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

Tony Ridnell: Ruggamatrix Interview re: USA Rugby Reply

I hope any interested people will listen to the interview I was able to do with Alex Goff.
Ruggamatric Interview with Tony Ridnell

Support titanic change at USA Rugby.  As a  rugby nation we should be able to have expectations, but we must earn it.  The first place to start is accurate self assessment at all levels.  Install leaders that provide vision, strategic objections, create standards that are measurable and create/enforce action items that are executable, all in support of the strategic plan. This is as much a business matter as it is a rugby matter

It is now time to shift from a vocal and highly supported call for change to a unity position.   Time for discussion and alignment to bring about change and the specific strategies & timelines we should follow.  My coming blogs will be about the how and when. We are looking forward to communicating with the rugby community and laying out our direction.

Have a say… Who should be the ‘Executive Dream Team’ at USA Rugby? 47

I imagine that the person responsible for the ‘running of USA Rugby” has a job that could be described as…

“Responsible for the results at all levels for everything that is “USA Rugby”.

Well, we know where I could take this article… but I won’t – because it is time to stop complaining and create something special.

What would I do?

I would surround myself with minds that I respect, know the game, get the business, and will always hit me straight with their input. Create a culture of inclusiveness, openness and fearlessness at all levels.

What would you do, and who would you choose?

If you were the head of USA Rugby and decided to create a dream team “Rugby Executive Team” or whatever you would call it… who would you choose?   My standards would include Rugby IQ, Executive IQ, Leadership IQ + Passion . Choices can be American, Foreign, whatever…

Choose 3-5 people you would want as your consigliore’s.   Send me PM, email, or make your views public!!!

Independent Review of USA Performance at RWC 2015?

Who would you choose to lead/participate an independent review panel of USAR performance in the RWC? Do you think this is necessary?  What do you think of the current HP Director having to hand his report over to his boss (CEO) such that any ‘independent analysis’ can be muted/edited in the final report to the Board?

USA Rugby: Change of Leadership is a Mandate from the American Rugby Community 35

Today I was given an audience with 4 members of the USA Rugby Board of Directors.  I made a powerful request for them to call a special meeting for a confidence vote of the current CEO, Nigel Melville.

Friends and vested parties warned me this would be a tough battle, and today did nothing but enforce those views.  I spoke to the Board members about a “mandate” from the American Rugby community for immediate change in the leadership of USA Rugby.  This mandate includes endorsements from multiple (if not all) Rugby World Cup Captains, RWC Coaches, and RWC administrators, and now hundreds of American Rugby shareholders/customers of USAR ranging from parents of players to several of the founding fathers of the USARFU in 1975.


Hey USA Rugby, “The ‘sleeping giant’ has awakened. His name is Tony Ridnell” Reply

As you can imagine, I have received a heck of a lot of comments on my blog, facebook, private messages etc..  It’s amazing, unless all the people who have ANYTHING positive to say about the state of rugby in America are too shy to reach out – then I can unequivocally say we have some serious work to do. Now that is settled, I want to do something about it.
Let’s get something straight.  We are all not going to agree on things.  I am going to ask you to trust that my leadership team will be the most committed, well purposed, knowledgeable on rugby at ALL levels (both sexes) and create access to all the financial resources we will need – but with a plan to tell and rally our country’s rugby following.  There’s that word ‘culture’.  That’s the first thing my leadership team will address.
That's me facing the camera, between 12 and 5. I have been 'in the arena'. I know what this will take.

That’s me facing the camera, between 12 and 5. I have been ‘in the arena’. I know what this will take.

I would like your support and trust that I have put together a group of people that will make this game great  in our country and give you something to rally around.  I am not going to provide too many details of our plans, we need to go about it the proper way – and get in position to make a difference.  I am personally prepared and committed to do what it takes to make a difference.


Hey USA Rugby – It’s time for a change (part 2) “Hope, but no Expectations” 6

Many readers of this blog, will be 28 years or older.  28 years ago, the first RWC was played. Japan, Argentina and USA were part of the inaugural Rugby World Cup. This is an excellent point in time from which to start a comparison for ‘progress’ in rugby playing nations.

Here are the results, Argy and USA both finished 1-2.  Japan 0-3.

Argentina RWC 1987 pool results

Argentina RWC 1987 pool results

USA & Japan Rugby pool results RWC1987

USA & Japan Rugby pool results RWC1987

Because the RWC results are the only metric we have to measure relative progress to other nations, I fast forward to the RWC 2015 results…

RWC 2015 Pool Results Including USA and Japan

RWC 2015 Pool Results Including USA and Japan

I’ll summarize:

USA: 1-2 in 1987.  In 2015, 0-4 in pool play, outscored 83-0 in the 2nd half by the two Tier One countries we played.  Lose to South Africa by 64-0

JAP: 0-3 in 1987. In 2015, are 3-1 and the first team ever with three wins not to advance to a QF. . Beat South Africa!!

ARGY:  1-2 in 1987.  In 2015 Argentina are IN THE RWC 2015 SEMIFINALS!!!!!!

Wake up USA Rugby Community!!

Despite claims that sound good in the media and to whomever is listening to the babble, there is no progress. We are getting left behind.   We have as a rugby playing nation wasted 28 years.  Again, it’s no ones fault.   There just has been a complete lack of vision, planning, and most importantly leadership at the helm of USA Rugby.

This is the United States of America. We are doormats in no domain.  Except rugby.

Here’s what I am doing

I am working with a close group of people, creating a plan for the rugby community in the United States that contains a one year plan, an 5 year plan and a 20 year vision.  Not dreams, not hopes, but executable plans. This is a bigger issue than “we should have kicked less than against Japan”.  Our problems start at the girls Under 7’s and elevate and are most noticeable at the Eagles level.  A global embarrassment.

Within this plan is to create a culture of rugby in this country.  Yes, a rugby culture.  Grass roots culture.  We have a plan to make the USA competitive on the global stage while we simultaneously build this culture domestically.  Don’t say it cannot be done.  We have thousands of incredibly passionate, hard working, volunteering in rugby in this country.. who deserve a pathway to the culture we all desire.  This culture will be the rising water that raises all boats.  Quality of play will get better, events will get better, etc.. Yes, professionalism is absolutely part of the program at the top.

This is not time to get caught up in details; trust that I am working with a top combination of rugby guys (all w/ international experience for the USA) who are also proven, and successful business leaders who understand the Executive function in any organization.

We all know this is the right thing to do. Some people’s feelings are going to get hurt.  But, they’ll toast us when USA plays in its first RWC quarterfinal.

Hope, But no Expectations

Here is a quote from a wonderful rugby gal… She loves rugby as much as I do and I respect that… She refers to the WSU Cougars (perennial Pac 12 doormats)…