We recently caught up with FirstPoint USA athlete, Tyler Tomlinson, who is one of the newest rugby players to join our ranks. Hailing from Danbury, Chelmsford, Tyler attended New Hall School from Year 7 through to Year 11. After completion of his GCSEs in 2017, Tyler transferred to Felsted School as a rugby scholar, where he is currently studying towards his A-Levels. Here, Tyler gives us an insight into his sporting background, his reasons for wishing to pursue a sports scholarship in the US, and what he is most looking forward to upon beginning his life as an American student-athlete.
With regards to his sporting background, Tyler told us, “I lived in Connecticut, USA for three years between 2008-2011. During this time, I had a steep learning curve of quickly having to learn to skate and then learning how to play ice hockey. I was at a disadvantage as most of my peer group had already been skating for over four years and were involved in teams outside of school but I didn’t want to be on the side-lines and so put my all into trying to be able to fully participate. I was not a great skater and it was more my determination which enabled me to play. In fact, my school report for Sport by my coach said he had never seen anyone put their body on the line as much as I did.
I enjoyed playing ice hockey but by the end of my first year of being in America, I discovered Lacrosse. I was not a “natural” to this second new sport and so practised on a rebounder before getting the bus to school in the mornings and also when I got home at night. By the end of my second year, I had developed into a player whom the Opposition would single out to try and isolate and I realised I was strong in being able to draw Opposition players towards me and set up my team mates to score rather than placing emphasis on scoring myself. I developed from being the weakest player on the team in my first season to being recognised as Coaches’ Player of the Season in my second. Unfortunately, I was unable to fully complete a third season due to moving back to the UK.
Upon returning to England, I was unable to continue with Lacrosse as it is hardly played in this country and so I went straight into full contact rugby.
I have played rugby for seven years starting out at Maldon RFC where I won the best new player award in my first season.
From there I went on to play for New Hall School, starting out in the U12 “B” team as a Prop. I worked my way up into the U13 “A” team as a Second Row, then in my U14 season I was selected for The Independent Schools Lambs National Side as a Back Row player.
For my U15 season I stayed as a Back Row and was selected for the Essex Elite Player Development Group until I finally broke into the Saracens Academy set up as an U16. It was during the U15 offseason I took up rugby league, gaining the Player of the Season award for my club and culminating in selection for the London Broncos Scholarship programme. I felt it to be a massive achievement to have been selected for two academies in the matter of a season and it required huge commitment to attend the training sessions in London, travel to matches around the country as well as being available for my school and club rugby commitments.
At the end of the U16 season the time came to choose which pathway I wanted to carry on with as with my studies and the considerable amount of travel time, it started to prove to be impossible to do everything to my best ability. I chose to play rugby league for London Broncos as they were incredibly supportive to me and started discussions about offering me a semi-pro contract. I therefore withdrew from the Saracens’ Academy. However, during Broncos preseason training (after my GCSE examinations), I joined Felsted School but unfortunately had to stop playing for Broncos as attending school on Saturdays meant I couldn’t commit to the full quota of forthcoming Academy matches as I was unable to be released from my studies.
It has been frustrating to have had two opportunities available to me and then be left with neither through circumstance but I believe that opportunity will come again and I just need to ensure I am fit and ready to take it when it comes.
For the 2017/18 season, I have played for local club, Mavericks RFC, as their No8 and Felsted School 1st XV where I play Outside Centre. I hadn’t played this position before but since my natural style is more of a loose forward and I am able to run hard lines, I slotted into the available position with the older boys. For the forthcoming 2018/19 season, I shall be playing No8 however I could still end up playing in the Centres.
My season this year finished with selection for the U18 Independent Schools Lambs National Side despite being a school year younger than the other players, with the highlights being able to play against Croatia U19’s winning 99-0 (where I scored a hat-trick) and playing Italy’s U18B team.”
With a lengthy sporting career behind him, we asked Tyler to tell us about his favourite sporting career to date. He stated: “My favourite sporting memory has to be being selected for the Independent Schools Lambs U14 side. Until this time, I had been heavy on my feet and spent my time chasing rucks around the pitch but never quite making as much of a difference to the team as I wanted. I was determined that things had to change and so spent the summer holidays at the end of the U13 season training nearly every day. By the time I returned to school in the September I had developed physically, increased my strength and turned around my fitness. I was not put forward for the Lambs’ selection trials but was spotted by one of the Lambs’ coaches whilst playing in a schools’ tournament and was subsequently invited to join the squad. We played pro-team academies during the season and the experience culminated in the squad travelling to Portugal to play in an U15s international festival ... which we won despite being a year younger and with only four matches played together previously.”
We asked Tyler how he knew studying in the States was the right move for him to make. He told us, “Leaving home to go to university is a big step in one’s own country, let alone considering moving country to study, as this is not something which everyone can contemplate. Having lived in the US for three years when I was younger, and my parents owning a holiday home in the US for ten years as well as travelling/vacationing around the country on numerous occasions, has made the USA seem like a second home. There will of course be difficult times at various points during my four years of study but I am very comfortable at the prospect of being away from the UK and living in the US. More importantly, I don’t want to look back later in life and regret that I didn’t take the once in a lifetime opportunity of studying in the USA whilst taking my rugby to the next level.”
We’d like to thank Tyler for catching up with us. We’ll keep you updated on Tyler's progress throughout the scholarship process across our various social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.