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As rugby continues to broaden its reach, more and more opportunities begin to emerge for new members and athletes to find the game. Take it from USA Rugby member, Caleb Meyer, who first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 22 and found himself signing a contract with Major League Rugby (MLR) team only six years later.
“It started in 2012 when a buddy came into the office and asked if I knew anything about rugby?” Meyer said recounting where it all began. “He bantered with me – saying that rugby was too tough of a sport for me” Aiming to prove his friend wrong, Meyer showed up to his first rugby practice.
“I’ll never forget, on the way to that first practice we were watching YouTube videos to pick up on the rules and positions of the game,” Meyer said.
For the next few years, he and his friend would play with their local Maryland rugby club, Chambersburg Turtleheads. Meyer has a lot of gratitude towards this club who he credits introducing him to the game. He also pays tribute to the Oceanside Chiefs who he played with after the Marine Corps transferred him to Camp Pendleton in California.
“I went from a casual, more social club, to playing with a team that was in national championship contention” He explained. “It was pretty cool making that jump. Now that I had the basics down, I could start honing in my skills and learn a little more about the specific strategies behind each play.”
After fulfilling his service with the Marines, Meyer went on to study at the University of Utah with hopes of playing football. However, when he found open tryouts would not be available until the following Spring, he turned to the University’s rugby club. By the time spring tryouts came around, Meyer already had found his place with rugby.
“It was a great opportunity to play with the University because it gave me a deeper, more strategic understanding of playing rugby. I became a student to the game under the leadership of the coaches.”
Meyer would go on to captain a few seasons for the University’s team, and eventually be selected to attend the Collegiate All-American Selection Camp where he would meet representatives from NOLA Gold.
NOLA Gold invited Meyer to attend the tryouts held a few weeks later. “I showed well at that tryout, and by Fall of 2018 Ryan Fitzgerald the GM of NOLA Gold invited me to play in a preseason game after which he offered me a spot in NOLA Gold Academy Development Program.”
“I had to put a lot of thought into this offer. There were a lot of personal things in my life that would suggest that I stay in Utah versus going to New Orleans” But knowing that playing a professional sport was a dream of his, Meyer would take a shot.
“I took a leap of faith and backed myself. I decided that this is something worth trying.” So he packed his things and headed to the next stage in his rugby development.
Fast forward a few weeks, Meyer was painting the field before a matchup with the Glendale Raptors when he received a call from Fitzgerald saying he will be taking that very pitch for the Gold that weekend.
“I looked at the field I was standing on then laid on the ground completely stunned.”
“I kept thinking about this kid from Wisconsin who had all these dreams to play a professional sport, who didn’t have any prospects coming out of high school, who took a chance going to Salt Lake City, and to have it work out like this… it was pretty incredible.”
“I am living my dreams right now, and it has been an incredible ride. If I could share advice to anyone in a similar situation, I would say, ‘Believe that you can do it and then put that belief into action.’
“If you have that mindset, you can truly go anywhere you want to go,” he concluded.
Caleb Meyer, USA Rugby Member since 2013.
Caleb’s experience as a USA Rugby member has the potential to be like yours, the only question is… where will rugby take you? Learn more about the benefits of becoming a USA Rugby Member and start your story today.
The USA Rugby National Development Summit (NDS) 2019 is taking place in Houston, Texas on January 11-13. This is a once-a-year opportunity which provides you with in-depth information specific to developing the sport of rugby in your community and across the country.
Here are ten reasons why you want to be on the attendance list:
Meet and exchange ideas with hundreds of like-minded rugby enthusiasts who experience similar challenges and successes.
Learn about popular trends, strategies, and tactics all related to the work you do to develop rugby in your hometown.
3. MEET RUGBY INFLUENCERS
Hear from several highly skilled and experienced rugby professionals that are creating a long-term positive impact on rugby in America.
Visit the Exhibitor Hall to have up front access from various vendors. Learn about their products and services that could be beneficial for your team or club back home.
As in year’s past, individual recognition awards will be given on Saturday night of the conference. Awards Nominees and online voting to be open in the coming weeks.
6. OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN FROM NATIONAL TEAMS
With a 3-day intensive conference schedule, you will have plenty of opportunities to hear from USA Rugby Head Coaches and General Managers on several takeaway topics in coaching, refereeing, and administration.
7. SHARE YOUR IDEAS AND BEST PRACTICES
Have a trick up your sleeve? This is your opportunity to share the knowledge and ideas you have gained while in the field that would be beneficial for another attendee at the conference.
8. THE FOOD
Some credit has to be given to Texas and the heart they put behind authentic Texas BBQ.
9. BANG FOR THE BUCK
NDS has a packed-full conference schedule with over 40 workshops planned throughout the 3-day workshop. Add that with the additional opportunities to hear from recognizable keynote speakers, you are sure to come away feeling the value for the money.
10. IMMERSION IN THE CAMARADERIE OF RUGBY
For 13 years, NDS has been the meeting place to learn, network and brainstorm ideas on how to advance rugby in the United States. Be part of the action and share in the development of the sport we all love.
Registration is now open. Go to rugbysummit.com/#register to get registered today.
It’s National Nonprofit Day – a day intended to commend nonprofits for the work the organizations do to impact the world in a positive way.
So, what can you do to recognize your favorite nonprofit that aims to impact the world through rugby? We are glad you asked! Here are 5 ways to celebrate USA Rugby on National Nonprofit Day.
LAFAYETTE, CO. – On November 27, 2017, Men’s Eagle Aaron Davis was found in violation of World Rugby Regulation 21 Anti-Doping Policy.
Davis was tested in January 2017 under Out of Competition Doping Control carried out by USADA on behalf of World Rugby. Following an appeals process, the Post Hearing Review Body (PHRB) has upheld the original decision which renders Davis ineligible for a period of four years beginning March 17, 2017 (when he was notified of his results) and ending March 17, 2021.
USA Rugby fully supports Regulation 21 and the Keep Rugby Clean initiative. Maintaining fair and clean competition is critical to uphold the integrity of the sport and promote its growth worldwide.
For more information on Regulation 21 and Keep Rugby Clean, click here. The full PHRB decision may be viewed here.
TACOMA, WA- It was a hot day in Tacoma, Washington. As the thermometer pressed above 90, so did the intensity of rugby 7s at the Pacific Coast Championship. The organizer and Coach of the hosting Tacoma Nomads, Ryan McHugh noted that this was the “Best Pac Coast Championships in both the level of competition as well as attendance we have had in Tacoma.” The fierce competition was witnessed by many including several MLR 2018 Champions Seattle Seawolves players and the legendary Waisale Serevi.
Northern California Rugby Football Union (NCRFU) was represented well with three teams while Pacific North Rugby Football Union (PNRFU) was represented by two clubs in the men’s qualifier. All teams played four games with the top two meeting in the final, where only one team would advance to nationals. Washington Athletic Club (WAC) started the day with a win over Sacramento Capitals 24-7, while the other Washington side, Ronins, fought to a draw with Olympic Club 5-5. Life West decisively handed Sacramento it’s second loss 22-0, Followed by WAC over Ronins 12-7, in a close, defensive battle. Olympic Club put some points up, but fell short to Life West 17-24. Life West played again a little over an hour later, picking up their 3rd win, keeping Ronins winless 21-12.
As the heat plateaued in the higher 90’s, the heat could have slowed teams down, WAC apparently wasn’t affected, putting on a try-scoring clinic in a 35-7 drubbing of Olympic Club. Sacramento scored early, which proved to be the secret in a win over Ronins 17-19. With Life West and WAC both sitting at 3-0, and the other 3 teams having only one win among them, it was very clear which teams would fight for the single spot representing the Pacific North at nationals. Life West would prove their dominance in a opportunity-rich 26-5 victory over WAC, which would set the tone for the final between the same teams. A full 8 hours after their first game, WAC would put on a strong performance. Life West fought hard but could not erase the deficit losing their only game of the day and sending WAC to nationals 24-14.
Both NCRFU and PNRFU were represented evenly by 2 women’s sides each, with three of the four able to go to nationals. It would boil down to who would capitalize on the mistakes made. Life West showed their dominance early, in a demanding victory over Berkeley 30-7, while Oregon Sports Union (ORSU) would fall to Washington Athletic Club (WAC) 10-19. Life West compellingly prevailed over WAC 35-14, while Berkeley squeaked by ORSU 10-17. Life West remained unbeaten, handing ORSU their 3rd loss 26-5, While WAC beat Berkeley in a decision that would solidify the finals, 21-12. In the women’s 3rd/4th place final, the theory was that even though ORSU remained winless throughout the pool play, with a win, they could grasp the third sport to nationals out of the jaws of defeat. However, the jaws remained clenched in the form of a loss to Berkeley, 12-28. The final saw another matchup between Life West and WAC. Both teams showed poise and defense, despite the long hot day, and Life West once again came out on top 24-12. Life West, WAC and Berkeley will all head to nationals.
LAFAYETTE, CO. – USA Rugby is seeking two Coach/Team Leaders for the girls and boys sevens teams of the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires, Argentina Oct. 8-18, 2018. Submissions for both openings will be accepted from Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 through Friday, Jan. 5th 2018 on USArugby.org/Careers. Procedures for selection may also be viewed in advance by visiting the Selection Procedures page on USArugby.org.
Both positions will be responsible for coaching YOG age-eligible athletes at the international level as well as overseeing financial responsibilities and managing event logistics. A strong candidate will possess a deep tactical knowledge of rugby sevens and the rules which govern the sport. Pending qualification at the Rugby Americas North qualifying event in Las Vegas (Mar. 1-4, 2018), candidates will be required to remain in Buenos Aires for the duration of the Games.
Alex Magleby, USA Rugby’s GM of High Performance, describes the distinct and critical responsibilities of this role, as well as the skills a chosen candidate will need to achieve success.
“The Youth Olympic Games Coach/Team Leader position is unique to most other national team staff positions–it is very much a swiss army knife role–as the person must have the ability to serve as head coach, assistant coach, analyst, S&C, and manager, all wrapped up in one,” said Magleby.”Demonstrated ability to identify, develop, teach 18 year olds; operationalize and run assemblies off-the-field; as well as be able to use adroitly analytical tools such as Sportscode, and player monitoring GPS systems will all help the candidate deliver on the mission of this team.”
In addition to their operational duties, Magleby further describes the opportunity and significance of athlete-guidance in the successful execution of the role.
“As importantly, the Coach/Team Leader should have a strong desire and ability to mentor the athletes through the unique culture and education opportunities of the Youth Olympic movement,” says Magleby.
Submissions for the Coach/Team Leader position on both the girls and boys teams are open now and will close on Jan. 5, 2018. Candidates may submit their applications on USARugby.org/Careers and view selection procedures by visiting the Selection Procedures page on USARugby.org. The Youth Olympic Games will run from Oct. 8-18, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with USA Rugby’s participation decided at the Rugby Americas North qualifying event in Las Vegas on Mar. 1-4, 2018.
LAFAYETTE, CO. – The USA Rugby Boys High School All-Americans are gearing up for the annual Winter Camp to be held at Casa Grande Sports World in Arizona from December 27th through December 31st of 2017. Held during the school calendar winter break, the event is used to develop, evaluate and test the best boys high school players in the country along with the next generation. This year’s camp is the largest in years with 184 athletes, 33 coaches, trainers and other staff; including appearances by Men’s Eagles’ Ryan Matyas and Brett Thompson.
Camp, which is split into Varsity (1999s and 2000s) and Junior Varsity (2001s, 2002-03s) teams, will feature Rugby Canada’s U18 squad of 50 players and coaches, providing an element of international play that furthers the development of the players. Boys HSAA Head Coach Salty Thompson shares the same philosophy as Rugby Canada U18 Head Coach Mike Curran, applauding Curran’s participation in the program.
“I want to thank Mike Curran and Rugby Canada for joining us in camp,” said Thompson. “The collaboration between us has been great and we both share the desire to improve and test ourselves.”
The Boys High School All-American varsity squad will play a four game series against Canada, with two games on December 28th (2 PM and 3:30 PM MST); along with two matches on December 31st with early starts (8:30 AM and 10 AM MST).
While playing Canada adds a bonus to camp, the focus will still remain on prioritizing individual player advancement as opposed to only highlighting team performance. Though arriving late on the first day (Dec. 27) and playing the following afternoon may present competitive challenges, the opportunity to sample international competition is tremendously exciting for those involved.
The Junior Varsity U16 and U17 teams will train to develop core skills, units and teams to play inter-squad games with the overall goal of providing a valuable and fully-engaging learning experience.
Head Coach Salty Thompson understands how this dynamic is especially important to his athletes and their future progression in the rugby world.
“The earlier the boys are introduced to a high performance environment the better,” says Thompson. “It gives them a taste of the lifestyle and standards needed to excel at a competitive level.”
In addition to physical training, Camp will also involve classroom sessions devoted to college preparation with guest Karen Fong Donoghue from Ruggers Edge; as well as Strength and Conditioning work and mental skills training.
LOS ANGELES, CA – After a successful and exciting 2017 season, Super Rugby will make its debut in the United States on Friday, Feb. 3 at StubHub Center in Los Angeles when the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers travel to Southern California for a preseason matchup, featured LIVE on The Rugby Channel. Tickets for the match, part of International Rugby Saturday, begin at just under $28 and are currently available for sale by visiting usarugby.org/tickets.
Undeniably an entertaining event, Super Rugby brings a highly anticipated dynamic to a Southern California market that has seen tremendous growth in rugby over the past year. With participation and overall interest in the sport continuously rising, the Bulls and Stormers have the opportunity to target an engaged community, showcasing an elite level of play and advancing the sport as a whole.
Dan Lyle, Director of AEG Rugby — who worked directly with Super Rugby to bring the event to America — was enthusiastic about how International Rugby Saturday will impact the U.S. market.
“Super Rugby not only represents 5 countries with strong rugby pedigrees who have cultural ties to the United States; as a league, it represents a dynamic style of the sport that will appeal to U.S. sports fans,” said Lyle.
A former Eagle himself, playing from 1994-2003, Lyle understands the many facets of sport consumption and how the event will serve as an important highlight to one of them.
“While the broadcast of sport is paramount, experiencing the pace and power of rugby first hand and in person is second to none,” says Lyle.
Originally beginning with 12 teams, Super Rugby, also known as SANZAR Rugby, formed in 1996 by representatives in three strong rugby markets including New Zealand, South Africa and Australia (SANZAR). SANZAR’s goal was to capitalize on interest in the professionalism of the sport by providing a premiere international program that featured a superior level of competition. Since then, broadcasters, fans and countries around the globe have seen an extensive value in Super Rugby, expressing their desire to establish new teams, broaden viewership and attend events.
From the early 2000s, SANZAR has seen a rise in Super Rugby that expanded its offering from 12 teams by the end of 2005 to 18 at the start of 2017 with Japan and Argentina joining the rotation. In order to balance the interest from new and existing markets, continuing to ensure an efficient business model for future success, SANZAR introduces a new structure of play for the 2018 season.
Reducing competition to 15 teams while preserving their expansion into the Asian and Argentinian markets, Super Rugby will begin 2018 with two less teams from South Africa and one less from Australia. In their renewed model, each franchise will play opponents in their conference twice (one home, one away), as well as four teams from the remaining two conferences (two each) to accumulate points in their overall hunt towards a Finals Series run.
Rivals from the Africa 1 Conference, the Bulls and the Stormers play each other twice every season, with the Stormers taking the last two matches for a
37-24 and 41-33 victory. Serving as 2 of 15 teams in Super Rugby, the Stormers and Bulls join other premiere teams from New Zealand, Argentina, Japan and Australia to comprise a franchise that has represented a model for successful advancement of the sport throughout the world.
The contest between the Bulls and the Stormers will mark the first Super Rugby match in the United States. Impressive growth in the sport through Southern California, paired with the success of Super Rugby, creates an atmosphere that is sure to entice audiences at StubHub center.
Former Men’s Eagles Head Coach and current Head Coach of the Vodacom Bulls, John Mitchell looks forward to returning to the United States.
“This trip comes at a vital time for us, as we will be far into our pre-season preparations for the 2018 season and there’s no doubt that members of our squad will be looking to assert themselves,” said Mitchell. “Rugby lovers attending the double header, can expect to be entertained by these to Super Rugby giants.”
Kickoff between the Bulls and Stormers is set for 3 PM PT at StubHub Center in Los Angeles, California on Fri, Feb. 3, with tickets available for sale starting at just under $28. The contest will precede the opening match of the Americas Rugby Championship between defending champion United States and runner-up Argentina XV at 5 PM PT. Both matchups will be featured LIVE on The Rugby Channel with updates available by following @USARugby on Twitter.
“No means no, Ray, I won’t repeat myself again. You’re not good enough,” said the prop-like varsity basketball coach at Lewis & Clark College to me: a scrawny freshman from the surrounding Portland, Oregon, area who learned basketball at a remote boarding school nestled in the mountainous wilderness of northwestern Montana. This trying moment of rejection followed hours after I showed up to the gym just before practice started, an offense the coach would never forgive me for as I developed into a skilled hooper who, year-after-year, tried out for (and never made) the varsity basketball squad. Instead – besides a stint walking onto the varsity golf team, studies in philosophy and Chinese, a passion for music, and various extracurricular activities – there was one activity I unexpectedly came to love and continue loving beyond college: rugby union.
A Fijian international student with the L&C rugby club in my Mandarin language studies class sized me up and decided I was worth inviting to train with the men’s team. I didn’t hesitate to try as someone fairly open to new experiences. Still, I lacked confidence handling the egg-shaped ball with which these college ruggers were so skilled; I hadn’t played contact sports since grade school, and my head was in the clouds trying to fit a round peg into a square hole (me and L&C’s varsity basketball squad, respectively).
But something kept drawing me back. Despite my knock-ons, high tackles, boring moments in the back three (few opposing teams were versed at kicking making backfield defense a rather sleepy activity), and frustration with my other athletic pursuits, I always found joy coming to rugby practice and seeing the same friendly faces that genuinely wanted me to be part of their group. Our coach was helpful, the players were nice and the overall culture nurtured a positive social environment for new and old ruggers alike. Additionally, I found rugby everywhere I went: when I studied abroad in China, I flew to Hong Kong to see the 7s tournament for my birthday – a suggestion one of my rugby teammates at L&C made whose family in Hong Kong put me up there for free (no such international connections to speak of with the varsity basketball squad). In Beijing at Capital Normal University where I practiced basketball with their college team, Beijing’s local Samoan club, the Beijing Brothers, picked me up to play in one of their weekend tournaments. So, #WhyRugby? Well, rugby was calling me, not the other way around.
Did we win any rugby championships at L&C? Nope. Was I always a starter? Not until my senior year. Were there injuries? Inevitably. Nevertheless, my collegiate introduction to rugby union was unforgettable, forever hooking me on the sport. Our coach even welcomed me to play with his club – the ORSU Rugby Jesters, or Oregon Sports Union, boasting its own several-acre farm property complete with field, uprights, stands and even housing. So, since graduating, I’ve continued playing the sport and expanding my skills. Nowadays, I not only play the game, but I also watch the game, I read news about the game and I intend to pursue further opportunities in the game such as refereeing and coaching.
The chip on my shoulder from basketball only motivates me to become a better member of the rugby community, a community I firmly intend to be part of for the rest of my life. One day I hope to have enough disposable income to significantly support and grow the men’s club at Lewis & Clark, so some scrawny freshman distracted with other activities will learn quicker than I did: #WhyRugby, the sport drawing people like me to a game built on Integrity, Passion, Solidarity, Discipline and Respect. There exists no other such activity, and for this reason rugby will always hold a special place in my heart. That is my #WhyRugby story.
Ray shared his #WhyRugby story. Now it’s your turn. Click here to tell us what rugby means to you, and be sure to follow USA Rugby Trust on Facebook and Twitter to see other stories like this one.