To call Nathaniel Morgan “Player of the Year” felt like an understatement for Beyond Rugby.
As the first student to participate in all seven years of the youth enrichment programme, they felt the 17-year-old was in a category all on his own. That is why, on May 8, Nathaniel became the first recipient of the Nathaniel Morgan Player of the Year award.
“I was overwhelmed I guess,” Nathaniel told The Royal Gazette.
“I was just speechless. I thought ‘OK, that’s great’ and I started thinking about it: I really started from young and I came all the way over to senior school, and now I’m graduating from my last year and they’re offering me this ... I don’t know, it just feels special.”
Nathaniel joined the development programme in Dellwood Middle School after coaches from Beyond Rugby Bermuda taught his M2 gym class for recruitment. Being an “active person”, the student was drawn in by the games and did more research on the team. By the end of his school year, he was playing for Beyond Rugby as a national team member.
Nathaniel said that, thanks to Beyond Rugby, his communication and speaking skills grew exponentially over the years.
“When I was in S1 I didn’t like talking to people: I didn’t really have good eye contact, I was shaky, I was nervous. But years went by and I got better and better, and then in my last interview in S4 they said ‘Oh, you were great’ and I said ‘Oh yeah, but it’s because you guys helped’.”
As he went through the ranks and became a senior player, Nathaniel learnt to manage his frustrations by focusing on conflict resolution, strengthening team morale and a driving to get the job done.
“[I realised that] you can’t just disrespect everybody, everybody has their own different ways of going through life, so I just take that and just use it for me.”
Nathaniel’s progress from a shy and frustrated kid to a more than confident leader was exactly the kind of progress that Beyond Rugby represented. It was because of this that Deneca Zuill and his coach Patrick Calow thought he was a player deserving of prime recognition.
Ms Zuill, the Beyond Rugby organiser and frequent worker with Nathaniel, said that watching him work with others was the convincing moment for her and her team.
“We had a lot of boys that really didn’t have a lot of experience with rugby, so for the senior players it can be frustrating, but it can either cause you to shut down or [like with Nathaniel] it can help you to encourage the next person and help to build that camaraderie.”
Mr Calow agreed, adding: “When he plays he brings a sense of calmness around others, and he’s very very good at picking up something and doing it really well, and I think that at times for young people around his age there’s an expectation to really force things or try and make some sort of statement.”
Nathaniel has since graduated from CedarBridge Academy and will attend New England College in September on a rugby scholarship. Although it is not a full scholarship, Mr Calow assures that it is indicative of Nathaniel’s ability.
“It’s not been the easiest for us because obviously there’s a substantial monetary financial situation to work through, but I couldn’t think of a better person than Nathan to represent Bermuda.”
He plans on majoring in sports management and hopes to continue with rugby even after school has finished.
This weekend, Nathaniel was playing in the Caribbean Under-19s Rugby Tournament in Miami.