USA Rugby CEO ‘Light’. Dan Payne an excellent choice; should we be more concerned with David Sternberg at RIM? 8

We should not be lauding only the selection of Dan Payne as USAR CEO (an excellent choice regardless of job description). We should be exploring David Sternberg’s selection as RIM’s CEO last month, as this appears to be a significantly more valuable position. More…

USA Rugby’s Strategic Plan: It’s not about the Eagles, and it’s all about the Eagles! 5

This article is not about the Eagles, nor is it really about professional rugby. It is about the thousands of young boys and girls that have been exposed to our game and its values who will want to play at the highest level possible, and have a glimmer in the back of their mind of one day playing in a Red, White, and Blue Jersey More…

Grant Cole: You just made American Rugby better! 1

I don’t know Grant Cole.  We are ‘friends’ on Facebook, whatever that means.  l love his passion, think he has some whacky ideas (you’re friends confirm this Grant!), and I check out his stuff when he posts it.  I picture him as one of those diehard, meathead props, … the kind that buy 4 beers after the game and hangs out with his prop teammate, and the day’s opposing props altogether by themselves at the end of a long wooden bar, purportedly to talk “Prop Stuff”.


USA Rugby: Another Opportunity Lost 10

I am  fearful of the “opportunity loss” about to hit us in USA Rugby.  It’s been 8-9 weeks since our disappointment at RWC. Currently, we await  further ProLeague news, and the 7’s boys are doing magical things.

But from my seat, it is now RWC2019 Cycle!  It’s already started. European Club players are putting their best forward in the various Cup and League fixtures as they prepare for the Six Nations.  Southern Hemisphere teams will jockey for position in the Super 18 early next year as players compete for the opportunity to represent their countries.  

Looking forward, our next test match is a mere 7 weeks away. This is not a Tier 2 test either. The USA Eagles are playing Argentina (yes, the RWC2015 Semi Finalist!!) on February 6.

What have we done in the past 8 weeks?

  1. Had a Board meeting where the prevailing attitude appears to be, “everything’s cool”
  2. Fired a coach. aka. did not renew contract.
  3. Put an ad on the web advising we are looking for coach.

How’s our preparation for the Argentina Test?  We have yet to name a coach. With the holidays coming, this new coach and presumably staff will have approximately 4 weeks to prepare for USA Rugby’s next round of Test matches.  These are five games from which we can build a base, target ‘projected players’ (i.e. those not ready now, but project to be in 2019), evaluate player leadership, etc.. and start to create some legacy. We have test matches in 7 weeks, and we have no coach.

At the US National Men’s team level, we have 40-50 opportunities (i.e., tests)  in the course of the next four years to create something special at the Rugby World Cup in 2109.  We are six weeks removed from our last ‘performance’ (you remember our pack getting pushed around by Japan) and from what I can tell (and with numerous conversations with people ‘inside’) all we have done as a ‘Team’ or ‘Union’ or whatever we call ourselves, is fire a coach and put out a search on the web advising we are looking for one.  Personally, I found this ad extremely embarrassing – but that is another story for another time.

Every game should be a cherished opportunity for (as the AB’s say) ‘to leave the jersey in a better place’. We must treat the opportunity that every test match affords to build towards a better, sustainable team and with increasing expectations with each outing. Can we do that by giving any coach a mere 4-5 weeks to work?

I wish USA Rugby could step back and literally come up with a four year plan (not just for national team, but for age grade,  college, and club) that is part of a larger 10-15 year picture.  But how to get there?   I’ll be focusing on how to get there, and more later on that. We’ve already lost the opportunity to be proactive for 2016.

At this time, the vision needs to be developed at theUSA Rugby Executive and Board level.   Planning requires leadership, and I fear that once again with our laissez-faire attitude towards the rapidly approaching the Americas Rugby Championship, we are losing a huge opportunity to build momentum for what will be a long journey to RWC2019.

There is so much more to do… See you in San Francisco at the USA Rugby National Development Summit. 

USA Rugby: TR Update… What gender gap? 2

I’m on a mission to get folks poised to make a titanic difference in the rugby culture in this country. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a wide spectrum of rugby people regarding the state of our game in the USA, and so many of them have provided outstanding advice.  A common theme is “take care of the women’s game.”

Educating myself on the state of USA Rugby this past month has been fascinating; the passion and ability of the U.S. rugby community is enormous, and I appreciate the audience I’ve been given with several members of the USAR Board of Directors.  Depending on the outcome of the Board meeting this Saturday, November 7th, I will petition the USAR Congress with various requests.

Continuing in my efforts to learn more about the women’s game, I had the opportunity to meet with Kelsi Stockert yesterday.  I had no idea what to expect.  I had been introduced to her through Facebook, and only knew that she is in the USA Women’s program at the elite level.

Kelsi Stockert. USA Rugby Women's XV Representative

Kelsi Stockert. USA Rugby Women’s XV Representative

Kelsi walked in the restaurant, and we awkwardly hesitated to shake hands or hug.  We sort of hugged and she said ‘what the heck, it’s rugby’.  I liked her immediately.  We couldn’t talk rugby fast enough. It took us 30 minutes to order food because we were just so anxious to share our experience and our passion. Here I am (54 y/o, dad w/ children, business guy, ex player, blah, blah, blah) sitting across from a 22 year old single mom.  She drives  65 miles each way to train 2x-3x/week, driven by her passion and the support of her family.  Her father sold personal belongings to fund a recent trip for Kelsi to NASC to compete at a high level and gain exposure. She relies on an ATAVUS scholarship to allow her access to High Performance coaching and training.

There we were, just talking rugby.  It did not take long for me to realize she has the exact same fire to play at a high level and push herself to the highest potential that I did 25 years before.

So much commonality between two vastly different people – wanting to be coached at the highest level possible, access to highest level competition week in and week out, parity in teams/leagues (I thought I was listening to myself when she said ‘no one gets any better in a game where the final score is 60-5).  She played in all three ‘tests’ this year in the Women’s Super Series, and faced the Haka. All this rugby player wants to do is play at the highest level.  I can relate to that.

I’d be proud to have Kelsi represent the USA in Rio next August, and I think you would be as well, especially if you had the chance to spend time with her, as I have. She’s exceptional, and I’m glad to have gotten to know her just a little bit.

Last night I was able to learn a lot about the women’s game, and it struck me that in terms of ‘growing the game’ we are missing an enormous opportunity.  The Women are one of the highest ranked Tier 1 teams, and Kelsi is convinced the USA will win their next RWC in Ireland in 2017.  We could make massive headway growing the game in this country marketing the women’s game and getting creative in that space. The possibilities are endless. Just look at the national pride and enthusiasm for our FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions – wouldn’t it be great someday to see our RWC Women’s Champions getting a ticker-tape parade in NYC too?

I feel a personal obligation to ensure that young men and women like Kelsi are provided the same opportunities that are available to other elite and professional athletes. Our senior leadership at USAR must be challenged to move beyond the mediocrity that the U.S. rugby community has endured for far too long at all levels.  #NoMoreMediocre