Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
When it comes to youth rugby, patience is very important. Patience is needed whether we’re talking about coaching youth players, dealing with parents new to the sport, or waiting on seeing the effects of youth rugby on the National Team’s level of play. At that same time, let’s not be too patient when it comes to the sense of urgency we need to have in starting programs. Let’s not beat around the bush… more youth and high school programs are needed. The goal should not be to have one massive club in every major metropolitan area, but one in every single community… big or small. Anything less is not acceptable. At this point in the process, we need to put rugby in front of as many children and parents as possible.
As Americans, we aren’t always the greatest at being patient. We can use this as a good thing in regards to growing the number of youth programs in the country. Light that fire and help make it happen. Starting a youth rugby program is remarkably easy and cheap… something that makes it within the reach of any person with a little bit of initiative. Getting into the high schools is a bit more challenging, but having an established youth program makes it much easier than starting from scratch.
However, on the flip side, we’re going to need to remain patient in regards to the performance of our National teams. We all want them to be successful and we want it yesterday. It’s natural to feel that way. In our current state, there will be moments of success and breakthroughs, such as the Eagles 7s strong finish at the end of last year’s IRB World Series or the solid Fall performance by the 15’s Eagles. In that same breath, we will also see inconsistency that produces such valleys as the 15’s Eagles summer performance or the very poor start the 7’s squad has posted to start this season on the IRB World Series. We just aren’t there yet and the national teams, particularly the men, will remain inconsistent.
The battle that we face as fans, players, and coaches is that for long-term success at the international level we may still be looking at least another 10 years of waiting. Even if we get the long-awaited professional competition up and running, it is still going to take time.
Talk about a test of patience.
There is hope and it comes with the sense of urgency that I mentioned prior. Right now, across the land, there are youth programs in varying stages of maturation. There are some that are very well run and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Little League or Pop Warner. There are others that are just starting out with a handful of kids playing touch rugby in the park. The reality is that it is happening. Youth rugby teams are growing like wildfire and the real exciting part is that these boys and girls are the future of rugby in the United States. A future of which we can all be proud.
It wasn’t that long ago that players were introduced to rugby at the club or collegiate level. It was a rarity for a player to come into college with any rugby experience. In the last five years, that paradigm has clearly shifted. While there are still plenty of players that are exposed to rugby for the first time in college, they are becoming fewer in number. More and more players are coming to college with high school rugby experience. In turn, the standards and level of play in college rugby have improved.
The shift has trickled down to high school rugby. Right now, the majority of players are introduced to the sport of rugby at the high school level, but an increasing number are coming in with youth rugby experience. In another 5-10 years time, it will be a rarity for a player to get his or her introduction to the sport at the high school level. This will be a massive achievement for American rugby, but one that we must work diligently to ensure comes to pass.
Accomplishing all of this will have a reverse effect that goes back up the ladder. More youth rugby players, in turn, leads to improvement in level of play in high school which then leads to better players when they reach the collegiate level. An ever-improving level of play in college rugby will eventually produce more and better Eagle prospects, both men and women. Everyone wins.
Before any of this come to pass, we need to get out there and start more youth programs. “Every community deserves rugby” should be the mantra. Just like there is a baseball, football, or soccer program in every town. There should be a rugby program to match. Let’s make it happen.
Every Community Deserves Rugby!