The Great Challenge of Growing Rugby in America

One of the biggest challenges to our sport is figuring out how to grow rugby properly in America. USA Rugby is working diligently on this task every day dealing with a variety of issues. How do we get the sport exposure so communities not educated on the sport know what it is? How does the Football vs Rugby and the all mighty dollar effect the sport? Will we be ready for Rio? How do we meet the demand of sport growth and desire for team, with the addition of trained coaches and enough Sirs to monitor games? There are also a variety of other issues when we look at the growth of rugby in America from CIPP fees for youth who can't afford it to club teams raising money and meeting new requirements for tournament hosting and being eligible for play and insurance. I do not have enough pages to cover all of these topics so I will cover a couple for now.


The biggest is how do we get exposure to the sport? USA Rugby has been doing an amazing job working with NBC and Fox Sports so that you can actually catch a match a bit easier than before. They are also working on spreading "Rookie Rugby" to as many schools as possible by showing all the physical exercise that kids and get since everyone needs to be active on the pitch. We are however, always in the shadow of football. As ignorant Americans, we have the Super Bowl, which makes us the World Champions of football. Only problem with that is, we are the ONLY nation really playing American style football. The rest of the world is playing rugby and soccer, but if we're not number one at something we pretend it doesn't exist.

I am truly amazed time and time again, how much of a school budget is wasted to support football, and really all male athletics. Title IX might have said both genders deserve equal funding for their sport teams, but we all know it still doesn't happen.

According to USA Today,

Most Division I football programs spend more than $100,000 to outfit their team. Add in practice gear, extra cleats, gloves and other miscellaneous items, and Indiana University's annual cost tops $200,000.


Now, I am not able to quote how much most D1 college rugby teams have for their budget, especially since there is a small number of college teams officially D1 and not just club teams. I do however know how

much it costs to clothe a rugby team. It's not $100,000 and with a smaller roster than a football team 25 jerseys are about one-thousand, about $300 for shorts, another hundred for socks, and a bag of balls. All together it's about $2,000  which is just 1% of a college budget for a football team. We also should not fool ourselves to think the NFL or College Football wants to loose a nickle of revenue, advertisement, or TV time to any sport so until America can get over that greed and money aspect the sport will always be in the shadows. Even with the soccer boom in America and the suburbs and soccer moms (and hipsters wanting to dress like soccer

moms) it's nearly impossible to catch a game on TV unless you're watching Univision or the Soccer Network.

So despite the growth of the sport on youth levels, schools, who could save a ton of their budget with a more economical sport, won't because it is not in their face constantly on TV. The expansion of the sport is happening, just like how the soccer boom hit over a decade ago. Coming with that though is a lack of referees, properly trained coaches, fields to play on, and compensation for those putting their time and efforts into expanding the sport. Anyone can get their 100L coaching cert. It's free, it's online, and can really be done at your leisure. But you still need to be able to understand the game to really coach well. As I blogged before I was amazed at the High School State Playoffs this year. It's awesome to see how many teams there were. I have also seen through speaking to CARFU Refs and iYRA members that there is a definite need for people to step up into the roles of coaching and becoming a certified Sir. Many teams run in hallways and train in school cafeterias because they are not a top priority when it comes to field time. SO how can we prepare for Rio when our future Olympians are missing desperately important times of proper training now?

We need to be more vocal. Tell you college that you deserve a scholarship for your sports club. You deserve equal funding, field time, quality coaching and refs. Parents need to tell their local park district, school, and city council men they want their kids to play this sport and they demand the opportunity for a cultural and international experience. Tell you local TV station you want to see rugby on TV. Is it going to happen over night? No. Not a chance in hell. but eventually we will see it happen. Be persistent but also be patient. It will happen. Rugby is the NEXT big thing as long as we face the challenges and step up to being active in getting our voice and sport out there. Work For It


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    Telling college administrators that rugby deserves scholarships or more funding of any type does not magically open the proverbial cookie jar. Rugby has a stigma in rec/club sports at the collegiate level that requires a quarter century of behavior different than we are currently exhibiting to overturn.

    Many college clubs have heeded this advice. Some have received more funding. Most have been told to raise the funds themselves. Matt Trenary at UMich once published a great article about how it is Alumni Rugby Associations that must save the college rugby scene with their donations into university-held foundation trusts. This is the type of action that universities - especially state universities - respond to in a positive manner. These schools are strapped for funds and cannot put more money into sports for various reasons, but they cannot ignore when alumni band together to fund a club sport from within the boundaries set by the university. Whether it is a pass-through account (which only takes care of immediate expenses) or a foundation trust fund (which contributes for years), the money must be raised. In most university foundations, $25,000 in a trust will generate $1000/yr for a club to use in whatever manner that fund is set up to provide (scholarship, operational expenses, coaching, etc).

    Fortunately for rugby in the US, this concept transcends to all levels - Youth, HS, College, & Club. Rugby in the US requires consistent funding to grow. We can raise all kinds of money for immediate expenses, but if we are not putting money into trusts to generate funds year after year, we will continue to trudge along.

  • In reply to Grant Cole:

    It's definately not an easy or over night thing, but saying that you want the sport will change how the game is played. USA Rugby with having need a "coach" helps teh game become safer and seem more professional. These steps will help expand the game for sure

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    NBC Sports features many football (soccer) matches weekly on Saturday and Sunday. They also have some M-F, but the headline matches are usually a weekend pitch. I wish rugby was featured more, but we aren't even competitive internationally. When we are, then people will finally take notice. They are both fairly cheap sports to participate in, and pretty safe if you can get the right coach.

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