As the Springbok Women’s Sevens set their sights on the 2020 Olympic Games, their hunt for fresh talent has landed them one of the country’s fastest women, Alyssa Conley.
Conley forms part of coach Paul Delport’s rebuilding drive to strengthen the team as they look to qualify for the Olympics by winning the Africa Women’s Sevens in October.
In a rugby skills crash course, she has been upping her game under the experienced guidance of former Springbok and ShadowBall Director of Coaching, Gcobani Bobo, and former Lions player and ShadowBall Academy coach, Selom Gavor.
Transitioning from the track to the rugby field
Conley is best known for her Olympic-grade 100m and 200m sprinting prowess and has been Gauteng’s fastest woman for nearly two decades, winning several national titles during that time.
“I felt I wasn’t getting enough stimulation from track and needed a new challenge. Paul approached me and I gave myself six months to acquire the necessary skills and get game-ready,” said Conley.
“My biggest challenge is to break through my fitness threshold because sevens is not about how fast you run, but about how fast you can run repeatedly! My speed is definitely an asset but I have to change my running style to keep low to the ground as rugby demands.”
“Alyssa has been transitioning very well,” says Gavor. “She is fortunately completely new to playing rugby, so we didn’t need her to unlearn any bad habits and she is very focused on doing things right.”
Honing skills and boosting game IQ
ShadowBall training is being used alongside the women’s sevens training to teach accurate passing and catching skills.
Uniquely South African, the ShadowBall is half a rugby ball that rebounds off any wall and enables solo training. The Pass Booster programme is scientifically-proven to radically boost a player’s passing and catching ability by as much as 266% within four weeks.
“Training with the ShadowBall has been very beneficial,” says Conley. “The training has helped me to integrate into the new sport and overcome my personal challenges. It enables and accelerates quick movements and reaction time and it has helped immensely to be able to continue practicing at home on my own.”
“Rugby is largely a reaction game that demands agility and one’s game IQ grows as you play,” says Bobo. “Alyssa has to learn that natural instinct still but she is an explosive woman with a lot of grit and determination to her craft.”
Conley determined to help take SA women’s sevens to Olympics
“My athletics career has taught me about perseverance and mental strength. I want to use these assets and be an inspiration for women everywhere, showing what is possible through hard work. I am enjoying being a part of a team and this makes me want to play well for my teammates and my country as we set our sights on Japan in 2020,” concludes Conley.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.