Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Varsity Status for Girls Rugby

The new USA Rugby website (http://www.usarugby.org/) has a section devoted to USARFU's push for varsity status for high school girls rugby. This is an off-shoot of the Union's push for NCAA status for Collegiate Women's rugby. As a coach of a high school girls' team, I applaud the dedication of resources to promoting the women's game. But, I have concerns about the consequences.

The WIAA, Wisconsin's high school athletics governing body, has its own set of regulations governing high school sports. This may lead to inconsistencies between the current practice here in Wisconsin (i.e. a Fall season for rankings within the state and a Spring season for touring and participation in Mid-west/National tournaments). This type of system could be eliminated by WIAA rules which may prohibit out-of-season play.

In my mind, here are advantages to seeking WIAA membership:
  • Part of a pre-existing structure to help organize/standardized administration;
  • Legitimacy within schools to facilitate recruiting players;
  • Access to school resources and funding.

However, there are some serious draw backs:

  • Inability of high school teams to compete in territorial and national competitions;
  • WIAA discourages (but does allow) multi-school teams for areas where no team is available;
  • The team becomes linked to school district budgetary needs (e.g., the Waukesha School District is thinking about eliminating ALL extra-curricular activities and sports ).

USA rugby appears to think that high school varsity status is a natural result of or beneficial to its goal of NCAA status for collegiate women. However, looking at the soccer model suggests that varsity status is not necessary as a feeder system for collegiate programs. The best recruits for soccer (at least in this area) come not from high school varsity squads, but from community based select side teams. Varsity soccer is usually a step down from the club soccer.

By pushing an agenda of varsity rugby for high school girls, we are ultimately pushing towards a two tier system (club rugby and varsity rugby) similar to soccer. This may not be a bad result if it means more exposure to rugby for everyone. However, this presupposes that we in the rugby community have the capacity to support this level of involvement in terms of qualified referees and coaches. On the other hand, if the push for varsity status back-fires, varsity girls rugby within a WIAA structure could eliminate the more flexible club rugby. This would be a real loss to the club rugby programs because national tournaments and touring opportunities have been a real recruiting tool for local teams. Perhaps the better question is not how do we push for varsity status, but how do we collectively build support to grow the current club system? What do we need to grow high school rugby?

I would suggest that the answers will vary from state to state. Now that USARFU has broached this important subject, it is up to local clubs to carry on the dialouge and find solutions that work for local communities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting but complete crap. This post is not even worth reading but more entertaining for a laugh. I will make sure to forward this to US lacrosse who actively pursues varsity status and look at the benefits...oh wait, you probably don't know enough about other sports to even compare.

If this guy honestly believes that rugby could not benefit the way that other sports have from having a high school varsity system then he is obviously another rugby volunteer afraid for the expansion of females in this sport because he still wants to control every aspect and not have state high school associations involved. It's a shame because there really are alot of good volunteers out there that dedicate their time and ACTUALLY WANT opportunity to grow.

People that feel this way are just another shining example of why rugby is not a credible sport in this country and soccer, softball and lacrosse are.

Go ahead and keep complaining out of fear because you have no idea what structred sports looks like, and the potential and exposure it can provide. You're just another rugby blogger who should stick to his full-time job and stop being an overzealous volunteer who believe they own the sport. It's not the kids, it's people like you who make other sports just laugh at rugby.

If I have a 5 year old daughter I would want and demand the same benefits and structure the other sports receive. Forget the fact about out of season competition and all that junk you mentioned. The structure provided is so great that the U-19 girls team just went all over the world to get their behinds whipped and still the head coach says the results were great. I'm glad the coach accepts losing so gracefully.
The fact that the kids are provided a few camps and a national team jersey is about all the benefit these kids will ever see. My daughter will be playing soccer or softball unless the system somehow gets a clue and stops letting people like "Dan" attempt to control what I would want to see for MY DAUGHTER.

Very nice one sided article and way to slam USA Rugby for the 50 millionth time because no one ever does that, VERY original. Get some new material champ.