Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
On Wednesday USA Rugby CEO, Nigel Melville, reported on his blog about how USA Rugby is feeling the pressure of the financial crisis in which the United States is currently mired.
While all of us are feeling the same economic pressure in many different ways and I pray that the USA rebounds quickly. I’d like to say that the pressure USA Rugby is feeling could be a blessing in disquise. Why? Because without the high end funding from sponsors and the IRB, USA Rugby will be forced to look to growing the game of rugby in more cost effective ways. That means even more emphasis on youth, high school, and collegiate rugby.
Youth and high school rugby have been growing at a rapid pace and it’s all been done at the grassroots level. Meaning it’s all been done at almost no cost to USA Rugby. The relative inexpensive entry point for rugby compared to other sports could see youth rugby grow at an even greater rate in the current economic climate. These are points that should not be overlooked by USA Rugby as they tighten their belts financially.
The concensus thought around the internet is that the rugby public in the United States would like to see our governing body focus more on the developement at the grassroots level. That would be in stark contrast to the perceived notion that USA Rugby is putting most of their eggs in the Eagle’s basket. I don’t personally believe that USA Rugby is putting “all” of their hope in the slim chance that the Eagles can win a match (or two) at the next World Cup, but they really haven’t done a whole lot to discourage the thought. That is… until recently.
Maybe I’ve just been reading between the lines too much, but I get the feeling that Melville may have had a “lightbulb” moment in regards to youth rugby. That or the pressure of a struggling economy has handicapped Boulder’s vision for the Eagles thus forcing them to put more emphasis on the youth sector where their money goes further. Youth rugby can provide USA Rugby the mechanism to make a positive impact on the game here in America without running finances into the ground.
If youth and high school rugby are growing simply by the hard work of some very dedicated volunteers, imagine what could happen if USA Rugby got into the trenches with us? I’d love to see the same energy put into growing the game at the youth level that is put into the Eagles. There’s been banter going around that Melville’s legacy rides on the Eagles performance at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I think that is a load. His legacy will be judged ten years from now when the groundwork laid in youth rugby now could pay off. By that time there could be 1,000,000 or more kids playing rugby in America thus fueling massive improvements at all levels of the game.
Now, that would be a legacy to be proud of.