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