So it's that time of year when we look back on everything that has been accomplished in our lives, our sports, and the community around us. It is a established that rugby is the fastest growing sport in the USA and this year has definitely shown that. Our National teams performed amazingly on the international level, we have colleges starting combines to recruit, major universities offering scholarships, the Olympic Training Center holding camps and starting their search for the 2016 games and the youth and rookie rugby programs exploding.
The year kicked off strong for the USA Women's team. Over 100 of the nation's top women's rugby athletes attended a High Performance Camp at Tiger Town, the Detroit Tigers' spring training facility. The camp was a selection vehicle for national teams and an opportunity for coaches to collaborate and identify talent for what the international season would hold. This camp was clearly successful with the USA Women's team starting out the year with 4-1 record at the USA Vegas 7s international games. USA Women went 4-1 in Vegas, after going undefeated on day one and two of the Women's International Sevens Invitational, who were revamped and professionalized, the Eagles have proven they are a force to be reckoned with. That was a common theme that USA Rugby boasted through out the year. The USA Eagles Seven team included Cristina Mastrangelo (Chicago North Shore; Chicago, Ill.) and the USA Stars and Stripes team had Sylvia Braaten (Twin Cities Amazons; Waterford, Wis.) who previously play for North Shore. Vegas Seven also held a Serevi Coaching Clinic and the IRB Junior World Cup tournament with Chicagoan Malcolm May playing in the games The High School All Americans fielded two sevens teams at the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. One team won the Plate and the other made the Cup final. The USA Eagles Mens team had a 1-4 record in Vegas but a big win over France that showed that the team had growth coming.
As the year continued promises from 2011 started coming through and also some big changes with in the national teams. USA Rugby announced in November 2011 that 15 full-time training contracts would be offered to sevens athletes. This was lending momentum to the USA Rugby sevens program. Peter Tiberio (USA Rugby; Naperville, Ill.) and Roland Suniula (USA Rugby; Boston, Mass. played with Chicago Griffins) both traveled with the USA 7s team thisyear for international games and both wanting a spot in those contracts. USA Rugby also announced in February that Mike Tolkin would be the next head coach of the Men’s National Team, the Eagles. The New York native, coached in the U.S. at various levels since 1986, and was most recently the defensive coach for the Eagles in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. On the 7s side, Alexander Magleby was named head coach of the USA Men’s Sevens team following the resignation of Al Caravelli. In May, USA Rugby announced the addition of two new members to the College Department. Richard Cortez and Tam Breckenridge joined the Department to help steer Collegiate Rugby into its next stage of development. Cortez coming on board as the Director of Collegiate Rugby and Breckenridge as the Associate Collegiate Director.
A team from the USA made up of high school athletes from across America have went to theU.K. and competed in the world famous Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens. The under 18 team even received a warm-up training session from Ben Gollings, former England Sevens Captain and HSBC ambassador, before their debut in the tournament. The team went undefeated in five games on the first day of the HSBC Rosslyn Park School Sevens tournament. In day two, the USA Rugby Boy's High School All-Americans lost in the round of 16 to Welsh team Llandovery College 7-29. Out of 105 teams in the tournament, they definately proved they could hold their own on the international level and gained valuable experience in a demanding international tournament. Head Coach Salty Thompson relished the opportunity for his team to experience the Rosslyn Park tournament, the largest rugby tournament in the world with over 7,000 athletes.
The USA 7s game continued to grow with not onlyhaving the Vegas Tournament played on NBC, but Fox Soccer Network picking upand showingmoregames as well. USA Rugby has partnered with Universal Sports for its Rugby Action as well as having ESPN3 partner for live 2013 College 7s playoffs. For the Eagles team, major Series point were gained in their Hong Kong games as well as in the Tokyo Sevens. Tokyo was the seventh stop on the HSBC Sevens World Series and the USA Men's Eagle Sevens team claimed seven crucial Series points, putting the team back in the Worlds 10 Ten!
The USA Women continued to build as mid-year approached. The USA Women’s Eagle Sevens made a dazzling run to the Cup Final of the Amsterdam Sevens. England, Australia, South Africa and Wales are among the teams that fell to the Eagles’, but again it was their archrival Canada that snatched a victory from the USA’s clutches. But the team continued to grow over the summer month a prepare for upcoming games.
The summer was a historic one for USA Rugby, an event that will help to deepen the ties between Rugby and the rest of the Olympic family, the International Rugby Board inducted the ground-breaking USA Olympic Rugby teams from the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games into the IRB Hall of Fame. The induction is in recognition of the pioneering feats in the development and promotion of the Game in the United States.
The USA Rugby High School All Ameicans continued to have a successful run with their South American tour. HSAA swept Chilie on that tour. The 32-player squad began in Vina del Mar and Santiago, Chile, continued on to Montevideo, Uruguay, and finished their tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The HSAA squad was made up of thirteen seniors, thirteen juniors and six sophomores from 11 U.S. states.
More big wins were ahead for USA Rugby. The USA Women’s Eagles beat Italy 34-20 in the first ever match-up between the two teams. The Eagles started the match strong and held Italy to zero points in the first half. Kate Daley from Chicago North Shore had a big try in the game. The 15s team has had tremendous growth over the past two years. As for 7s, the USA Women’s Eagles are taking home some historic hardware from the first-ever IRB Women’s Sevens World Series tournament. Their wins in day one, which was difficult, was put well in the rear view on day two as the USA beat China and France decisively to win the Bowl.
USA Rugby also reshapped they was national playoffs were held. The College divisions had a much larger weekend ofgames for both men and women's teams as colleges are starting to have DI, DII and NCAA teams. Club Competition restructure was announced for the 2013-14 season. USA Rugby announced the creation of a new Elite Club Cup Competition that will be introduced in the Spring of 2013. With the majority of former Rugby Super League clubs now migrating to the National Division-I Club Competition, the decision was made to create an Elite Cup Competition in 2013. The competition will transition into an annual Elite Cup Competition comprised of the top eight clubs from the previous season’s National Division-I Club Championship. USA Rugby also has come up with a new sanctioning process for all tournaments so that they are registered and that CIPP will cover any injuries that happen in tournaments as well as document the growth of the sport.
Chicago also had a big year of growth, changes, and the future goals for USA and youth rugby are always changing. Come back to check out my look at the year of rugby in Chicago and what Julie McCoy told me about where our sport is aiming to go.