Many have labelled rugby as the fastest growing sport in our great
nation, and this site for one hopes this continues. Many draw
similarities to American Football, but true rugby supporters would
disagree. I mean, when you’re covered in that much protective gear how
hard can you get hit? Jokes aside, let’s dig deeper.
With both NFL and college football dominating our screens, rugby has
continually struggled to get any air time, and subsequently build a
fan base. Although competing with the national game for supporters and
players is a long way off yet, the tide is changing.
Rewind to 2014, when the most famous and formidable team in game paid
us a visit in Chicago. 61,500 American spectators gathered together at
Soldier Field. We expectedly fell short at the hands of the world’s
best, but the event showed that there is the potential for growth in
Carlin Lines, the super-fast Team USA Sevens player has gone viral on
social media several times over the past few years. Footage of his
blistering pace and unbelievable footwork has been shared all over the
world, which put a lot of positive spot light on the sport here in the
States. Carlin remains a crucial part of Team USA’s plan on the pitch
– but also off it.
Growth, Growth, Growth
Our nation now boasts more that 120,000 registered players with USA
Rugby. Around a quarter of these are college students. If we can get
college students playing the game from an early age as they do in
established rugby nations like Scotland, Ireland and Wales we should
see in an improvement in our national team’s fortunes on the pitch.
Participation growth is one key metric we consider to show the health
of a ‘new’ sport. US participation growth in rugby has been growing by
hundreds of percentage points year on year since 2004. With over 900
college teams and the emergence of the Las Vegas Sevens (LVS)
tournament it’s looking like a bright future for the game. The LVS
tournament welcomed record crowds in 2017, welcoming age ranges from
under-14s to seniors.
You’ll win nothing with kids
A famous phrase from a soccer legend but this could not be further
from the truth when considering the game of rugby. USA Rugby chief
executive Dan Payne believe investment in the younger generation today
will reap the rewards in 5, 10 and 15 years’ time. We agree entirely.
As part of the strategy to grow the sport, USA rugby is targeting five
to thirteen-year-old grassroots players. The board hopes this will
enable young players to develop the skills required before they get to
college, and will therefore not be catching up to their peers from
other nations if they reach professional levels.
We can see the interest is there, and USA rugby is doing their bit,
will we see the words TOUCHDOWN being replaced by TRY in 50 years?