NASHVILLE, Tenn. – USA Rugby’s first Youth Conference on the Game was held in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 8-10 and proved successful in providing attendees with an avenue to get together, share ideas and ease their concerns with USA Rugby’s role in the youth and high school game.
Starting on Friday, the conference facilitated a crowd of over 80 people, representing 27 states, who have a hand in youth and high school development. The conference was intended to create strategies and objectives for USA Rugby to use while it develops the youth and high school segment of its game over the next five years.
“The youth and high school game is critical to the growth of rugby in the USA,” said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville. “It is the athletes that are playing on the youth and high school teams now that can win the world cup for the USA in the future.”
The group was taken through a planning process by newly appointed Age-Grade Development Director, Pete Steinberg. Some of the objectives identified by the conference participants included improving the level of refereeing and coaching for youth and high school teams, growing player base and increasing player diversity, improving the rugby brand and using regional organizations to foster the development of the game locally.
“The participants of the conference were very engaged and energetic,” Steinberg said. “There have been many ‘false dawns’ in USA Rugby’s approach to youth and high school development, so the community’s skepticism is expected. However, the CEO and the Board have made this a priority so now it is up to us to deliver.”
Melville flew to Nashville on Saturday night with USA Rugby board members Bill Middleton and Dave Hodges directly following the board meeting in Boulder. Middleton and Hodges are both members of the Youth Committee and all three took questions at the end of the conference in an open forum.
“The conference did meet my expectations,” Oregon’s executive director of youth rugby, Jenn Heinrich, said. “And, like many others in this group I too was a bit skeptical at first. In the past its been hard to see the benefit for youth and high school programs to be associated with USA Rugby, but now after the question and answer session with Bill Middleton and the fact that USA Rugby’s management took direct responsibility for making sure that there are results within the next 100 days, I am optimistic that they are headed in the right direction.”
Based on its success, USA Rugby plans on making this Youth Conference on the Game an annual event.
“As with all conferences, much of the value is in the one-on-one conversations and the networking,” Steinberg said. “USA Rugby’s needs to build and enhance these networks to help grow the game.”
For more information on the youth and high school development provided by USA Rugby, please log on to www.usarugby.org/youth.