The National All-Star Competition

This article is part of the USA Women’s Eagles blog. All entries are written exclusively by members of the women’s national team.

Hopefully everyone has seen the change in the WNT pathway that was announced this week. It is a significant change in how players will be identified and then developed to be international rugby players in 7s and 15s. Fundamentally the change is that the Women’s Eagles, College All-Americans and Junior All-Americans have combined into one program. This comes with some major changes to the pathway:

  • Much broader selection opportunities for players to be seen. The Women’s National Team program will be recruiting for all levels of play, basically 18+. The National Recruiting Festivals are open to all players and cross-over athletes.
  • Players will be available to play and move more freely between teams so they can compete for multiple teams in the pathway, maximizing the opportunity to develop
  • Aligned talent identification and development opportunities with the USA Rugby Academy, High School All-Americans and National Development Academies – which are being launched this year.
  • The launch of a super-club level of play with the National All-Star Competition (NASC).

There has been some confusion with the new National All-Star Competition and the old National All-Star Championship. There are obviously similarities in the name and the essential player identification goals, but the key difference is the united approach to player selection and identification from the new USA Women’s National Team Pathway. The old Championship was run by Territorial Unions and had initially 4 and then 8 teams (split into 2 tiers). There were Championships for senior women, U23 and eventually U19s. It provided a broad selection process as well as an opportunity for coaches to get a higher level of experience. As both a player and a coach at the old NASCs there were strengths and weaknesses of the structure. However, it was the prime way for players to be seen and for coaches to develop.

The new Competition is designed to provide both of those outcomes, but this time within the USA Women’s National Team pathway. There will be 3 NASCs each year (June/August/January) and at each there will be different levels of play – senior, CAA and JAA. Players will be identified at the various official selection vehicles throughout the year and invited to the camp. Players selected during this process will be broken into teams and will compete on an even playing field, through a week long competition that is run as close to an international event as possible. Coaches will be recruited to coach these teams as part of a new Elite Coach Development Program – look for a launch shortly.

So while the new NASC is not the same as the old NASC it will provide the same opportunities for coaches and players.

USA Rugby Referees in South Africa

In November 2014, USA Rugby Referees’ management, Richard Every and Brittany Jacobs, visited South Africa to attend the SA Rugby Referees Camp in Vanderbijlpark, near Johannesburg. The camp included the top 30 referees in the country (with international referees Craig Joubert, Jaco Peyper, Stuart Berry, and Lourens van der Merwe), management (Andre Watson and Mark Lawrence), TMOs, and administrators, and was run over three-and-a-half days.

“It is very important for us to ensure that we maintain a large network internationally and that we are always on the pulse of the latest trends, law applications, and interpretations,” said Every. “In addition, everyone that’s involved in the game knows that we are all forever learning, whether we are players, coaches, referees, reviewers, etc., the learning never stops, especially as the game continually evolves.”

Every presented his Balance in the Game presentation to the group, which will also be featured at the 2015 National Development Summit in Chicago Jan. 24. Richard said, “It is important to calibrate internationally and know that we are all on the same page sharing the same message.”

USA Rugby Referees have had an exchange program with South Africa since 2011. This year will see their women’s referee, Aimee Barrett, refereeing at the USA Rugby College Sevens Championships and Club Championships. At the end of February, Kurt Weaver, one of the top USA Rugby Referees, will be in South Africa refereeing Vodacom Cup matches. Also, since the start of the Shanagher Morrison Fund, USA Rugby Referees have been sending development referees annually to the SA Referee Academy at Stellenbosch University.

The relationship USA Rugby Referees has with SA Referees has benefited both countries as the U.S. assists South Africa in developing women’s referees – the very first exchange in 2011, Marlize Jordaan, refereed at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014. They are committed to help USA Rugby Referees develop toward the international stage.