Sponsor: Irish Rugby Tours

Sponsor: Glendale 7s

Monday, April 4, 2016

NAI 7s Filling Up, Top Sides Attending

Utah has long been known as a hotbed of youth rugby. Beginning with the famed Highland rugby team the sport has now branched out with most high schools having their own sides. Tournament play is robust, parents are engaged, and there is a lot of energy in the sport from all parts of the community. Now it's set to move to another level as the North American Invitational 7s is bringing together some of the top teams from the state with teams from all over the tournament and even internationally.

The tournament is set to take place on July 29-30th at the new athletic complex in Salt Lake City. Already many of the divisions are filling up with only three girl's elite spots left, roughly the same U-14 boys, and some boy's elite remaining. The Eagle Impact Rugby Academy and ATAVUS are sending teams. To gain some perspective on the upcoming tournament we spoke with tournament director Michael Cressler.

TIAR: What has the response to the tournament been like over the last few months?

Take the jump to read more.

Michael Cressler: Incredible response from everyone we have talked to. As we have explained the vision to our local teams, sponsor, and city, they have embraced the concept of a large scale youth only tourney. Teams we have spoken to from outside the area are excited about the opportunity for top level competition as well as developmental sides getting playtime in a open division setting.

TIAR: What is some of the reaction you have heard from teams?

MC: Most teams are excited to have a tournament focused exclusively on the youth and not a add on to another adult or collegiate tourney. Those are great ways to start and are great opportunities but we want to make the focus of this tournament on the youth u14-u18. The dates work out perfectly for Canada since it’s not only a 3 day weekend but also just prior to provincial team play. In the US, its right before football officially starts and provides a warmup tournament for those teams that play in a fall season.

TIAR: How many teams do you have registered at this point?

MC: 32 registered as of right now and none are Utah teams, lol. In fairness, there are two u14 teams from Southern Utah that have committed and most of the major Utah 7s teams I have spoken with will be sending teams. We plan on capping the tournament at 72 teams on 6 playing fields in 2016 purely for logistical reasons. We want to make sure we have all kinks worked out before we grow to our full potential size of 16 playing fields and 250+ teams.

TIAR: Who are some of the teams and where do they come from?

MC: Salty Thompson will be bringing EIRA, Upright Rugby is bringing two u18 teams and possibly a u16 from Ontario, Canada, Celtic is bringing three teams from Alberta, Atavus will be bringing two elite sides, Rocky Mountain Rebels will be bring at least one and possibly two from Denver. Atlantis has expressed interest and, per our last phone call, are just deciding how many teams to bring. That doesn’t even mention the teams from Idaho, Montana, and Colorado who have given me verbal confirmations nor those who haven’t reached out yet. We fully expect to hit our 2016 team limit of 72.

TIAR: What kind of sponsors do you have lined up?

MC: Atavus is sponsoring the U18 boys and Girls Elite division plus Canterbury is the major field and apparel sponsor while Radisson and Hampton Inns are our sponsor hotels.  Our Medical Sponsor is SportsMed Utah who will provide not just trainers but also a doctor onsite during the tournament. We are in active discussion with a military exclusive sponsor, a promotions company sponsor, and the list goes on. We have 14 sponsors currently with more to come.

A good question to ask is why? Why try to create another tournament? The inspiration is actually the Rosslyn Park 7s, the largest youth rugby tournament in the world held in London every March. Salty has taken teams there to try the HSAAs with some of the top youth competition in the world. The problem is that the RP7s is very expensive and conflicts with school and 15s rugby for most teams. How can you get the best of what RP7s has to offer and couple it with top notch competition to allow US and Canada based teams to get the levels of competition they want? This tournament is just a piece of that puzzle and an answer to the question when you look at it as a piece in a bigger puzzle.

There has been a vision I have had for quite some time trying to figure out how to get that top level of competition consistently for those teams wanting to compete at a u18 elite level; those teams and academies that spend a great deal of time training and working but have few places to truly test themselves. There is now a group of the top rugby groups from the US and Canada working together very hard to create a “series” that will fill that gap allowing known, scheduled HP youth rugby and tying together tournaments like  the NAI7s into something teams in the US and Canada can use as part of their growth and development pipelines and, possibly even more important, a focused set of events that college coaches can use to scout the best student-athletes. The group is finalizing plans for a 2017  launch. That, however, is another conversation.

1 comment:

  1. This is exciting. I hope to read about this again in 5 years time when they have 250+ teams!