Derek Lipscombe: Goals, Grit and Gratitude – The Adventurer’s Path to Success
Northeast Academy Release: Ryan Trost, Feb. 24, 2016
Since September of 2015 Derek Lipscomb has been living the rugby dream, across the pond. Simultaneously playing full time rugby with the famed Blackheath Rugby Club and studying for his Master’s in Education at University College London (UCL), he personifies an All-American work ethic and aims to bring the wealth of knowledge afforded from both institutions back to the USA. “Ultimately,” he said, “the goal is to be Headmaster at a New York City Independent School… As for rugby, it has always been my understanding that if you want to be serious about playing rugby in/for the U.S., you have to leave the U.S. to play it, at some point.” In both his rugby and teaching careers, Lipscomb has his eyes firmly set on reaching the highest levels. Yet, an even more remarkable quality about him (and one worth paying attention to for young athletes of any stripe) is his adept way of balancing all of the challenges before him.
Lipscomb has been on the radar of USA Rugby since 2014, officially, when he was made part of the first High Performance Sevens Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. In January of 2015, he played for the USA Falcons team, under Nese Malifa in their CONSUR Sevens Tour through South America. At the same time, he was a regular playing member with Old Blue of NY’s American Premiership (ARP) club and the Northeast Academy (USA Rugby’s officially sanctioned National Development Academy organization in the northeast region). He has been a vital cog in the Northeast Academy’s many trophy winning performances in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15. In fact, he is one of only two Academy players to be included in every World Club 7s and Las Vegas Invitational tournament that the NDA has attended, to date (along with Sean Rafferty of Mystic River and Stony Brook University RFC’s).
Upon arriving in England, Lipscomb was inserted as part of Blackheath’s 3rd Division team, due to English Rugby Union restrictions on Student Visa athletes. The competition in England is of course quite high however and this Heathens squad is still considered to be a step above the USA’s ARP/PRP competitions.
Photo: World Club 7s – London, 2014
Overall, his impressions of the English system he plays in is that the game is faster than at the ARP standard, due the seasoned rugby backgrounds of the majority of its players. It has not been an unmanageable experience for him by any means though. His first match wearing the scarlet and black was on October 9th. Slotting in at Wing, his first try for the team was scored that same evening on a 40 meter breakaway. Since that time, he has gained experience in a variety of roles with the team, kitting up in all three Back Row positions, both of the Centers as well as Fullback and both Wings. In addition to his weekly challenges in English senior divisions, Lipscomb has also made himself a regular contributor on the UCL Rugby Club. All in all, with two matches every week, three – four nights of practice AND a full boat of schooling at one of the best graduate schools for Education in the world, it’s clear that a herculean work ethic is at hand.
Indeed, meeting a multitude of challenges at once has been Lipscomb’s M.O. for a long-long time. Through it all he has developed a rich understanding of the life-balance necessary to compete at high levels of sport while also succeeding in other career ambitions. From simultaneously taking on Ivy league standards in Academia, Gridiron Football and Rugby as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, to applying himself as a full time mentor and teacher at The Collegiate School for Boys in NYC while also playing for OBNY, the Northeast Academy AND the USA Falcons, his latest adventure is no surprise to those who know him. As a promising, but technically amateur athlete he has always made sure to take opportunities seriously with regard to a more regular career path as well. While certainly, his ultimate rugby goal would be to earn caps with the Eagles, Lipscomb tempers that unflinching drive with a remarkably down to earth attitude. “I think it’s important for me to enjoy the opportunities presented while I’m over here. If the U.S. reaches out to me I will definitely be ready, but I don’t want to overlook chances over here waiting for them to call. I think I have to focus on being as good as I can be. If they call, great! That has always been the goal since I started playing in 2007. But if they don’t, that’s fine as well, because I know I have done and will continue to do, great things with my rugby career.” Showing true Ivy quality, Lipscomb concluded the thought with, “This outlook will hopefully let me enjoy the sport for what it is and not what I’m expecting from it.”
This paradoxical blend of attitudes serves the Northeast Academy’s Deacon of the Post-Match very well in many endeavors, including his rugby. Dominic Wareing, Northeast Academy’s newly named Director of Coaching and semi-regular teammate of Lipscomb’s at Old Blue and the Academy expanded on how, when he said, “That attitude takes a bit of pressure off of him. Enjoying his rugby and seeing it as a learning experience allows him to concentrate on the performance and the rugby, rather than the outcome, be that winning a championship or getting capped.” Embracing the sport in this manner shapes Lipscomb into a genuine leader by example for his teammates. Both on the pitch and in the team tent, he displays an uncanny timing… knowing when to spark his mates’ smiles, and when to light their fires.
Photo: Derek Lipscomb & Dom Wareing – Elite City 7s, 2015
That astute handling of dynamic circumstances affects his relationships with his students, much as it does with teammates. It is also a significant reason he was accepted to the prestigious grad school’s Institute of Education. With his heart and mind committed, one and the other, it would seem a foregone conclusion that Lipscomb will be successful in either career path, ultimately. Which is a great thing for both communities here in the U.S. “Everything I’m learning here, I’m bringing back to the States,” he said. Happily for the Northeast Academy, his first short “Spring Break” return lines up perfectly for Las Vegas, 2016.
The Northeast Academy, with training squads in New York City and Boston, is a National Development Academy that has been sanctioned by USA Rugby as the official Academy (Men & Women) in the Northeast of America and as a designated pathway to the USA Eagles National Team selection. The purpose of the Academy is to identify, develop and prepare rugby players with the intention of placing ambitious athletes onto the USA National teams and future USA Olympic teams. The Academy will provide athletes with top level coaching, physical preparation, and playing competition to accelerate their personal development as rugby players, in line with current USA Eagles High Performance criteria.