Bauwens, originates from the Viking conquest of Normandy (according to the internet, anyway), and I’ve always been a nerd about mythology. I like Norse mythology specifically because I find it to be less “romantic” than Greek and roman mythology - it’s not as dramatic, and the gods and goddesses are mortal, just like humans, and I appreciate the simplicity in that the stories are often about aspects of everyday life. I also love that in Norse mythology, the god of war (Tyr) is also the god of Justice. I think those two concepts fall hand in hand, both in legal practice and in combat.”

“I do have several tattoos relating to boxing - one is on my right bicep, it’s Roman numerals dating the first boxing class I took (October 19, 2018) with boxing gloves hanging from the date

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Above: Photo by Heather Hardy via Erin Bauwens Below: Photo courtesy Erin Bauwens

(this was done by Ihor Kaika @Dead.tattooer). A second small one is down my neck, in cursive it reads “en garde” which also in part relates to being an attorney - I’m not sure if this is actually true or not, but during law school orientation a professor told us the word “attorney” comes from back when arguments were settled with duels, the start of which involved two fighters about-facing, taking several steps away, and then they would pivot and face their opponent upon hearing “a tourner” (French) and the duelers were eventually replaced with modern-day lawyers. Hence, “attorney”.

“Finally, I have a more detailed piece on my back of a tiger, the skyline of Manhattan, and some caging around it. The image of the bridge/skyline is based on a picture I took from the area we were training in Brooklyn Bridge Park during the pandemic, when gyms were closed. The look of fierceness and determination in the tiger’s eyes speaks to me, and the grittiness of the piece itself between the caging surrounding the image and the splashes of color worked in with the trash polka style says a lot about who I am as a person and a fighter. It’s a very complex and beautiful piece, it was done by Dimitri at First Class Tattoo.”

In getting back to the importance of boxing, her comfort in the boxing community, and her goals as a boxer, Erin closed our interviewM by saying, “Aside from the actual love of the sport and appreciation for the discipline it’s taught me, what’s most important (and what will always be there even after I retire) is the community and family I have through it. My coach is like my dad, I lacked a sense of belonging in the city until I found my family at Gleason’s. Knowing I have a support system through there is priceless, and I think that whether it’s boxing, yoga, or something outside of sports, everyone should find something that makes them feel the way I feel through boxing.”

With respect to her boxing career and long-term goals, Erin unapologetically stated, “I see myself becoming a world champion. The second I stepped into the ring for my first exhibition sparring match, I knew it is what I’m meant to do. Ever since then I’ve put work into adjusting other aspects of my life to allow me to pursue this goal. I know I have the discipline, commitment, and team that will get me there, and I want to take it as far as I can go.”

24 | November-December 2022
Above: Photo courtesy of Erin Bauwens

Full Tanks. No Brakes. Can’t Lose: The Vanimals Ride Out of the NY7s as Winners

Founded just 16 months ago, the local New York City based men’s rugby team known as the Vanimals captured the Cup Championship in the Men’s Club Division at the prestigious 2022 New York Sevens Rugby Tournament this past Thanksgiving weekend on the pitch at Randalls Island Park in NYC.

The team was founded by Kyle White, Aengus Nelson and Connor Buck of the New York Athletic Club after coming together to play for the first time, unofficially, as the Vanimals at the Saratoga 7s Rugby Tournament in July of last year.

When MetroSports asked about the unique team name and the iconic logo looking like to old firstgeneration Volkswagen bus, co-founder Connor Buck told us that, “from our time traveling to and from games, we always hailed the Van. We’d get one or two large vans to transport our teams in games past and saw it as a sort of paradise on wheels for ruggers to let loose, be themselves, and bond. It slowly became an almighty deity that we worshipped. So when the time came to pick the name, I wanted to incorporate the Van in some way because that’s what united us as a team if you removed our original club patch. With my knack

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for puns, the team name Vanimals was born. The pink VW bus embodied the fun, cohesive nature of Rugby, so we took that and changed the VW to NY on the logo since the team is based out of NYC.”

From that early start, the team has grown in strength, sophistication, reputation in the close knit rugby community, perhaps best stated by team captain, Joe Lopinto. “New York 7’s was a special outing for the Vanimals because it really demonstrated our growth as a club. Last year was my first outing as a Vanimal, and the team was a motley crew pulled together to play some tournament rugby. At that time there was no merchandise or big Instagram following, just some guys wanting to ball out and have fun; we rode that energy through the tournament but ultimately fell short in the final. With each tournament since, we have grown exponentially in all of our key rugby metrics: headcount, social media presence, trophy cabinet, and total beers consumed. This time around, we held a jersey presentation the evening prior, comfortably fielded two teams in sponsored kit, won the club tournament in stunning fashion, and celebrated till we couldn’t anymore.

The change over the last year has been driven by the simple yet binding belief that rugby is best enjoyed with good friends. We’ll let that belief continue to drive us wherever it may lead. Full Tanks, No Brakes, Can’t Lose.”

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While the team is locally based in New York City, its members hail from as close by a Westchester County, New Jersey, Connecticut and from as far away as California, England, Ireland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Honk Kong, and New Zealand. In their short history, the Vanimals have captured the 2021 and 2022 Saratoga 7s Social Championship, the 2022 Mallorca Beach 5s Shield Championship, the 2022 Hollywood Beach 5s Plate Championship and the recent 2022 New York 7s Club Championship.

In reflecting on the experience of the New York Sevens, Connor noted that, “with all the attention and notoriety that New York 7s gets, we understood the importance of making a statement in our first showing.” He went on to congratulate the tournament hosts, sponsors, competitors and fans stating, “NY7s puts on a fantastic tournament with an immaculate social atmosphere that really exemplifies what Vanimal rugby is all about. We are honored to win here and can’t wait for next year.”

The Vannimals Club and Social Teams rosters were:

Leon Abhiva, Bronx, NY

Stephen Ambrosino, Howard Beach, NY

Jack Argast, New York, NY

Lasha Asanidze, Tblisi Georgia

Valentin Balande, Bordeaux France

Josh Berman, Royale Bar, NY

Connor Buck, New Canaan, CT

Salvatore Carosa, Florence Italy

Hubert Chan, British Hong Kong

Aidan Costelloe, Port Chester, NY

Declan Costelloe, Port Chester, NY

Rob Cleere, Kilkenny Ireland

Conor Curley, Dublin Ireland

John Golden, Huntington, NY

Oran James, Greystones Ireland

Jordan Gamu Gomez, London UK

Bryan Herbert, Manhasset, NY

Gabe Hererra, Irvington, NY

Joe Lopinto, New York, NY

Aleki’ Lui, Riverhead, NY

PJ Mahler, Philadelphia, PA

Myles McQuone, Fairfield CT

Risteard Mulcahy, Youhghal Ireland

Aengus Nelson, Sacramento, CA

JT Perez, Pelham Manor, NY

Phil Sweeney, East Northport, NY

James Tweedy, Floral Park, NY

Ryan Tooley, Sacramento, CA

Kyle White, Pompton Plains, NJ

Greg Zovas, Cheshire, CT

Luca Allison – Head Coach, Auckland New Zealand

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28 | November-December 2022

Hector “Papa” Roca

1940 - 2023

Legendary boxing trainer Hector Roca, fondly known as ‘Papa’ passed away after a recent illness. A fixture in the NYC boxing world, and beyond, his presence will be sorely missed.

Perhaps best summarizing his place in the boxing world were the words of WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman in a letter to Gleason’s owner, Bruce Silverglade.

Dear Bruce,

Boxing is a sport of blows, but nothing prepares us for the sledgehammer impact and its gnawing sadness, with the passing of such a GREAT man, friend, mentor, and teacher. Only one Hector Roca. There will never be another.

A pillar of Gleason’s has now gone, but what a lasting foundation impression Hector left on this World. A veritable mark of the man, that Hilary Swank, highlighted his brilliance in her Oscar-winning speech. His invaluable and insightful contribution to The Gleason’s Gym-total body workout for women. Twice cycling Olympian, Coach to thirteen world Champions. Greats Iran Barkley, Arturo Gatti, Regilio Tuur, and Buddy McGirt, implicitly trusted him for their meticulous preparations.

Hector`s journey from Panama to Gleason’s was a path of destiny, which brought GREAT Achievement. A marvelous, caring man who

was so admired and adored. Respect like that can only be earned and gained through deeds and a person’s fundamental character, never given.

There is no way to describe, quantify or equate a loss like this adequately. On a personal level, Hector trained my son with the greatest care, dedication, and decency, which characterized him as the finest human.

Now we are left with the memories which form the lasting legacy of Hector Roca. How very, very lucky we are...that he passed our way. Now, as he`s laid to rest, he becomes a ship, passing in that good night. I kindly ask you to share this letter with his family and whomever you believe from Gleason’s, my dear friend. May he Rest In Peace and memory eternal.

Always Mauricio

28 | September - December 2020