USA Rugby releases new long-term player development model

USA Rugby releases new long-term player development model

BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby released details Tuesday for the updated American Rugby Model (ARM), a long-term player development program providing an integrated framework through which rugby players can be developed at all levels of participation and experience. The ARM is player-centered in that specific characteristics to each development stage are based on the particular capacities of players at each stage of their development.

The player development model focuses on the technical, tactical, physical, mental and lifestyle development of players regardless of age and level of participation. The ARM will be integrated into all USA Rugby structures and systems and will provide rewarding experiences for players, coaches, parents, referees, supporters and administrators of the game.

“The American Rugby Model sets out clear player development pathways that support the development of a player from introduction and participation to elite, supporting the core purpose of USA Rugby,” USA Rugby Development Team Leader Dave McCann said. “USA Rugby will introduce this model through our rugby development activities in support of high performance programs.”

Rugby is still a relatively niche sport in the United States despite the game’s introduction in the late 1800s. In recent years, rugby has grown more popular and more visible due in part to media and television exposure.

“These are exciting times for the game of rugby,” USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville said. “However, sustained long-term development will be driven by the quality of the rugby experience and the opportunities that we can offer our players.

“Raising the level of performance at all levels will provide long-term benefits for the sport, creating more exciting domestic competition and stronger international teams, as well as attracting more media, sponsors, and fans to the game.”

The life of a rugby player today is consumed mostly by traveling, playing and recovering from competition, while the main focus is on the result rather than the performance. This attitude leads to long-term failure as coaches forgo the development of core skills to focus on tactics, which may also be a contributing factor to low retention rates of players. Though many sports capitalize on early specialization of athletes, rugby benefits mainly from players crossing over to the rugby pitch after being ‘cut’ from another sport.

“Developing a long-term development model for rugby will address critical areas in our system for kids at a very early age,” McCann said. “Children progress through the same development stages and this model will ensure we address the appropriate points along the development curve in order for them to reach their genetic potential.”

Through utilization of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) principles, the ARM integrates training, competition and recovery programming with relation to biological development. The ARM offers equal opportunity for recreation and competition – a key to retaining younger players and developing better rugby players for the future.


Stage: Play
Chronological Age: 0 – 9
Training Age in Rugby: 0 - 4

This stage represents the entry into physical activity and sport, including the development of physical literacy. Athletes develop basic physical literacy and enjoy their first participation in organized games; Safe, community-based programs; Equal participation for all; Skill development is placed ahead of competition; Broad-based stage-appropriate development including football and other sports and activities; Social development and fun are never forgotten.

Stage: Develop
Chronological Age: 10 - 16
Training Age in Rugby: 2 – 8 years

This stage represents development of a well-rounded set of rugby skills, complimented by participation in other sports, and, for many athletes, using flag/touch rugby as an ideal introductory experience. Athletes develop basic and integrated rugby skills and utilize these in competitive game situations.

Guiding principles are:

  • Athletes have the opportunity to develop skills in a variety of positions
  • Training, competition and positional play is appropriate to the development and maturation of individual athletes
  • Skill development is more important than winning

Stage: Compete
Chronological Age: 17+
Training Age in Rugby: 6 – 10 years

This stage represents a serious commitment to competition, coinciding with college and senior club age. Athletes enter highly-competitive programs, begin to specialize in their positions, and work toward excellence.

Guiding principles are:

  • Emphasis is on building solid competition skills
  • All athletes are provided with optimal annual training
competition and recovery programs
  • Programs support athletes to learn from victory and defeat, to live balanced lives, and to always train and compete in a
fair, honest and “clean” way
  • Work towards international play
  • Develop skills to be successful in college and club rugby

Stage: Excel
Chronological Age: 21+
Training Age in Rugby: 8+ years

This stage takes the advanced athlete from a high level, CIS, junior starters and non-starting professionals to starting professionals. Athletes work to excel in highly competitive programs, aiming for the highest level of performance and success.

Guiding principles are:

  • Every program and every athlete is committed to excellence
  • All athletes are provided with optimal annual training, competition and recovery programs of the highest level
  • Each athlete strives for the highest level of performance in the context of fair, drug-free living, training and competition
  • Athletes, coaches, officials and administrators are role models, mentors and ambassadors of the sport
  • Experience in high-level games develops and refines tactical skills, anticipation and reading the game in a variety of situations

Stage: Lead
Chronological Age: Any
Training Age in Rugby: Any

Individuals can remain active in the sport for a lifetime through recreational competition and as a coach, official and sport builder. Fun is an essential part of the game throughout - the glue that bonds people to the game and to each other.

Guiding principles are:

  • Fun
  • Giving back to the game
  • Respect for themselves, others and the game of rugby

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Comments (12)

  • Guest - MR.V

    Would the USA Rugby support anyone who go out on his or her own time and money and establish a grass root rugby program? Can you guys work with Parks Dept. and make some kind of arrangement to provide rugby some space for rugby and rugby alone especially on grass turf. I believe professional rugby in the country should be on the table now and not later. No where else in the world you have the market for everything...right here in our backyard. But we need all hands on deck and support this great game.

  • Guest - Jeremy

    In reply to: Guest - MR.V

    They do not support anything. They will give you an attaboy but it is entirely up to you and you must give them all your money by registering teams, coaches, admin, players and also pay for a coaching course. All while getting nothing in return. Do what soccer did with the youth, start a community based rugby league and get your own league insurance. It will cost you less for all.

  • Guest - Reynaldo

    These acronyms and graphic organizers means absolutely nothing. We need real leadership from USARugby; I'm talking sponsorship for our national teams, rugby on television, availability for low cost youth rugby in areas where it is not developed (everywhere), and a consistent path for high level players to compete at a high level. We get this mumbo jumbo?

  • Guest - Gavin

    Not Impressed. Unproductive waste of time. That all looks very professional and I'm sure looks great in a power point presentation but there's no meat to it. USA rugby is so out of touch and disorganized it's sad.

  • Guest - Lee A.

    Good thinking. We need more Rugby education for young people. It might take a while, but it certainly be accomplished. I would like to see more American Rugby on television. There are a lot of college teams, as well as unions throughout the country. I think that TV promotion on the local level, especially during daylight hours will help accomplish the objective set out in the proposition.

  • Guest - Brian Cooper

    What you have here is a plan in place when the players come. So I ask when will that be? There are so many mainstream sports clubs everywhere that rugby is just yet another alternative that is relatively unknown. So what is the plan to educate the public about the game and it's benefits? Who is the spokes person that everyone knows is a rugby player? Why should people let there kids play rugby? That is what I'm more curious about.

  • Guest - OldNorse

    What's the plan for kids who start playing in college?

  • Guest - Bill

    There needs to be something in place that will help current colleges and men's clubs with facilities. Aside from ELITE programs, there is a true lack of training and playing space available for a majority of rugby players in the United States. Have a plan on paper in place is great, but the logistics need to be in place to bring the plan into fruition.

  • Guest - Cyclops69

    This looks a good guiding framework as a start and it should be positioned as just that.

    Other comments here list just some of the practical issues that need to be addressed to get a rugby environment that reflects this framework. So theres no single silver bullet I agree - the frameworks still useful I'd have thought to focus efforts that are made; how to they link to the framework and what else is needed. And if stuff we are spending time and resource on doesn't c;early connect maybe we should stop it and get on with something that can have a productive impact.

    And its a rugby community framework - we can't sit back and wait for USA Rugby to deliver all those practical challenges while we pat ourselves on the back or, worse yet, through arrows at their efforts. They can drive some of the big ones like national sponsorships but its unrealisitic to think they can identify or create all the local challenges and opportunities.

    Its a good start lets get in behind it and see how we can contribute to the practical solutions that might get us there. Thats what teams do - and you're either on it or off it.

  • Guest - Sam

    Disappointed in some of the comments above. I also get frustrated with USA Rugby at times, especially how they promote the game. However, this is not about promoting the game or building clubs. This is about a nationwide foundation and model for congruence in coaching and developing players. The rest of it is up to you. USA Rugby can't go out and find your youth players for you. The problem with so many unions and clubs that I've seen is that they are all about their own little island: our club, our field, our players, etc. They build backwards: Men, College, HS, Youth instead of Youth, HS, College, Men. I rarely meet coaches and teams that make it all about rugby everywhere. That is what needs to change. Stop doing to this sport what we've done to all the others. That is what will make it "just another sport." I made it happen doing it my way. I started with youth touch, built it to youth tackle, then HS. And with very little help from a union, mens team or USA Rugby. I spent my own money at the beginning because I believed in and cared about rugby. I advertised and got in with the local school district and churches, etc. That's what YOU have to do. USA Rugby is simply providing a player development model with this information.

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