Stay in the Game: Encouraging Player Retention in the United States
The state of rugby in the US
USA Rugby is experiencing a rapid growth in the number of youth participating in rugby. An increase in the range of participatory opportunities, from tag and flag rugby, to 7s and 15s, has led to an influx of experienced high school and college rugby players looking for opportunities to continue in the game.
Unfortunately, the sport continues to struggle with a lack of coaches and clubs providing structure at the next level. Not coincidentally, many senior clubs are dealing with declining numbers. Many young players aren’t aware of the college and club opportunities in their region and don’t follow much rugby outside of their own teams. USA Rugby has found that many young players are leaving the game after college, and even more are deciding to call it quits after high school. A lack of connection between these levels of competition is one factor to look at.
So what’s the solution?
Do you remember what was it like when you started playing rugby? Maybe you showed up with a friend, or you knew someone on the team and decided to give it a try. However, if you showed up to the first day without knowing anyone, what made you return? After your first season, what led you to continue?
Very likely there was a veteran player, or coach, who took you under his or her wing and provided encouragement and support–somebody keen on sharing the game that he or she enjoyed with a great deal of passion, who was willing to help you feel a part of the team and who encouraged you to stay in the game.
As you learned more about the game and discovered that the national team or professional career was not in your future, what was it that kept you coming back for another season? The answer for most participants: just playing for the love of the game is enough.
To a large extent the success of rugby has always been due to players giving back to the game. To young players, the veterans may serve a dual role of coach and mentor, both critical components in player retention and recruitment.
If you really love the game and believe it has been good to you, then give back by teaching others what you have learned. Contact a college or high school rugby program in your region. Find out how you may be of assistance. A young coach may seek advice in certain skills or in how to structure a practice. A specific position or unit might be open to a technical session. There are ways to share skills or secrets learned over the years without a large time commitment on your part. Sport is not about ‘victory at all costs’ but instead, teaching values. Give back to the game, embrace community, and help to make a difference.
Current and Future Coaches
Without you, there wouldn’t be a game. Coaching is one of the most crucial factors in getting people involved in rugby and maintaining their interest in the sport.
If you’re just getting started as a coach, please take a look at the links below. Eventually we hope to expand this section to provide helpful tips on the roles filled by a coach, highlight accomplishment of top women’s coaches across the country as well as abroad, and share information about opportunities to assist in your development as a coach.
- Sharing your knowledge and experience, making rugby fun and giving everyone a go. It’s about teaching discipline, fair play and skills that will help athletes in all aspects of their lives.
- Playing an important role in making sure your athletes learn to enjoy rugby.
- A great way to express your passion for rugby, to further your own participation in the sport, and to enrich the lives of your players.
What do you need to become a rugby coach?
Register as a USA Rugby Coach (required).
Before you can start coaching, USA Rugby requires that you register as a coach. Once registered, you must complete the requirements outlined on the USA Rugby Coaches section (usarugby.org/coaching).
The USA Rugby Coaching courses will provide an understanding of how to deliver a safe and enjoyable practical session, including techniques in coaching scrums, line out throws/support, tackling, ball-handling skills — the basics which will allow you to develop your own coaching philosophy and approach to the game. As you progress through the levels of qualifications you can take a variety of other courses that explore areas of coaching youth, 7s rugby, nutrition, match/tactical analysis, and strength and conditioning.
Complete the Rugby Ready program (suggested).
The Rugby Ready program was developed by World Rugby to raise awareness of good practice and help stakeholders manage the inherent risks of a contact sport by putting appropriate safeguards in place. The Rugby Ready website is a powerful online resource that you can register to use for free. You can use the site to build, refresh and test your knowledge of the physical aspects of the Game. Registration is free and takes only a few minutes.
Good luck this season.
Current and Future Referees
Thanks for stopping by this page and taking the time to learn more about refereeing. Apart from playing it is one of the most satisfying contributions you can make to the game of rugby, and one of the most important–every game needs a ref.
Refereeing is rewarding, a great way to stay fit and a chance to give something back to the game you love. The only prerequisite is a love of the game and a pair of boots. There is a great need for women’s referees and USA Rugby has a referee department ready to assist in your growth and development. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to have the best seat in the house, register today!
As this page expands, we hope to provide helpful tips, information on upcoming events and opportunities, tools to assist in your development, and space to highlight accomplishments of female referees within the States as well as abroad. So stop by again soon!
Commonly asked questions about becoming a referee.
Why should I become a referee?
Refereeing a competitive and close game of rugby is one of the most exhilarating things you can do. The pressure of making the correct decision in an instant is a huge adrenalin rush for most referees. You could join that band of decision makers!
Some of the reasons why people take up refereeing include:
- To remain active in the game.
- To give something back to the sport.
- Having an injury that stops the person from being a player.
- Realizing that they may reach higher honors as a match official than as a player.
- The enjoyment of being involved in one of the greatest team sports.
What is a USA Rugby Referee?
A USA Rugby referee is a certified referee who works to ensure player welfare and a fair game for both teams. He or she has demonstrated an understanding of the laws of the game and is committed to professional development.
Is there an age limit?
Generally the earlier you start refereeing, the better, however it is never too late to become a great referee. The upper limit is often governed only by the person’s fitness and desire to continue. It’s increasingly common for players at high-school or college to take up the whistle as they find themselves wanting to stay involved in the game, but not necessarily interested in being an active player.
What’s a good way to start?
Complete the IRB Rugby Ready program. A free online resource, Rugby Ready can be used to build, refresh and test your knowledge of the physical aspects of the Game.
How do I find games to officiate in my area?
To find games to officiate in your area, please visit the USA Rugby Referees Contact Page. Scroll down the page you to see the contact closest to your area.
How much time does it take?
Depending on which leagues and age groups you decide to get involved with, you can expect to referee one game per weekend during the season at a minimum. Like playing the game, fitness and a comprehensive understanding of the laws take time as well. Most referees are also required to attend referee society meetings as well.
What previous experience do I need?
People with previous playing experience have an advantage over someone who has never played, but this is not a limiting factor. If you’re prepared to put in the effort, watch local games and matches on TV, and follow a training program, there’s no doubt you can become a competent referee.
What is the training program?
There are a series of core courses that need to be completed before you take up the whistle. Details on these requirements are found on the USA Rugby Referee website.
Why should I take a referee certification course/ become certified?
USA Rugby certification courses prepare you to manage games while maintaining the players’ best interests. Without certification, you can not officiate games that lead to a National Championship. Level I certification verifies that you have been educated in an International Rugby Board course and are endorsed by USA Rugby.
Do I get paid?
Refereeing at the school or club level is largely amateur with no pay-for-whistle fees in place. However, most schools and local referees societies provide financial remuneration in the form of travel allowances or subsidized clothing and equipment to offset the costs of refereeing. Should you arrive at the professional referee level, there is, in addition to being paid, the opportunity for international travel, often staying in some of the best hotels and in exotic locations. At the top it is can be a well paid and extremely rewarding occupation.
Can I become a Test / Olympic referee?
The reality is that there are far fewer Test referees than international rugby players, so to make it to the very top is a long road to travel. But it can be done and USA Rugby has produced some high level male and female referees.
It all starts with small steps. Once you have been accepted as a member of the local referees society, your success is largely in your own hands. You’ll be expected to start at the bottom and work your way through the ranks. With hard work and some good fortune, it’s possible to end up as a Test and/or an Olympic referee.
Stay in the Game
Stay in the Game is a new USA Rugby program, funded by the iRB’s Impact Beyond grant, with a goal of increasing the number of girls and women participating in rugby as players, coaches and referees. Common barriers to girls continuing beyond youth or high school rugby programs include a perceived lack of opportunity and a lack of female role models. Stay in the Game activities are designed to provide a fun environment that encourages involvement of friends, creation of social networks, introduction to opportunities for women in rugby as well as introduction to female rugby role models.
March 14th, 2015