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Televise games. After people start watching, any guy with a healthy amount of testosterone will want to give it a try. I disagree when you say that it starts with the youth. We have to play the hand dealt us. The US has an established college club league and some pro teams. We need to televise the pro teams to get exposure to highschoolers and other college students. If some highschools start having rugby teams, then the skill level of the collegiate level will increase, causing the skill level of the pro leagues to increase, causing rugby to be more popular. Once rugby has a decent following in the the 16+ age groups, then we can worry about getting wee ones involved. Instead of rugby working its way up through the age groups, it needs to work down, simply because it's probably impossible to get little kid leagues started when the only precedent America has for rugby is a bunch of drunken meatheads running around stomping on eachother (no offense, I'm one too). The beauty of it is, you don't NEED anyone to dump buckets of money into a highschool team. It's not like there's a bunch of equipment to buy, like in hockey. You just need about 30 guys to sign a petition to start a team and have either the players or the school pay the CIPP fees and insurance. If that happens in 8 schools within an hours drive of eachother, then you have a league.
It's an interesting question. I don't think a few years will cut it, but have a look at Australia, they manage to fit FOUR professional football codes in a country of around 20 million. I think it could be done, and I think rugby offers a big enough point of difference to coexist with American Football - it's a less structured, more free flowing sport (and it's also over in an hour and a half - some NFL games seem to take days!). I think Rugby USA has the potential to match it, or at least find a niche with the NFL - but it will take a lot of work and a long time. I watch with interest though, I love the patriotism and fire the Yanks get just about being American, and what better place to put it on display than in real, intense international competition? (btw - Really looking forward to hearing The Star Spangled Banner playing during the RWC - easily the best national anthem in the world, it even gets me choked up and I am no American!)
I am a Brit living in the US and I have been coaching a college team for the last 2 years. I have 35 years background in playing, coaching and administering rugby in the UK and USA. It seems to me that money is the fundamental root of the problem. Because of the lack of it, we have poor practice and coaching facilities, little publicity for the game and no effective way of competing at varsity level and beyond against the more traditional American sports. Raising standards relies on several things: 1. Get kids into the game early - most who play in the US start at college, aged 18-19, which is way too late. 2. Provide quality training facilities - finding dedicated rugby fields is really difficult. 3. Develop strong coaches - the vast majority of coaches are well-meaning folks but they just have too little experience to be coaching decent teams. 4. The same goes for referees - the huge majority are very poor in their understanding of the game and this has a huge effect on the way the game is played, especially at the junior levels. 5. USA Rugby has to step up to the plate too - now that Nigel Melville is in charge, I am hopeful on this front, but it is still to early to say what progress he might be able to make. They must attract way more funding and publicity (especially TV air time) to the game. 6. To make any real impression, rugby must reach varsity status in colleges. To do that will take 40 colleges identifying the game as a varsity sport. To date, the number is around 5-6 nationally. We also need to get rugby back into the Olympics, particularly as the US won the gold last time it was an Olympic sport back in the 1920's. That should raise the sport's profile. 7. In the US, rugby has a poor image as a sport intrinsically linked with drunkenness and bad behavior. This image doesn't help recruitment at the junior levels, where parents tend to have a lot of influence over what sports their kids play. It also tends to deter businesses from providing much-needed sponsorship. 8. We have to do a far better job of minimizing the perceived risks of the game. Many people think it is just American Football without the pads and that is not an attractive thought for a concerned parent or a prospective recruit to the game. I could go on all day but that's probably enough to be going on with. All of the above require significant funding and sponsorship to make the US truly competitive on the world stage. Given the resources available here, there is really no reason why this cannot be achieved even in the medium term. We need strong leadership from USA Rugby to make this happen and I am rooting for their success because, at the end of the day, the US Eagles (men and women) should be in the top flight of world rugby.
I coach a under 19 youth rugby team and I struggle every year with the same issue. Your average American is totally ignorant to the concepts of rugby. To them it is a completely barbaric, dangerous sport, so getting youth involved is much more difficult. However, a true fan would know that the sport is as dangerous as any other played by your average youth. It our job to try and educate the general public on the technical aspects of the game. If you have a youth group interested in learning the game, I would definitely attempt to start them off at a lower physical level while learning the game, but not hold them back from the physical side. Great question and I'm glad to see some hope out there!
Well I agree it starts with the youth, I know theres word going around central South Carolina about starting a league, and when I moved to washington I attempted to start a team in my high school, to no luck. I'm currently in Germany, where they are getting into rugby big time, its been around for decades, maybe longer but with past history, it fell onto hard times, but, they market tag and flag rugby for its excellent ability to develop young childrens motor skills, hand eye coordination, running, flexability, more so than football, or Soccer as you call it. So you can market the idea based on that. More television support would also help, I know a few of the division tourneys were played in Ft Jackson last year, and coverage could be better, so word of mouth, newspaper coverage and the internet is currently the best we have to work on. Try advertising through Youtube.com or Myspace.
Publicity and important related facts: Statisticians: get cracking !!! We need to know: 1) N.A. Football vs Rugby 'collision' sport cf. 'contact' sport: record serious injuries, fatalities at all levels in one and the other sport 2) The importance of players NOT being allowed to wear any protective device which could cause injury to an opposing player (or to the wearer) in rugby. 3) Whence the evolution of the protective armour of football players, instead of a more comprehensive view of the injuries that such armour can cause when used indiscriminately, as a standard of self-protection. 4) The mode-of-play in rugby: the iron-clad definition of what is a tackle: a wrap with one or both arms around an opposing player, in such a way that is not intended to cause injury, i.e. not around the neck. 5) The cost of equipping (a) rugby team(s) for say a high school cf.to that for a football team. 6) The idea that in rugby a smaller player maybe have just as much potential as a 6ft+ giant; a hard-to-sell idea for football
I play rugby in the UK, and I think what it needs in the US is a major injection of learning, the schools, and colleges need to be educated on the sport. Yes it appears to be a dangerous version of American football to a lot of people in the US and in Canada. But if these people took the time to watch the game, they would then realise just how well mannered and patriotic the players are. Rugby is the only sport on the planet where no one argues with the referee. He is addressed as Sir and his decision is final. The fans are always happy and joyous. There never ever seems to be any problems at rugby matches. Its a very good well mannered, fast paced game. Education, Money, and good coaches are the key!!
You have a fantastic sporting infrastructure in US colleges and universities. A competitive college league in one state only would act as a fantastic nursery for US rugby. The reason I'd target the colleges is that because of traditional American sports like grid-iron and basketball so prevalent in high school sport, not everyone is going to make the college's starting team in these sports and rugby would become an option to those players. Also, it's easier to establish traditions in colleges, like an annual match against your arch-enemy (like Oxford vs Cambridge in the UK or like Stellenbosch vs Pretoria here in SA). I know the Ivy League schools do in fact play rugby, so this would be a great place to start.
This is a great question. I honestly believe that it starts at grass roots. You need to start at a young age where you are able to teach kids the basics at the age of 5. At this age you can drill the basics in and build build build. Than you need to maintain that group till they reach an age where you can influence and develop their game say around 15/16. Kids at the age of 5 are learning to play soccer - same thing applies to Rugby. The important aspect to remember is that the biggest fans will be the parents, family and friends. When you start at grass root level - you not only teach the players (kids) you also educate the spectalors (parents) as well. Teaching the game to youth would be hard because they are so use to game concepts that are associated with football and therefore hard to see the techniques required for the game to be played properly. you will need to deconceptualise and reeducate youths in order to promote the game. One thing that always got me when watching US gridion is that rugby players would make the same types of tackles as you do in gridiron but without the pads and helmets - which is equally dangerous - but thats the true nature of rugby. You either committment or you don't. On a personal note - you will notice that i'm a girl providing feedback to your question. But I can say that I have been around rugby all my life and love nothing more than watching a game. To develop interest in rugby in America would need you to excit the kids/parents to playing something different. Inspire the youth by letting them know that when they run out on the field - they represent a unique code of sport and reprsent colour of their club/school jersery. Exposure them to international rugby - and how widespread it is in Europe, Pacific and in Asia - get the parents to imagine their son/s playing international rugby ( a unique technqiue/easily transferable skill)and being able to travel the world and get scholarships overseas. This will be a good way to build support/funds. It needs developing and it needs to start from the beginning. Otherwise..send a team to NZ - we will shape them up. Kiwi/Manu Samoa Flavour
I think the biggest part is to really bring it to the youth. Starting with flag rugby, and things like that. Parents need to be educated. I know most people who hear about rugby think that it is some crazy dangerous sport...any sport is dangerous but they need to know rugby is no more dangerous then American football. I played in high school, and i could see it getting bigger, but once schools can recognize that this sport is something that is worth putting in there system, then something can really get started.