Monday, May 14, 2007

Updates: College Rugby America aka EIU

Rather than repost to the comments, I'm bringing this back to the top. Original post is here.

It seems that someone with inner knowledge of the Eastern Illinois program has posted in defense of the comments on www.collegerugbyamerica.com, though that individual chooses to post as "Anonymous". From the content and tenor of your posts, Anonymous, it seems as if you must be someone with the program, so why don't you let us know who you are?

In summary, this individual states that there is no disrespect intended to the "clubs", but until state sports organizations manage rugby as they do other high school sports, the term "high school rugby" can't be used. Likewise, in colleges across the country where rugby is managed as a club sport, the term "college rugby" can't be used.

This claim was backed up by a response to a query to the webmaster at collegerugbyamerica.com ...

"In order to be considered high school rugby, the term must consist of
possession of high school varsity teams who are sponsored by a state
athletic association. Currently, here are no high school varsity girls
rugby teams in the U.S. All information is absolutely correct. High
school age club rugby exists all over the country yes, but the term
high school rugby is not valid as high school track, high school soccer
or high school lacrosse is."

That's interesting ... I had no idea that those terms were copyrighted. Who exactly owns the copyright to "Girls High School Rugby"? Who owns the copyright to "College Rugby"? GIVE ME A BREAK! Stop the BS. Fix the site and represent the state of the sport accurately.

FYI the email response also had no name attached to it - just "webmaster@collegerugbyamerica.com". He or she who is speaking for rugby in America, identify yourself!

OK, I'm being to judgmental. Let's give Anonymous the benefit of the doubt. Let's let the NCAA tell us what the state of the sport is in the United States. I went to the NCAA site entered "rugby" as a search term. It came back with two pages.

The first refers specifically to the state of rugby in the USA, and provides information on it as an NCAA emerging sport.

Level of Participation (high school club/college club):
3,225 girls participating in high school club rugby.
11,000 women collegiate club rugby players.
347 total women's collegiate rugby clubs.

What's this? People are playing rugby? I WOULD HOPE SO, OTHERWISE WHY WOULD THE NCAA NAME IT AS AN EMERGING SPORT? Coach Graziano's statements on collegerugbyamerica.com that he MUST recruit athletes for rugby from other sports, because there IS NO GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL RUGBY IN THE USA, is completely mis representative and misleading. The NCAA has no problem telling the world how many players participate in club and college rugby at the high school and collegiate level, why do you? And yes, Anonymous, i can see that they say "High School Club", and Collegiate Club". I get the distinction, it's about the word CLUB. The point is, they are not saying "THERE IS NO GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL RUGBY", like collegerugbyamerica.com is. The NCAA is telling the truth.

The NCAA site also says this, on the same page:

Remarks: Rugby is one of the largest and continually growing club sports in the United States with almost 350 collegiate women's clubs already in existence. USA Rugby currently provides start-up kits to assist newly formed clubs become successful on-campus teams. In addition, the International Olympic Committee Program Commission has recommended rugby be added as an Olympic sport for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

I get where you are coming from, Anonymous. Varsity, varsity, varsity. That's excellent! I totally support the movement of rugby into a varsity model. But not this way. Varsity programs need to make the sport better, not worse. You state in your comments that "rugby is currently a non-sanctioned club sport at all levels". It's a TOTALLY SANCTIONED CLUB SPORT! Universities with rugby CLUBS manage them through club sports offices, CIPP their players, oversee budget and fund raising activities, manage coaches, and YES, even have "codes of conduct". This is not 20 years go. Club sports, rugby specifically, is NOT what it used to be.

Let's keep digging. One of the things that varsity rugby has always come up against was the idea that it's participants can't play select sides or for the USA. I know from my own personal experience that players at a particular institution were told they could not participate in the USA U19 program, because it was "against NCAA bylaws". REALLY...

Here, according to the NCAA web site, are the "PROPOSED" laws for rugby.

There are in fact some specifications about not playing "amateur rugby" during the school year. But scroll down a little further ...

17.18.8.1.2.2 Olympic and National Team Development Program

There are no limits on the number of student-athletes from the same institution who may participate in Olympic and national team development programs. Such programs may also include a coach and student-athlete from the same institution, provided:

(a) The national governing body (NGB) conducts and administers the developmental program;

(b) The NGB selects coaches involved in the developmental program; and

(c) The NGB or the selected coaches select the involved participants. (Revised: 2/21/02)

WOW! National Team Development programs? You mean like the NASC? Seriously? I'm willing to bet there are some athletes at EIU who would love the chance to represent their country. This is great news!

So just one last detail...

Anonymous says in his or her post that "No club team, in any sport can come close to matching the fitness and athleticism of a NCAA sport."

When challenged by AOF to explain a lost to Texas A&M (a group of "less athletic club players), Anonymous cited that a top scorers was injured. PLEASE! How about just acknowledging that Texas A&M were better. No, rather than acknowledging that perhaps the athletes at Texas A&M were as good or better, Anonymous gave the Texas A&M coach the kudos .. "the Texas A&M coach is very talented and a great guy." I'm sure he's a terrific coach, but don't some of those "club athletes" deserve SOME of the credit? Why is it so hard to acknowledge that at least some club athletes work and train as hard as varsity athletes?

Anonymous goes on to direct us to the EIU website where we can read about EIU's awesome season and record breaking statistics. I was expecially impressed by the "124-0 thrashing" of the Spartans. Hopefully those terrific athletes (and don't get me wrong - there is no doubt there are some great athletes) that are coming to rugby from other sports to play at EIU will get a chance to challenge themselves in hard games against great competition, and possibly even get a chance to represent their country, since the NCAA says they can!

11 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Clearly, my comments were not read as intended. I wrote to note the difference between 'varsity' and 'club' rugby. There is a major difference between the two.

But, first, let me say that I am not affiliated with the EIU rugby program, nor do I run the site. I have spent some time with the team a few years ago. I am trying to write a book on women's rugby, a sport that deserves a chance to go NCAA so young women will have another athletic opportunity.

Rugby is a graceful, powerful, beautiful sport, one that more people should get the opportunity to watch. I have also spoken with dozens and dozens of players and coaches on 'club teams,' most of whom were pleasant, candid and appreciative of the opportunity to play. But most of these players also wished they could compete for an NCAA program, too. I hope they can some day. They are good kids. And most coaches have been equally kind and helpful folks. I wish them all the best.


(As I stated, I have so far read very little on the College Rugby America site. I have read just a few items, actually.)

But some club teams and players are fooling themselves and others by continuing to call rugby a college sport. To continue to say that club ruggers play "college rugby" is disingenuous. For example, were someone to say: "I played college basketball at Michigan," one would assume this person played for the Wolverines' NCAA team, not some club team on campus. Some rugby players want to believe they are training and playing at the same level as other NCAA Division I athletes. That is simply not the case. The training is more rigorous, and the coaches and trainers are more skilled and knowledgeable than for any club sport. The varsity world is vastly different than the club world in so many other ways. I would hope club players would like to move toward this varsity model, not impede the process. (I have found this to be the case in conversations during the past several years.)

That's why the more experienced rugby coaches at club programs should get on board, working with athletic directors on campuses to help support USA Rugby's initiative. I've spoken with more than a few coaches who seem to know rugby well (such as the coaches at Texas A&M, Ohio State and Eastern.) Let those who know rugby best work with those who know organized sports best (NCAA officials, athletic directors) to help propel the sport where it rightly ought to be - as a prominent national sport.

Until rugby gains NCAA status as a varsity sport, the sport will not be taken as seriously as the other NCAA sanctioned sports (by both fanatical and casual sports fans).

In Rugby magazine a few years ago, Michael Sagehorn (then the USA Rugby Youth Chair) said as much: "Until our game is an effective, functioning and integral part of the high school scholastic/athletic experience, rugby participant numbers will remain flat and growth will remain in single digits."

Right now, not a single state holds a championship for rugby. Check out the state high school athletic associations sites for yourself. That means these teams are not recognized by a single state's governing body. Further, that means that high schools are not recognizing or sponsoring the sport either (aside from a few private schools.) The looser approach taken by some club teams can lead to problems, such as the one where a high school player in Pittsburgh was killed when he played games against older teams. Parents do not want to send their kids out to play for teams and groups that do not have stringent rules or oversight.

I know ruggers have a rebellious streak on many points. (Rebelliousness is not always a bad trait, unlike stubbornness.) But rugby's leaders need to realize that some compromise is needed in order to improve play and to elevate the sport.

Right now, rugby is not recognized as a serious sport in this country, otherwise we would have a push to make it a sanctioned high school sport, as lacrosse, bowling and -- even -- (geez) competitive cheerleading have emerged. In fact, rugby has a poor reputation for its alleged violent nature on and off the field among casual fans, parents, athletic directors and principals. Check out how many college rugby sites post pictures of drinking, stories about sexual encounters, and a steady stream of cursing. That does not help the sport's image.

Rugby is an emerging sport right now, but that status expires in several years. Right now, there are only four teams on the list, not nearly enough to get the sport elevated to NCAA status. Rugby's leaders need to make an organized effort to show athletic directors how rugby can be a part of a larger sports organization, run in the same professional manner as soccer, baseball and football.

I do not have the answers on the best ways to do this. That needs to come from conversations among athletic directors, rugby coaches, and USA Rugby's college program director. Perhaps, the web site cited on this blog will help propel the conversation -- even if most disagree on the statements made. Perhaps, not. At least a conversation is taking place here.

I wish all the best.

Kentucky said...

Hey "anonymous," you mentioned that high school rugby does not have any state championships, but you didn't care to mention that there is a National Championship that is extremely competetive...

Kentucky said...

And just out of curiousity, "anonymous", since you say that the coaches and trainers are always more skilled at the varsity level than at the club level, then would you say that EIU's coach then is the best one in the country?? Better than, say, the USA women's national team coach?? Or perhaps even the men's national team coach??? Because surely some USA Rugby "club" coach (despite the fact that he's done extensive work with the All Blacks), couldn't be better trained and more knowledgeable than a "Varsity" coach in middle-of-nowhere Illinois. And really, what right do you have to say how hard any of the club athletes train? Are you there for their 6am conditioning? Are you there for their lifting sessions?? Are you there when they spend hours of their own personal time (without the benefit of scholarships or endorsements) perfecting skills??? It's very true that for many club players, rugby is just that...being part of a club. But for the top teams in the country (most of whom EIU does not play against) rugby is a very, very serious thing. Try asking those Penn State girls about their "recreational athlete" training. I'll bet they did more than twiddle their thumbs to come away with a National Championship. And the thing is, for those working the hardest in the game, we're doing it not only for our teams but to have a chance to play at the highest international level. The workout schedules many of us endure in order to have that chance are extremely grueling - much more so in fact than what I see the Varsity soccer athletes doing next to me as they giggle and complain to their "highly skilled trainer" in the mornings...

Support EIU all you want - that's fine. Just don't demean and misrepresent the rest of us in the process. Until that program looks to play the best teams in the country, and not the ones it can trounce all over, nothing can be said of "Varsity Rugby" really. The reason club rugby is different than say, "club basketball" is because for the most part, THERE IS NO VARSITY rugby. That means we're it. All the best rugby players in America play club rugby because that's the top level. If club basketball were the top level for basketball in college then you can bet all the best basketball players woudl be playing club. That's just kind of the way it works...

As for me, I need to get some rest...otherwise I won't be rested enough to get up in the morning and condition for my "weekend hobby"...

em said...

Anonymous, please grace us with your name so that I can avoid buying your book. I am happy to support fellow ruggers, but not if the cost is paying money to read disingenuous arguments.

Meredith said...

As Alison commented on the earlier post, if the hosts of the College Rugby America website were merely to add the word "varsity" to many of the statements, the site would be considerably more accurate. This begs the question, "Why leave out that word?" The only plausible answer I can come up with is that it is the intended purpose of the site to mislead ill-informed readers and to misrepresent the state of women's rugby in this country in order to promote the EIU program.

Anonymous, not only have you severely undermined the credibility of your arguments by choosing to remain anonymous, but you have also failed to acknowledge the primary point that I think most of the other comments have made: the language used on the site disrespects thousands of women and men who have worked for decades to advance the state of all women's rugby in this country. Coach Graziano would not have any program at all were it not for the tireless efforts of club players and coaches at the youth, collegiate, and senior level. The statements, as written on the website, imply that EIU’s program owes nothing to the history of club rugby. That is offensive to me.

I imagine that Anonymous will want to reiterate his or her point that, in this country, to refer to a “college sport” or “high school sport” automatically implies the term varsity. That is not true for rugby. As Kentucky points out, club rugby is all that we have had. Club rugby has a long and varied history. Varsity rugby does not. Our club rugby history has led us to the current state where women’s rugby is an NCAA emerging sport. If you want to require the use of the term “club” to clarify when one is referring to club rugby, then be fair and require the use of the term “varsity” to clarify when one is referring to varsity rugby since, at this point in time, the former is far more prevalent than the latter.

Anonymous says, “Some rugby players want to believe they are training and playing at the same level as other NCAA Division I athletes. That is simply not the case.” This statement is so offensive I almost don’t know what to say. Anonymous, I’m sorry that you have not had the good fortune to meet and play with and against some of the women who do. The fact that they do this on their own time and without the help of expensive conditioning coaches and athletic trainers speaks to their personal drive and commitment. Are there thousands of rugby players who do not take their training seriously? Sure. But don’t denigrate those who do with such blatantly false generalizations.

Some in the women’s rugby community do not welcome the transition to NCAA varsity status, but many (I would even venture to say most) do. No one on this blog has argued against the transition. It is merely the misrepresentation of this transition on the College Rugby America website that offends so many of us.

Finally, I can’t help but point out that if Coach Graziano’s program is so well run and has such tremendous parental support thanks to his careful safety measures, then why is he having trouble keeping up the numbers to field a full team? My collegiate club team, Swarthmore, did not, nor does my senior club team, Philadelphia. Please don’t tell me it’s because of our casual, non-committal club atmosphere. My teammates and I have enough challenges training for national playoffs without dealing with more insults.

Dan said...

I'm glad someone caught this mistake about high school rugby on the college america site. I've been involved in high school girls rugby for 10 years and 3 players that I've coached have ended up attending EIU over the years. The idea that EIU would be party to a website which provides clearly false information is disappointing.

The statement that there is no high school girls rugby discourages, rather than encourages, its growth. Rather than embracing what exists and working to encourage growth, the statement on that website discourages participation.

What a shame.

ChiefCUA said...

While I have numerous comments and gripes over how Anonymous has insulted the vast majority of the rugby community, I cannot understand how s/he, and whoever is publishing ‘collegerugbyamerica.com’ can say that they want to promote rugby, and they want rugby to grow, yet they chose to do so by stepping on those that have worked (and continue to do so) to push their own ideals of what rugby is and what rugby is not. By simply adding the word “Varsity” to the title of a team, that does not make a team better, it does not make the coaching staff better, it does not make the team’s pockets bigger, and it most certainly does not make a TEAM! I had the great fortune of coaching a college women’s team for 7 years, during which time I saw the team go from its beginnings to becoming a competitive team with REAL rugby players. Last Summer, the Athletic Staff of the University, unbeknownst to me (the teams coach) looked into transitioning the team from “Club” to “Varsity.” At the end of the day, the benefits of becoming did not out weight the benefits of staying where we were at, A CLUB TEAM.
1) The coaching staff as a Varsity team would be the same… ME.
2) My players, who already worked with the University training staff (as well as summer rugby camps, skill set camps, and training sessions with senior womens teams) could now schedule private fitness sessions with the same trainers.
3) My players could visit the athletic trainers, but only after the soccer players, the football players, softball players, lacrosse players, and the list goes on. And if we wanted a trainer at practice or a game, we would have to pay out of our budget.
4) Our budget—well that was where we saw the big difference, rather than going up, we were going to take a huge cut and share a budget with the other 13 Varsity teams… hhhmm?
5) The only big thing my players would gain beyond the Varsity title was that in the eyes of people like Anonymous they could now call themselves ATHLETES!

And now, to bring in the giant pink elephant in the room, what about the college mens teams? There currently is not a plan on the table to start designating them as Varsity programs… does mean Anonymous that they don’t count? That until we have a Varsity title for them as well, we will have not had a Men’s College Rugby Team? You compare the Varsity athletes with the club players, but if you were to look at all 4 of the armed forces academies, you are going to find starting players who began their college career playing football or soccer, but transferred to the rugby team because of the challenge and the higher work rate. Now lets compare Div II to Div I teams… or even better Div I to Div III—I am sure athletes on ANY Div I team can argue that Div III varsity team are not “athletes” that they do not work as hard… so what then?

Men or women aside, if we are to grow the sport of rugby, we ALL need to acknowledge that the players who play this game that we LOVE, that the coaches who help build their programs (big or small, big name or no name) are here to compete. That is how we grow the sport!

Katy said...

i just can't get past some of the things anonymous says about rugby! i can't imagine someone writing a book about rugby who is going to treat the sport this poorly.

i played college rugby at penn state. (i always have and always will phrase it that way) anyone out there can call up any of the athletic trainers or fitness coaches at psu and ask them which of the athletes they train work the hardest. just because my lady lions and other ruggers in the college universe don't have the label varsity in front of their team name does not mean anonymous gets to claim anything about their work rate, professionalism, or dedication to athleticism. i, like em, will not be purchasing her book.

Kurt Weaver said...

Wow, that should be a great book, I cant wait to not read that one.

I didnt realize that a sport is not really a sport until the NCAA or a HS athletic Association recognizes it. The millions of kids playing sports not recognized by these omnipotent organizations should probably stop immediately and start playing baseball or football.

Thank you Anonymous for bringing us into the light and showing us the error of our ways.

I will make sure all the boys playing in the Ohio High School State Championship this weekend realize their effort is not real and it means nothing at all.

Thanks for your useful insight.

ChiefCUA said...

So I wrote to the Webmaster of this horrible site and the below is his/her response...

Hello, Thank you for your inquiry. In response I will address your pointsaccordingly. This site is merely to educate on the realm of college rugby. The industry standard for referring to college sports includes references such as college lacrosse, college soccer, college track. When reference to these entities are made there is an understanding that these arevarsity programs, not club. The site was not created to discount the realm of club participation,but rather to educate on the language that all other college sportsadhere to. It is fine to say college club rugby but calling it what it is, is accurate. College club soccer players are not outraged when thevarsity team is referenced, so there should be no reason for the clubrugby community to feel slighted when reference to varsity rugby ismade.

As for your reference to USA Rugby. USA Rugby does not own or govern the varsity teams in the NCAA. Those teams play club competition to fill thier schedules, nothing more, yet each team answers to its institution and athletic administrators according to departmental policy. You can also visit USA Rugby's webpage on the NCAA Women's Rugby section for further confirmation on these points including high school and the list of NCAA teams in the country. Also, I encourage you to check the links on collegerugbyamerica.com which include highlights on other varsity sports including equestrian, softball, gymnastics with no mention of college club anywhere, just a fact. Notice the language of college softball, college gymnastics, etc.

Thank you for your comments. Webmaster@collegerugbyamerica.com

UGH!

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