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The Long Road Is Paying Off For U.S. Rugby Sevens Forward Gavan D’Amore

By Bob Reinert | Aug. 27, 2022, 11:29 a.m. (ET)

Gavan D'Amore runs with the ball for a try against Marcos Moneta (Argentina) during the 2022 HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens on April 10, 2022 in Singapore. 


Like all athletes, rugby players tend to develop at their own rates — some faster than others.
Take Gavan D’Amore, for example. The U.S. men’s sevens player, who will turn 30 years old in November and is set to compete for the Eagles this weekend at the LA Sevens tournament in Southern California, appears to be really coming into his own these days through sheer hard work. Just ask U.S. coach Mike Friday.
“It’s been a slower development for Gav,” Friday conceded. “He’s had to adjust hugely to the demands physically of what’s required, and he’s working ridiculously hard. What’s very impressive about Gav is that the way that Gav learns means that he has to be super studious, and he is super studious. He’s super committed. Big Gav is a gem.”
D’Amore said that coming up in club rugby in Massachusetts had taught him a different style of play.
“I learned how to play my style of rugby,” D’Amore said. “But to play the USA style of rugby, I had to learn the terminology, I had to learn the plays. In a way, although I came in at like 27, I was still such a young player in my understanding of the game. 
“So, in order to survive at this level, had to hit the books, had to ask questions, and really just had to grow my game. Why would I resist feedback and information that would help me get better?”
Friday said D’Amore constantly pushes himself.
“The effort and the endeavor that he puts in away from the rugby field in terms of understanding his roles, understanding the pitches, understanding the decisions because that doesn’t necessarily come easy to him, is a credit to anybody, it’s a testament to anybody who wants to achieve things in sport,” Friday said. “His commitment to the things that he struggles with in order to get better is fantastic, and that’s why he’s moving forward like he is on the pitch.”
A 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound forward, D’Amore has always been a powerhouse on the field, but he’s adding other dimensions to his game.
“He’s very powerful on the edges. He carries hard. He hits hard,” Friday said. “And he’s working hard all the time, on and off the ball, whilst now looking to expand and develop his game so he can be more effective and more flexible and not necessarily just (play) on the edge but play in the middle.”
Given all the effort that it has taken for him to become a polished, international-level rugby player, one might wonder why he chose this sport in the first place. He had played football and basketball at Brookline (Massachusetts) High School, but neither proved to be a perfect fit. When the captain of the school’s rugby team invited him to try that sport, D’Amore immediately was hooked.
“My first response to it was, ‘What is rugby?’” D’Amore recalled. “I just remember showing up the next day to training and picking up a ball, and I haven’t put it down since. 
“I remember after running into the first (tackle) bag, I saw stars, but I had this like warm feeling in my chest that this was what I wanted to do.”
D’Amore went on to play for American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, before moving on to Rugby United New York of Major League Rugby and Old Blue, a club team in New York. He was an All-America selection at AIC. 
For a time after college D’Amore pursued his career as a teacher, but he just couldn’t get rugby out of his head.
“I could have continued with teaching, but I kind of hit a crossroad,” D’Amore said. “I gave myself that summer of 2019 to just give (rugby) my all. Get out there, train, push myself as hard as I could and just do it for the love of it without any expectation of where I would end up or anything like that.”
As much as the physicality, D’Amore was drawn to rugby’s unique culture. 
“I’ve always had a reverence for rugby and just the way it’s grown,” D’Amore said. “You just notice how guys go from tearing each other apart for 14 or 80 minutes and then as soon as they’re off the field, there’s just this element of respect that it takes a lot to come out here. 
“I think that’s something everybody recognizes. It can take a lot out of you. What’s amazing to me is how you can be so aggressive towards somebody, and once you’re off the field, you can be best friends.”
D’Amore won a bronze medal with Old Blue at the 2019 club sevens national championships, attracting Friday’s attention. The coach invited him to a camp at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in California. 
“I was dancing all over my apartment,” D’Amore said. “My neighbors downstairs probably hated it. Things just kind of worked out. Just getting here was once the goal.”
Now D’Amore entertains the notion of playing in the World Cup and the Olympic Games. A step in that direction comes this weekend as he and his U.S. teammates will be in Carson, California, to compete in the final World Rugby Sevens Series event of the season, which will be held at Dignity Health Sports Park Saturday and Sunday.
“Traveling’s always wonderful. It’s always a great experience,” D’Amore said. “But to come home, be here, playing in L.A. … it’s just good. You get to see so many familiar faces.”

Bob Reinert

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.