Wednesday, June 10, 2015

U.S.A. Rugby Club Manager Erik Geib Explains Club Survey


With news that the USA Rugby Club Department is conducting a comprehensive survey of senior clubs, we took a moment to catch up with Club Department Manager Erik Geib about the purpose of the survey, what he hopes it will accomplish, and what the data will be used for.

If you’re a club officer and you’d like to fill out the survey on behalf of your team, you may find it here: http://bit.ly/1APwwLc

TIAR: Why is this survey important?

Erik Geib: With a lot of the initiatives the Club Department has moving forward, it’s critical to get a pulse on where our clubs are first. At the 2015 National Development Summit in Chicago, [Metropolis Head Coach and USA Rugby Men’s National Team Attack Coach] Nate Osborne talked about Metropolis’s internal assessment conversation several years ago – noting how important it was to be honest with one’s self about what they look like before they can know where they’re going. I think that same principle applies at the national level. There are a lot of things I think USA Rugby can do to help clubs, but first it’s important that we know the state of clubs’ existence so that our plans are realistic and improvement-oriented.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: There are a lot of eligibility and competitions questions in this survey. What outcomes are you looking for from those?

EG: I don’t know that USA Rugby is necessarily looking for specific outcomes. Most of the questions are geared towards gathering insight for satisfaction with existing competition and eligibility structures. A lot of the time, I’m not so sure we actually have a widespread knowledge of clubs’ attitudes on specific issues. Instead, we’re left reacting to the loudest voices. This survey gives USA Rugby a chance to be proactive. If clubs back and say overwhelmingly, “hey, I think there’s room for improvement on issue X,” it becomes something that the appropriate committees have to pay attention to. Even just glancing at the early returns, I think there will be a lot of interesting conversation points during this weekend’s National [Club] Competitions Committee meeting.

TIAR: Any insight on those early returns?

EG: Not yet. At the conclusion of the survey period, USA Rugby will be publishing a summary report of the results – provided the survey elicits enough responses for the data to be valuable. USA Rugby will not provide a full-response report, however, to respect the confidentiality of each club's responses. We’re not in the business of stating, “Club A said Y!” Additionally, there’s a lot of data in there that teams probably don’t want being shared. I know that, if I was still a Club President, I certainly wouldn’t want anyone knowing the value of my team’s sponsorships or our annual budget. I would, however, be interested in knowing what the average team’s budget is – especially at the divisional level we compete. And that’s the type of information the report should hopefully include (“A Men’s Division I team typically looks like…”).

TIAR: What about some of the other questions? Are they all necessary in a survey this long?

EG: Believe it or not, I actually trimmed this survey substantially from its original form. While I recognize that some people could talk about club administration all day – and I’m certainly one of them – others will start to get burned out if the survey goes too long.

With that in mind, we really tried to focus the questions towards what we think are upcoming priorities. A lot of the basic information is to get data that makes USA Rugby’s Find-A-Club feature more robust (http://usarugby.org/find-a-club-in-your-area). Some questions are about ensuring that unions are accountable to their members (did clubs vote for their representatives? how do they feel about union fees? etc.). Other questions are geared towards finding holes/areas that USA Rugby can best assist clubs with. For example, would regulations requiring the use of technical zones be a burden, or are a lot of teams using them already? Are clubs being honest with themselves about connecting with youth/college clubs? I’ve seen the data from the World Rugby-backed recruit and retain project, so if clubs think they’re doing outreach we need to have a more honest conversation about what outreach really looks like.

TIAR: You mention upcoming priorities. What do you think those are?

EG: I have an idea of what they might be, but we’ll know more after we receive the survey results. After I’ve had an opportunity to read through the feedback, I’ll do a little bit of follow-up and then send the results over to groups like the Club Strategic Committee and GU leaders to get their input on the results. From there, we’ll be able to piece together goal-specific strategies – hopefully timed in a way that works with other projects.

One program we’re exploring is a club accreditation program. When we started experimenting with ‘elite club’-specific regulations [the in-season elite-player-to-elite-club allowance], I had a conversation with High Performance staff about what constitutes an ‘elite club.’ While it’s easy to say that elite clubs are the ones in the best competitions, HP staff noted that elite clubs must have quality coaching, a daily training environment, film their matches (and practices?), and a good quality of competition parity. Some of that comes out in this data, as well as in other places (coaching certification databases, etc.). From an organizational side, elite clubs also have quality venues, certain levels of budgetary support, specific levels of sponsorship, etc.

So, what we’ll (likely) do, is take that type of data and set out a pathway for clubs to follow. “This is what a 4-star club looks like,” etc. Clubs may not like hearing they’re on par with 2-star clubs to start with, but they’ll also be a lot less upset when they see there is a clear path to improving themselves – higher standards, best practices to get there, etc. And, who knows – maybe there’s not much wrong with being a 2-star club organizationally if you’re in Division IV. The long-term goal, however, is to find ways to raise standards and help USA Rugby’s constituents become more professional in everything they do. Again though, to do that we have to know the state of clubs as they currently are.

TIAR: Who received the survey?

EG: USA Rugby hopes to get the feedback of every club president/director (or, in absence, a head coach or senior officer), so we sent the survey to all registered coaches and executive administrators affiliated with senior clubs. We also sent a note to GU leaders, the Club Strategic Committee, the National Competitions Committee, and the Club Eligibility Committee, asking them to help spread word among their members. There are likely a lot of club officers who are not registered as executive administrators, so we’re trying to reach them any way that we can.

I’ve also posted a link to the survey on the USA Club Rugby Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/usaclubrugby). Hopefully this interview also helps spread the word. The more data we receive, the better.

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