Friday, December 16, 2011

National Championship 2012

USA Rugby has revamped the girls National Championships. 2011 will be a level-playing field with high school-only athletes playing. Prior to that, following USA Rugby decisions for their two years running the event, some teams such as Fallbrook and the Amazons competed as u-19 teams, in the same bracket as purely high school teams.

The event date has also been moved up to May 12-13 at Stanford University, to coincide with the women's collegiate playoffs. The event will no longer coincide with the boys. It remains to be seen how that affects the event. A chance to see Highland boys play, for example, and to see the level of professionalism in programs at that level creates a great atmosphere. On the other hand, the girls won't be second fiddle at the event ... they won't be placed on "the back field." The level of professionalism for the women's collegiate teams will be impressive too though. Combining the collegiate and high school girls events should boost the number of people in the stands for the girls games. That alone is a good thing.

The other significant change is that the event is an invitational, similar to NCAA March Madness, where certain teams get "bids" from a committee. The Midwest Regional is not an automatic qualifier anymore. In some ways, this isn't as big of a change for the rest of the country. Few regions had a true regional championship like the Midwest does. No other region holds an event with six to seven other state champions taking part. In some regions it appeared that teams from other states couldn't agree on when to play or where and when they did, there were concerns over fairness, equity, and complaints about having to travel to play bigger games.

An application and $50, gets you on the list for the High School National Championships Committee, made up of some noteable youth coaches and a few administrators and media. According to their press release, "The Committee agreed early on that long-term success on the field, combined with strong organizational and administrative abilities, are the main criteria through which the clubs will be judged. Clubs who are invited will be expected to put forth a $1,500 deposit, which will go toward their National Championship expenses."

A notable concern is if the event will truely be a championship. How will the committee take into account up-and-coming teams and programs that in the past could prove they were better on the field in a qualifier. Would Brookfield have even been considered if this was the system in place in 2010? Yet, they defeated past national participants Vernon and Lakewood to advance to Utah, where they then defeated Portland, Maine as they ended up 4th overall at Nationals.

A mark of the National Tournament's success has been the number of different programs that have benefited from the experience. Wisconsin alone has had FIVE programs participate:
-Kettle Moraine

There was not an announcement about whether there will be two brackets or one. A decision is apparently pending. It might depend on the number of teams that apply, although one wonders if more teams would apply if they knew there would be two divisions.

Since USA Rugby has run the event it's been an 8-team tournament. Prior to that the Nationals event peeked at three brackets of eight, for a total field of 24 teams in three tiers. Interestingly, according to Rugby Mag's most recent team census, the number of girls teams has doubled in the last five years.

The Committee Includes:

Chairman – Mike Tolkin
USA Rugby Rep – Kurt Weaver
Press Rep – Alex Goff, RugbyMag
USA National Girls – Bryn Chivers
USA National Boys – Salty Thompson
Girls Coach – Marin Pinnell, Fallbrook
Girls Coach – John Klein, Divine Savior
Girls Coach – Brad Rockwood, West Carroll
Boys Coach – Lee Kelly, Gonzaga (Single School)
Boys Coach – Bart Bottorff, Penn (Single School)
Boys Coach – Stephen Edwards, Union County (Multi School)

The window to apply is December 15 through January 16.

To apply, click on this link:

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