BOULDER, Colo. – More than 300 athletes were nominated to attend the four USA Rugby AIG Women’s Junior All-American (WJAA) camps across the country this month. The Atlanta Harlequins hosted the first camp from March 9-10 and Fullerton Youth Rugby hosted the second from March 9-10.
The goals of the AIG WJAA regional camps for the players are to learn the expectations of becoming an international athlete, have fun and make friends. The AIG WJAA staff’s goals include identifying players to enter into the pathway towards becoming either a sevens or 15s Eagle, increasing the awareness of the AIG WJAA team and selecting players to participate in the U20 Nations Cup this summer.
AIG WJAA Head Coach Danielle Miller and her staff narrowed down the regional camp pool, though recognize there are hundreds of young, talented athletes who could have participated in the camps.
“We would have loved to include everyone,” she said, “but wanted to keep each camp at 40 athletes so that the players would get a personal experience.”
The athletes at the camps practice the basic skills and patterns of play that the team will use during competition, and the same material is present at each camp so the athletes can be compared from one camp to the next.
Before the regional camps, AIG WJAA staff used to be able to scout players who attended the U19 iNASC to select camp attendees. Without the iNASC, the staff could not adequately scout enough athletes in 2012. With the creation of the four regional camps, players from all regions of the United States are able to attend based on travel distance, schedules and opportunity.
“This summer, with the start of the Women’s High School All-American program, and the focus on Regional All-Star tournaments as scouting opportunities, there will be more options for our staff to see potential players for 2014,” Miller said.
Miller said the hosts of the first two camps this month – Atlanta Harlequins and Fullerton Youth Rugby – helped run smooth and efficient camps so the athletes were the focus. She was impressed with the athletes, as well, who embraced the mission of making friends and having fun while keeping up the intensity.
“They quickly became a cohesive unit and the communication was impressive,” Miller said. “They played well as a team, being supportive from the beginning to the end of the camp.”
The next AIG WJAA camp will be hosted by Rugby Oregon this weekend, March 16-17, in Portland, Oregon. After that, Miller and her staff will head to Herndon, Virginia, for the final camp from March 23-24.
The AIG WJAA staff will select between 33 and 40 athletes from the four camps to attend a pre-tour camp at the Chula Vista, California, Olympic Training Center in May. Those selected will be a traveling or non-traveling reserve for the U20 Nations Cup in Nottingham, England, from July 7-22.
“Halfway through this journey, I feel grateful to have the guest coaches and hosts help the staff provide an experience the players will never forget,” Miller said. “The feedback from the players has been positive and the excitement about playing international rugby in women is at an all-time high.”