Thursday, October 18, 2012
What Canada Does Well
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer, but really the current main difference between the U.S. and Canada is that Canada has done a better job at collecting their players into high-performance programs. For the most part, Canada has funneled their players into the four teams in the Canadian Rugby Championship (a fifth is likely on the way). Any player that wants to play for the national team knows they have to be a part of one of these teams, and they have to be better than their counterparts on the other teams. This has led to an increased amount of competition and has driven up the overall quality of the player pool. The coaching staff of not only the full-national team, but of the age-grade teams, knows where to look to select players. It makes their job easier and allows them to focus on other aspects of the game.
This does not mean that Canada doesn’t have competitive leagues outside of the Canadian Rugby Championship. All one has to do is look at the quality in British Columbia to see that. But for the most part, those clubs are left on their own (the Rugby Canada tiff with B.C. excepted) to either become a social club or to become a serious team. Rugby Canada has laid down its rules and clubs follow.
In the U.S., the opposite story is true. Not a single league in the U.S. can be considered to have the best players in the country. Even when the Super League was at its strongest there were still players on the national team that were not in the league. This means that when our coaching staff goes to scout players, they have to scrounge all over the country to find the best. Even then, because players don’t play each other regularly, it is very difficult to compare them to each other. The same is true in the college game. There are a few top teams gathered in a few competitions, but for the most part players are spread out. The only time they are all in one assembly is with the All-Americans.
Canada does have a few natural advantages that allow them to take the path they have while the U.S. has not. First, even though Canada is a large country, most of the population is concentrated in a few areas. Having talented centered in British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland makes it easier to organize. Further, they do not have the same type of college structure that we have. Many of their U-23 players are free to play for a CRC team and are not as tied down to school commitments. The U.S. on the other hand, is a big country. It is impossible to concentrate the talent in one location. Further, there are many more schools and without scholarships, it’s impossible to concentrate all the best players in one location.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other because there are benefits to both systems, I’m just saying it is what it is. Canada has managed to get the best out of their system and the U.S. needs to do the same. There are plenty of ideas out there of what should happen, but the underlying point is that time is ticking and the powers that be need to make a decision, draw up and plan, and vigorously implement it.