Since arriving on the American rugby scene in 2010, Serevi Rugby has set about changing the way the public views youth rugby. Serevi Rugby and a few other organizations are attempting to teach more children the game of rugby while also making a successful company. However, given the current state of American rugby, that hasn’t always been easy.
Director of Washington for Serevi Rugby Josh Young acknowledged that charging players to attend a camp has had some pushback from people that “grew up in a different era,” but also asserts that when “you look around at other sports, whether it be football, soccer, lacrosse, etc, kids go to a camp, and they’re expected to pay a fee to attend.” He adds that Serevi Rugby is “trying to get rugby similar to these other sports in that families are used to going to camps and having to pay for it.”
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That’s a change from the status quo where a coach would come in for free and teach a group of players for an afternoon. That model has merit, but as youth rugby explodes across the country, that model is becoming harder to sustain. Instead, more teams are turning to organizations like Serevi Rugby.
“When we show up to run a camp it’s not one coach for 200 people. It’s an organized team in a professional environment that can go out and make individual connections with kids,” noted Young.
That approach is evident in the way Serevi Rugby has structured itself as a company. While it has a small full-time staff split between its headquarters in Seattle and its satellite office in Southern California, it has many part time coaches that are brought in to run camps. These coaches come with experience as well, whether they are national team players like Miles Craigwell and Matt Hawkins, or are established club coaches like Old Puget Sound Beach’s Evan Haigh.
Players and families are responding to that professional approach. Young noted that Serevi Rugby has exceeded their initial expectations and is looking to expand with more camps around the country. Young feels that there is much more to come.
“We are ahead of the curve as far as where the market for rugby is at. With a foundation on the ground now, when the sport takes off we will be ready. It’s changing the culture. Maybe a team hasn’t charged enough for dues, but now they are realizing that if we want these things we are going to have to pay for it. You have to be clear to people how much something costs and here is what you are going to get for it.”
But it’s not just about running camps and making money. When asked what the goal of Serevi Rugby as a company is, Young was clear that “we want to increase the number of players playing rugby, as well as accelerating the development of skills among current players.”
Serevi Rugby has been active in the Seattle community, working with Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and other organizations to introduce more kids to rugby. Like other organizations, Serevi has used the rookie rugby and flag rugby models. In the last eighteen months four hundred kids in the area have started playing rugby as a result of these efforts. Young noted that the company works with Rugby Washington to help create more clubs at the youth and high school level so that if the kids who attend their camps want to play for a team, there is one available.
That applies to players who attend their high-performance camps as well. According to Young, one of the reasons for holding camps across the country is to help players get spotted by their local select teams or even for U.S. youth national teams. In this sense, they are not only getting younger players exposure to the game, but raising the current level of play within the country.
So far, the Serevi Rugby model seems to be working. More and more kids are participating in the sport, learning new skills and involving their families, and at the same time, rugby-lovers like Young are able to earn a living.
In the next part of our series, we’ll take a look at how Serevi Rugby is trying to create a rugby culture across the country.