Joe Gaiter: What does rugby means to you?
Matthew Mairowitz: Rugby has been the foundation for almost all of the great things that’s come out of my life so far. It’s been the base for many of my best friendships and also developed many of my internal qualities, such as my communication and leaderships skills, while also driving me into a healthy and productive life style. Due to all these things, it goes without saying that rugby means everything to me! It’s much more than just a sport or a game people play, it’s a way of life that’s surrounded by a fantastic culture that promotes teamwork, humility, and excellence.
Joe Gaiter: Where did you grow up and how was your childhood?
Matthew Mairowitz: I was born and lived in South Florida, just outside of Ft Lauderdale, until I was about 12 when my parents decided that we should move to my mother’s home country of Argentina. I’m am an only child and grew up playing all sorts of sports (although I’ll admit I was never very good at any). I had visited Argentina since I was a baby and have a lot of family there so it made sense to move there for a few years to be close to them, while also becoming fluent in Spanish. We lived in Argentina for about 4 years when we decided it was best to move back to the US so I would be able to easily transition into finishing high-school so I could then apply and go to college here in the states.
Joe Gaiter: When did you first start playing rugby?
Matthew Mairowitz: The first time I ever played rugby was a couple of weeks after moving to Argentina. It was during our Friday Gym/P.E class that we had in the 5th grade. I remember not really understanding what was going on, or knowing how to actually play the game, but I was having so much fun trying to figure it out and tackling my classmates in the process. I had passed and kicked a ball before that during recess, but that was my first time ever playing fully live Rugby. Shortly after that, I joined a lot of my schoolmates at our local rugby club, San Patricio, and haven’t stopped playing since.
Joe Gaiter: What are your fondest memories about Archbishop McCarthy High School?
Matthew Mairowitz: Archbishop was a really nice school that I was fortunate enough to have attended. However, I didn’t play rugby for the school. I actually played for a local club team that isn’t around anymore called Weston Rugby. My fondest memories of my old rugby club have to be the fun and tough training sessions we used to have at Eagle Point Park, a recreational baseball field that we claimed our own. I loved the camaraderie amongst my team and wouldn’t have wanted it to be any different. I developed a great bond with so many guys on that team, and loved staying late after practice talking with my teammates.
Joe Gaiter: Why did you choose Life University?
Matthew Mairowitz: I chose Life University late into my senior year for the same reason many people on the team come to Life, to get a degree while playing the highest level of collegiate rugby available in the U.S. I knew that Life wasn’t your traditional University, given its small campus and low amount of students. I wanted to develop myself as a player and as a person, and that’s something I knew I could do at Life.
Joe Gaiter: What would you say your contribution has been to Life University’s Rugby team?
Matthew Mairowitz: It’s obviously hard to quantify one’s individual contribution to such a historic and well-rounded program, but I’d like to say that I was able to uphold the culture and standards that Life U Rugby embodies during my time here. Being a part of 3 championship run teams isn’t something everyone can say, and although everyone on the team plays their part, I’d say the biggest individual contributions I made to the team were my accountability, my grades, and my work ethic. I hope some of these things serve as solid examples for some of the younger guys to follow.
Joe Gaiter: How do you mentally prepare for games?
Matthew Mairowitz: I’ve never really been one to overthink or change what I normally do too drastically. I’m a big advocate of “you play how you practice” so I always try and keep that in mind. I always think to myself that all the preparation for a game has already been done, and the result will come through proper execution. I do like to keep a consistent routine before games, so drinking water along with a caffeinated drink (mate- a South American Tea), writing down our plays, and mentally repeating my commitments and goals for the game while stretching and getting my body ready.
Joe Gaiter: Tell us about winning the D1A National Championship?
Matthew Mairowitz: I’m lucky enough to have been able to win two D1A championships during my Sophomore & Junior years at Life. They were both incredible moments and the feelings I experienced when the final whistle blew will be something I’ll always remember. However, both the 2018 & 2019 final felt very different to me personally. During the 2018 campaign, I came off the bench in the second half and was able to continue the moment we already had to make sure we’d win the game with a comfortable lead. It was an awesome experience and a very special moment for me being the first championship I had ever won. The 2019 championship was a very different story, given that I was a starter but wasn’t able to be on the pitch when the game was over. I dislocated my shoulder in a tackle about 20 minutes into the game, and watched the rest of the match on the edge of my seat alongside another injured teammate who had just torn his ACL. The 2019 final came down to the very end, when the boys were able to pull through and take the W. I still get goosebumps every time I even think about that game, it was the perfect way to end a very long and challenging season.
Joe Gaiter: What does a typical day is like for a rugby player?
Matthew Mairowitz: We definitely have a packed schedule that usually consists of an early morning lift, followed by a day of classes or work, and then an afternoon practice. In between all that, many of us will check in with our athletic trainer for some treatment or rehab work to make sure we’re ready for training.
Joe Gaiter: How do you face adversity on and off the field?
Matthew Mairowitz: I’d say I’ve had a pretty adverse career at Life, giving that I suffered from a torn ACL & meniscus my sophomore year, and a torn labrum in my shoulder my Senior year. These injuries limited me a bit in terms of comfort, but I’d like to think it didn’t hurt my performance too much. A great philosophy for facing adversity that was presented to our team a few years ago is to just acknowledge it and reply, “good” when being confronted with a difficult situation. This lets you take a step back and realize that there are positive results that can come out of a negative situation. A great example of this in action was when I was recovering from my knee surgery and was able to become our film analyst for the fall season which allowed me to see and think of the game differently than I did as a player.
Joe Gaiter: What is your relationship like with the coaching staff and teammates?
Matthew Mairowitz: I appreciate and respect everyone in the program and I like to think that I’ve built a good relationship with both the coaching staff and my teammates. Obviously I’m closer to some more than others, but I feel comfortable enough with everybody in the program to have a conversation and enjoy their company at any given time. The bond and brotherhood I have with the older members on the team is very solid, we’ve spent almost every day together for 2-4 years and it really shows. These are some of my best friends, and I know I’ll continue being close friends with many guys on the team. My relationship with my coaches has always been good, they were pretty tough on me in the beginning, but I know it was for the best and I appreciate the attention they gave me early on. All the coaches are young so it’s been awesome to grow alongside them I’ve noticed so many great qualities and improvements from all of my coaches across the board. They really care about all of the players and it’s showed more and more the longer I’ve been at Life.
Joe Gaiter: How disappointed are you that the season was cut short?
Matthew Mairowitz: It’s still been hard to completely process that it’s over to be honest. This season was something I had been looking forward to since I was in high school and the fact that it was cut short is pretty devastating. It’s also very ironic because about a month before all this happened, our coach sat us all down and had us come up with external factors we could and could not control. This was presented to us with the intention to make us realize that certain things can happen at any given time, and we have to make the most out of the opportunities that are presented to us. This was a major theme going into our last conference match of the season against Lindenwood. The whole situation has definitely taught me to appreciate things in the moment, and really take advantage of the challenges given to you.
Joe Gaiter:How do you normally get game ready?
Matthew Mairowitz: As I mentioned earlier, I’m a pretty chill guy who’s never been one to be superstitious or feel the need to completely change the way I act before a game. I make sure I get a decent breakfast in, get taped, drink some mate (a caffeinated tea), write down my plays and mentally repeat my commitments for the game.
Joe Gaiter:What motivates you on the field?
Matthew Mairowitz: I honestly get extremely motivated by my teammates, the plays they make and the impact it has on the team’s performance is amazing. This definitely fuels me and the need to perform for the guy next to you really drives me forward.
Joe Gaiter:What is next for you in Rugby?
Matthew Mairowitz: Hard to tell at this point but it’s looking like I’m going to be sticking around Atlanta after I get surgery on my shoulder. Rugby ATL, the professional Major League Rugby team in Atlanta, has a fantastic development program, referred to as the 404. I definitely plan on playing for them, along with USA South (a select side that plays all kinds of teams a couple of times a year). I’ve always been open to any opportunity presented to me with rugby so we’ll see what comes about.
Joe Gaiter: What is your major and how will you use it?
Matthew Mairowitz: I double majored in Business Administration and Computer Information Management during my time at Life. I’m lucky enough to have been offered a full time position within the company I had been interning at since July 2019. I accepted the offer in April and am working remote for Mimecast, a popular cybersecurity company with offices all around the world. I’m excited to continue to develop my skills and knowledge of the cybersecurity industry, and see a promising future ahead for my business career.
Joe Gaiter: What is your untold story?
Matthew Mairowitz: I think my untold story is the patience and humbling experience it was for me to stick with my team even thought I was a substitute player for 3 seasons. Although I did get opportunities to start at a different position many games, I was ultimately second in line when it came down to picking our starting 15 players, for the majority of my career. It’s a tough situation to be in when you’re used to being a leader and starter for your high school team, but it’s something that a lot of people have to go through when joining the best team in the country and being stuck behind an All American. However, in most cases this only lasts 1-2 years before you’re able to step up and fill the gap of a graduating senior. Many players have come into the program and quit because of this situation. Not everyone wishes to take the long route and this results in great players either quitting rugby or transferring to another program.
I’m proud to say that I stuck through it, and tried to bring my A game to every practice to make sure the starter above me earned his spot and that I was giving the coaches a hard time when it came to selections. Given that he’s now starting for a professional Major League Rugby team, and is on track for playing for the United States someday, I’d say I played my part and did the best I could. The patience and perseverance I developed during my time at Life is going to last me a life time, and although I didn’t get to fully finish the way I had envisioned, I did earn my spot within the team and hold my head high when speaking about my time on the Life Rugby team.