Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Article courtesy of IRB.com
US Sevens coach Al Caravelli reflects on the groundbreaking announcement that Sevens Rugby is to be broadcast live across the States on NBC.
So Sevens live in the States on NBC – what does it do for USA Rugby? What does it do for our team and our athletes? And what does it do for Rugby worldwide? This is a massive shot in the arm into the US mainstream.
Rugby (International 7’s) has never been on network TV before in the States. NBC is one of the top three broadcasting channels in the United States so it has access to over 300 million people. We’ll be going out at prime time on both Saturday and Sunday so the viewing public is going to be able to see the Olympic sport of Rugby Sevens. Just incredible.
When we had the collegiate championships in June, those went out on live TV. The level and the standard of play isn’t what it’s going to be on the HSBC Sevens World Series but here’s a small example of what can come of live coverage: Miles Craigwell was sitting in a restaurant that night while the final was going on and he had just been cut by the Miami Dolphins. He picked up his phone, called his agent and said, ‘I don’t know who you need to talk with, but I just watched the Collegiate Sevens on NBC, and I can do that. Get me in touch’.
And that’s just one person, and he’s currently in my US Sevens squad and played at the first two legs of the World Series before Christmas.
The number of people who knew that I had something to do with this sport called ‘rugby’ but who weren’t able to see what it was, who then could see it through that event, just propelled our sport and when they see the World Series live in Las Vegas, the best Sevens players on the planet, that exposure is going to be huge.
Global market place
And why would England or France care about Rugby in the United States? Well how many England rugby jerseys can you actually sell in England?.. Here’s a market that can open up for you in America, so for the RFU, for New Zealand Rugby, Samoa, South Africa, Ireland, Kenya, you can go on and on, they all have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of ex-pats here in the United States to whom they can market themselves afresh. This has ramifications not only to the American public, but finally into the worldwide market.
It also changes the mood in my camp a little, I must say. There’s only a handful of these guys who have been to the USA Sevens, either in San Diego or Las Vegas, and they are busting a gut to make this team.
Take Mark Bokohoven as a perfect example. Mark has been with the squad since I started coaching, and even before that but Mark has always got injured right before the tournament here and for him it’s a massive shot. His parents have never seen him play live, neither have his brothers, so I’m pulling the reins back on him a little bit because he’s training so hard, I don’t want him to over-train!
Miles Craigwell too, his family doesn’t understand the international nature, the magnitude of the sport. His agent asks him why he’d stop pursuing the NFL for a sport that does currently pay to play. People will be able to watch and for somebody like that it’s almost a validation to say ‘Look at this sport, this isn’t secondary, this is something I’ve chosen because I want to be an Olympian’, and for the guys who have been here before, they realise that playing at home is our 13th man.
Coming home to Vegas
And what of the Las Vegas factor? I was sceptical at first about Vegas last year but I thought the way that the city embraced it and the fans came out really helped us go for four straight wins to win the Bowl. And the year before, in San Diego, we reached our first ever Cup semi final, so we’re really excited to play at home and on NBC.
What the public wants to see from my team is for them to leave everything out there. And that’s how they’ve been playing and we haven’t won the Cup yet here, but we will do everything we can in our control to do that. I know the public will not be disappointed in their team. .
The next step has to be for these guys to earn something for playing Sevens for the US, and eventually working for four years to try and win an Olympic medal. We must give them something, both players and staff, especially if we want to compete on the Series, at the World Cup. Today that’s one of the areas where we’re lacking the most, to even fall in line because we are behind.
People continue to say that the Olympics could have the greatest impact in a country like ours, but we need to do it quicker. We can’t wait until 2015 because people are starting to get their ducks in a row. I love what Paul Treu has done with his full time set-up in South Africa and then also with his development squad the Vipers, who go to a lot of invitational tournaments. That’s something I’d love to do. I love the way Ben Ryan sets up his England camps and uses technology. I like how Gordon Tietjens preaches and pushes fitness.
We have to take pieces from each and then try and find some way to put our guys into a full-time environment and compensate them.
To achieve that I believe we need more people to understand who we are and what we’re doing. And what better way to do that than to perform live to the nation on NBC?