Sponsor: Irish Rugby Tours

Sponsor: Nike Rugby Camps

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Junior All-Americans Post-Camp Update

The Junior All-Americans have wrapped up their camp in Arizona and have their sights set on their next camp in January and their JWRT qualifier against Canada in February. We caught up with JD Stephenson, the Lindenwood coach that has stepped to to take the reigns of the team this cycle.

TIAR: You've stepped in to guide the All-Americans this cycle. Can you explain what happened from the time Scott Lawrence was announced in August to your taking over?

JD Stephenson: From an organizational standpoint nothing has changed within the MJAA ranks. Coach Lawrence is still heavily involved in the planning, identification, development and training of those who have been brought into the cycle and will continue to be advising and coaching in a Technical Director role.

Within this time period we have worked with the collegiate, club and high school coaches to ensure that players can be made available for the qualifier and hopefully the pre-JWRT and JWRT cycle. We have been continually building the rest of the identification piece post JWRT to ensure that players can be identified and developed without hinderance on collegiate and club programs.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: Every year the team has only a few warm up camps before taking on Canada or playing in the JWRT without a lot of success. What makes this year different?

JD: Any national side faces the same challenges with regards to an assembly, training and trying to get players to buy in to a certain set of philosophies and gel with those in camp. Within our country we have a large geographic landscape to factor into camps, with winners and losers in every scenario we face due to financial and academic stresses that travel and the time commitment may place on a player. This year’s cycle has been aided by the assistance of the clubs and colleges allowing access to players via email, phone and the use of online databases to exemplify positional individual skills and roles, required fitness scores and the overall template and foundation that the 2015/16 cycle will built upon.

Alex Magleby has been great in providing access to BridgeAthletic for the MJAA which will allow for the monitoring and development of players to continue remotely. Our assembly structure will be built around our Winter Camp (just played) as an identification piece. The second assembly will be the MLK weekend to allow for development and finalization of identification and lastly, our pre-qualifier week immersion in Austin, Texas to ensure that we have the best side possible to face Canada.

TIAR: Is making the JWRT the goal for the team or is it the opportunity to get young guys into camp and see who might excel?

JD: As a whole I believe that it is both. The MJAA program is a developmental tool for age grade players to pit themselves against the best players in their age bracket domestically and internationally and to be in a different and unfamiliar environment that they face at their club and college to hopefully challenge them as players. More importantly as a player or coach their is no bigger honor than representing your country on the world’s stage.

TIAR: In the past several players have gone on from the U-20s to make their mark. Who do you see this year as having the best chance to follow in their footsteps?

JD: The coaching staff with the help of scouts, coaches and administrators have done a great job assembling a very committed, dedicated and talented playing group. There is already some players in this squad who have started down the path of the next level, but I’m anticipating that there will be more to come once this cycle is complete.

TIAR: Besides the recent camp, will the team be getting together before the February match?

JD: Yes, we will be utilizing the MLK weekend holiday to assemble the squad and play two matches against a locally based collegiate program. The week immersion in Austin will be critical to fine tuning the side and allowing for the chemistry and cohesion.

TIAR: Do you think it will aid the team to have the match in conjunction with the Eagles-Canada match in Austin?

JD: Most definitely, it will add to the excitement of the build up and being around the senior side can only further motivate players throughout the week to stay engaged.

TIAR: What would make a successful camp and successful year for the Junior All-Americans?

JD: A successful camp for the MJAA program would be the proper identification of players, the development and buy in of individual, unit and team cohesion and lastly ensuring that it is an overall positive experience for the players and coaches. For the the successful year, it has to be qualifying for the JWRT and building the platform for continued success of the MJAA program and for those players involved to return their club or college as better player on and off the pitch for the experience.


  1. Can you tell us who were the players invited and or selected for the team?

  2. I have a question for JD, Alex Magleby and others involved with the U20 program:

    Given that 3 of the consistently best college rugby teams, who have produced and continue to produce tons of Eagles, didn't send a single player to the camp and didn't send a single player to last year's U20 side, it's clear that some eligible athletes, who would otherwise be selected, are choosing not to play for the U20 team for various reasons (missed class time, missed college rugby season, etc.). How do we better entice our best eligible players to compete for the U20 team?

    Follow up question:

    If the answer is that it isn't possible some years due to the timing of the JWRT, should USA Rugby look at ditching the JWRT and JWRT qualification in favor of some type of summer event (tour, alternative tournament, etc.) when the best talent can all assemble?

    1. Good points but the alternative summer competition would take forethought and planning, not USA Rugby's strong points where age grade rugby is concerned.

    2. I was just talking to someone about this last night. Totally agree that it would make sense to assemble in the summer and do a 3 game tour rather than playing in the middle of the college competition cycle. U20s is the toughest competition for us to be competitive due to the loss of many elite HS athletes to college football or the above mentioned reasons for not participating. A winter camp, a spring break camp, followed by an assembly and tour in the early summer would be a great developmental tool for age grade eagles.

  3. The ultimate goal needs to be a U20 America's 6 Nations competition. Maybe host it in the summer, instead of alongside the men's competition, so that the best players can assemble. Ideally the U20s would be playing JWRT, the A6N, and a fall tour. No reason the best the best age grade players should only be playing 1-3 matches annually.