In the span of less than a day following the conclusion of the 2017 Penn Mutual College Rugby Championship, seven of Matt Sherman’s West Point sevens players travelled 140 miles back to West Point for Cadet Leadership Development Training. In a matter of hours, the group of sevens players, including captain Jake Lachina and vice-captain Alec Smith, had swapped out their rugby kits for fatigues and began prepping for team combat scenarios. After closing out the spring season, several of the West Point Black Knights immediately shifted their focus to prepare for the stressful environment.
Mandatory after the third summer at West Point, CLDT is platoon-level training that tests “tactical problem solving and leadership under stress.” Much like on the rugby pitch where anyone can step up to be a leader or find themselves in charge at any given moment, CLDT consists of training exercises where leadership positions are often unpredictably rotated among the cadets. CLDT is often considered one of the most difficult and taxing exercises by cadets, but also one of the most rewarding and beneficial in preparing them for Army Ranger School. In total, eight of Army Head Coach Matt Sherman’s West Point players graduated CLDT, including Smith, who received a CLDT 3 Honor Graduate award.
“It was a bit disappointing not being able to go home, and I was definitely sore,” said Smith on the quick turnaround to CLDT. “Thankfully there was a three-day admin period that allowed us to rest up a bit before the field exercise.”
Among the CLDT graduates is rising senior and current rugby captain Jake Lachina. Lachina, the 2016 All-American and 1st team Rugby East full back, is currently leading Cadet Basic Training exercises for the incoming class of 2021 as part of his leadership detail requirement. In these roles, Lachina acts as a leader both for his rugby teammates and for incoming cadets at West Point.
Cadets are making a difference in other areas of the world as well, as they participate in Academic programs of Individual Advanced Development or AIADs. Senior full back Jareth Long-Garrett travelled to Japan as part of the ALLIES Program Joint Research Project, run by Tufts University. Along with a diverse group of cadets, Tufts University students, and USNA midshipmen, Long-Garrett travelled around Japan visiting landmark sites like the US embassy and Hiroshima Peace Memorial to learn about and help build civilian-military relations.
Coach Sherman has seen the impact of these leadership and academic programs first-hand where players learn valuable skills that can be brought onto the rugby pitch.
“The primary mission of the Academy is to develop leaders of character, and our players’ summer schedules reflect that mission, with full and challenging schedules of applied leadership experience and other development experience,” said Sherman. “We reap the benefits of these leadership skills that also apply directly to effective performance and success on the rugby field. We believe the rugby field can be an arena where our players can further develop both their character and leadership abilities.”
West Point Rugby finished out the season ranked 10th in the Final 2016-17 Canterbury D1A Top 20 Rankings after notching a 7-1 conference record, good enough for second place in the Rugby East Conference.