BOULDER, Colo. – In conjunction with the American Rugby Model, USA Rugby announced Thursday the High Performance Player Pathway, which ensures players at all levels have multiple ways to achieve growth and reach the next level of development.
“As the popularity of rugby surges across America, USA Rugby plays the leading role in efforts to increase access, improve quality and expand rugby opportunities for rugby athletes wanting to maximize their potential as elite rugby players,” USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville said.
From Rookie Rugby and Physical Education classes to the Eagles national teams, the High Performance Player Pathway follows the five phases of the American Rugby Model: Play, Develop, Compete, Excel, and Lead.
During the early Play stages, players develop physical literacy and enjoy participating in organized games in safe, community-based programs. At this stage, skill development is placed ahead of competition. Early specialization is discouraged through engagement in multiple sports.
To support the early stages of development, USA Rugby has created Rookie Rugby – a safe, non-contact, easy-to-play game for boys and girls of all ages. Played in schools, parks, recreation leagues and community organizations across the country, Rookie Rugby is easy to learn with minimal equipment required.
Players moving to the Development stage of the American Rugby Model are introduced to increased amounts of competition between the ages of 10-16, which includes middle school, high school and club programs. In these programs, players continue to develop their skills while also playing competitive games regularly, raising the level of play as the player’s skills are put under increased pressure. Players will develop core skills and start to specialize in chosen positions in both the 15s and sevens styles of rugby.
Players may begin to represent their high school teams and attend local high performance programs in which elite players are selected to participate in advanced skill development programs.
Once a player reaches high school, he or she may be selected to represent a high school or State-Based Rugby Organization (SROs) age-grade team. USA Rugby currently runs 34 boys and 22 girls state high school championships, which can be viewed here. A growing number of SROs are also holding state high school sevens championships for boys and girls, a number which will be increased in the next five years.
State high school championships provide players with an excellent opportunity to be seen by state and regional selectors. USA Rugby currently runs the Boys High School All-Americans, an age-grade national team that holds two selection camps in the winter and summer and participates in tours to Europe and South America each year. The Boys High School All-Americans (BHSAA) sevens team plays in the world’s largest high school sevens event – the HSBC Rosslyn Park School Sevens – in London each year.
Visit the Boys High School All-American page here.
Selections for the BHSAAs and Stars v. Stripes High School All-American Camp are made at the annual Regional All-Star Tournaments (RASTs), held at seven venues each May/June. These events bring together the best high school players in America and expose them to elite coaches and a high performance event.
For more information on the Regional All-Star Tournaments, click here.
Post-high school players move either directly into college rugby or find work. USA Rugby caters to both categories for both men and women with nearly 900 college rugby programs playing in conferences at Division I, II, III and IV levels. Each level has a national championship match with multiple rounds of playoffs, including the College 7s National Championship with more than 48 men’s and women’s teams.
More information regarding college rugby can be found here.
Post-high school, non-college players graduate into the USA Rugby club program, in which more than 700 clubs regularly run teams and compete for a national championship at the Division I, II and III levels. In the elite club category, the Elite Cup represents the highest level of competition for men and the Women’s Premier League for women.
USA Rugby also runs the Men’s and Women’s Junior All-Americans, the national U20 teams. The MJAAs compete annually in either the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy – which was won on home soil in 2012 – or the IRB Junior World Championship, while the WJAAs play two to three international matches each year.
Players who excel at the college level may be invited to play in an increasing number of college conference all-star teams being developed in 2014. In 2015, it is planned to coordinate completion for college all-star teams to provide All-American college selectors with an opportunity to attend the All-American combine camps and selection for the AIG Men’s and Women’s Collegiate All-American teams.
The Men’s Collegiate All-Americans play three fixtures each year during the summer, alternating between an overseas tour and domestic competition. The MCAA Sevens team competes in sevens rugby events during the summer, as well. The Women’s Collegiate All-Americans (WCAAs) team is an evolving program with plans to develop an annual fixture list similar to that of the MCAAs.
During the next few years, the club game for men and women will be a focus of USA Rugby’s efforts to retain college and high school players in the game of rugby. This will be achieved by improving the level of competition and continuing to improve facilities and the quality of the “club rugby experience” for men and women.
Newly-formed Geographical Unions (GUs) are developing and raising the levels of administration of the game at the local level and are encouraged to develop all-star teams to play in a national tournament. In 2014, there will be a number of GU all-star teams playing games within their respective regions and hosting teams from outside of the area. USA Rugby national team selectors will have representation at these games and players identified as potential Eagles will be invited to attend future Eagles camps or perhaps participate in the Eagles Stars v. Stripes Games.
Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin is developing a 2014 Stars v. Stripes Elite Camp, to which the country’s best domestic players will be invited to play in a tryout match. Successful players will be invited to join the Eagles Select squad, which represents USA Rugby in the Americas Rugby Championship.
Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Matt Hawkins also selects a Falcons Sevens team each summer to compete in a small number of sevens tournaments against top domestic and international competition around the world.
The USA Rugby national teams, for men and women in both 15- and seven-a-side rugby sevens styles of play, are called the Eagles. Each team has a comprehensive playing schedule that includes the IRB Rugby World Cup (15s and sevens), the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series (men), the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, Pan Am Games (sevens men and women) and Olympics (sevens men and women).
Details of the National Academy Program will be released next week.