Bermuda rugby union international Alex Doyling has earned a scholarship to Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
Kutztown have won two out of the past three Ariel Re Bermuda Sevens tournaments and are one of the leading rugby schools in the United States and Doyling, a Bermuda Institute student, is naturally delighted to be going there.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “They’re one of the top teams in the US and one of the best-run programmes. The coaches are really intense and push you to be the best player you can. They’re a really well-drilled team.”
Kutztown beat Bermuda in the final of the Ariel Re Sevens, at the North Field, in March, and Doyling is keen to line-up with them,
“Right before we played Kutztown in the final, Darren [Woods] the coach of the Beyond Rugby team advised me to go and ask one of the coaches what the programme was like,” Doyling said. “They told me about the programme and that’s how it came about.
“Class starts on [September] 27th or 28th, training starts on the 20th and I get there on the 17th. I’m going to be pretty busy for the next four years! The XVs season is in the autumn and the sevens is in the spring.
“I’m going to be studying physics engineering. After Kutztown I want to do mechanical engineering.”
Part of the remit of the Ariel Re Sevens is to get young Bermudians exposed to college teams from the United States and that is one of the main reasons Ariel Re and the Bermuda Tourism Authority have backed it.
“Going back to four years ago, we were obviously looking to bring a tournament here,” Tom Healy, the Bermuda Sevens coach, said. “And because there’s no bridge or financial support for these players, they often fall by the wayside, so what we wanted was to bring a tournament to them, so they can actually participate at the national level in front of a home crowd, which has not been done at the sevens level here before, and then try and financially support that.
“That’s when we went to tourism and Ariel, and they shared in that view and they were very supportive in helping us. The message that came to me was community. And you can see within the tournament day, the family day, that it’s about making it a community event. It’s thanks to tourism and Ariel Re that this is possible, because Alex wouldn’t have had this opportunity without them.
“It’s a vision we had, but it’s a vision which was supported financially, by Ariel and tourism, so we’re all in this together.”
Doyling is clearly happy that the event has given him that opportunity.
“The event is highly competitive and very tiring,” he said of the Ariel Re Sevens. “You’re playing back-to-back games of 30 minutes. You have to continue to work.
“Rugby in Bermuda has progressed leaps and bounds, especially with this tournament. The Sevens tournament gave me the ability to see colleges that play rugby, especially in the US, that I could go to.”
Pat Phillip-Fairn, the chief product and experiences officer of the BTA, said it was only natural for the authority to back the event.
“For us, this particular tournament ticked a lot of boxes,” she said. “It’s at the right time of year, when we need people to come. It helps us put a core sport that we can we can deliver a good experience out there.
“It also helps us put together a new pipeline of people, because we need a new generation of visitor to Bermuda, and sport is a wonderful way to achieve that. People come with teams to tournaments, they come to compete, they see what we have here and they have been coming back.
“It is wonderful to see that Alex is about to embark on this journey and it’s one of the first things the guys sold to us when they came to see us and for us it resonated very much.”
Yelena Packwood, a marketing and communications specialist for Argo Group — Ariel Re’s parent company — said that providing opportunities such as this is one of the reasons they got involved.
“Ariel Re and the Argo Group are very, very proud and excited that our sponsorship of this event is providing these type of opportunities,” she said. “I went to Bermuda Institute as well, just coming out of high school in Bermuda and understanding the opportunities abroad can be a challenge. So when opportunities like this feed back into our communities, that’s the goal of why we participate in the sponsorships and charitable events that we do. It’s to build up the community and the people in the community.”
Healy is convinced that Doyling has what it takes to succeed.
“Alex has a lot of natural ability,” he said. “We went to Mexico last November and that was Alex’s first time playing international sevens. So there, you saw the difference between the domestic game and what we played at the international level. So he’s got an appreciation, certainly after playing against Kutztown, of where he can possibly get to, and now it’s all on Alex to achieve his goals.
“He’s proved he’s got that attitude to chase those goals and now to take that next step up and come back twice the player.”