Staples High rugby coach Oscar Barahona doesn't mind if his players make a mistake or two.
The Wreckers failed to win a game last season -- going 0-8 in their first year in the A division -- and Barahona is implementing the ELM-tree style of coaching: an acronym for Effort, Learning and Mistakes.
"It's not only about the scoreboard, it's about them learning something each game," he said. "If they learned something and they gave it the effort but we lost, I told them I'd still be proud of them, regardless of what the scoreboard says."
Fielding 12 new starters last year, Staples struggled mightily against a schedule that included nationally ranked Fairfield Prep and Greenwich. Barahona, however, is confident that the Wreckers can bounce back.
"It was a hard season for us," he said.
"We have a lot of players back, a lot of good players. We're looking to get everybody on the same page," he said. "Last year, the starters that were playing, they on their own spent time in the gym getting fit. When you only have four or five guys that are doing that when you've got a team of 15, it's hard to kind of have a balance.
"This year we've got more guys who have been working out."
Barahona said that in past seasons, the team lacked a workout program. But this offseason, many of the players took up weight training and cardio workouts with the same trainers.
"Some of the other teams that have been established like Greenwich and Prep, they've got guys that you can tell are athletes because they're in the gym all year around," he said.
Staples opens its season on Saturday at the Fairfield Warde Jamboree.
Barahona said that Brandon Braswell and Spencer Warner are potential impact players, along with the captains. Warner will shift from forward to strengthen an already deep back line.
"We have a lot of strength for our back line," the coach said.
The Wreckers hope to play to other strengths as well and find a rhythm.
"We don't want to play as a selfish team," Barahona said. "It sounds cliche ... but sometimes you get seasons where some guys will want to kind of be the stars. Rugby doesn't really work that way."
The team graduated some of its top performers including Mikell Washington and Jackson Moss. Washington is now playing at Penn State University.
Although Staples faces another daunting schedule this season -- one that again includes matches with Greenwich on April 11 and Prep on April 26 -- the Wreckers are prepared to move forward. And they're fine with the mistakes that might come along the way.
"It's OK to make mistakes. ... We kind of encourage mistakes because that's kind of the only way you're going to learn," Barahona said. "As long they're learning from the mistakes that they make, we accept that as coaches."
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