Friday, April 1, 2016

Rugby Utah Prepping For New Men's Competition

This weekend will mark a new phase for men's club play in Utah. Four of the top teams in the state will go head to head at the Regional Athletic Complex. The first match features Mana vs. the Gladiators while the second sees the Spartans play Brothers. We spoke with Rugby Utah founder Kimball Kjar to find out more about the competition.

TIAR: How did the idea for the competition come about?

Kimball Kjar: Rugby Utah launched last year with the purpose of building the United State of Rugby--a state where the best rugby is played from youth to professional. With rugby going through a maturation on all levels we believe it's become necessary to revisit how American rugby views and administers itself at the local and regional levels. We began the first part of the process by launching the National Development Academy 7s program last year to set the standard for the local 7s players and teams to shoot for. The Men's Elite Championship is one of the next steps in this pathway development process. This championship will offer a properly managed and effective competition for our local teams on the 15s side of the equation, while building the next phase of the Rugby Utah model. There is more to come.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: Why do you think it is that Utah, with the exception of the one year of the Warriors, hasn't been able to field an "elite" club team in DI or a competition like the PRP?

KK: The lack of top-end men's division play in Utah has always been an eye-brow-raiser locally and nationally. Everyone knows the youth, high school and collegiate landscapes are some of the most competitive nationally. But the men's division in Utah has seemed to sputter at times. There have been teams that have shown well at times, but on the sum, the men's division has had a hard time for a variety of reasons--consistent leadership, vision, opportunity, trust, location or financial resources, to name just a few. In the end, we've diagnosed what we feel is the root problem and feel the solution that Rugby Utah is providing is one that not only the Men's Division, but the entire Utah rugby community, will catch the vision of and that's one of opportunity--opportunity for all of our community's coaches, players and referees to coach, play and referee the game at the highest level possible.

TIAR: What's the overall goal for the competition?

KK: Opportunity. The Men's Elite Championship is about building pathways for our rugby community. There is talent in Utah that is untapped and untrained. By creating a competition that managed, unified and designed to deliver the next level of opportunity it's our belief that the Utah rugby community will get behind the opportunities that will be provided.

TIAR: In five years, what do you envision men's elite rugby looking like in Utah?

KK: Unified. Rugby in America is evolving in exciting ways locally and nationally and will likely continue to evolve over the coming years. Above all, the Utah rugby community, not to mention America's other regional rugby communities, need to have that shining star that our youth, high school and collegiate players can shoot for. The Men's Elite Championship is the next step in our goal to build the top-end of the pathway of development for our rugby community. In the end, this pathway will progress from grassroots all the way to professionalism.

TIAR: How do you connect the players that play at the youth or even college level to the club game? Does the emphasis on family and having children younger limit the ability to keep men in the club game?

KK: Again, it's a broken record, but it comes down to opportunity. Utah's high school and college kids are coached by some pretty stellar coaches and they're used to some pretty stellar rugby. Our National Development Academy 7s program as well as the Men's Elite Championship will offer the vision of elite-level coaching and rugby experience for these young players to latch on to. This vision and our community's combined efforts will incentivize and enable our local clubs to develop themselves into high-performing entities that these players will be used to--stellar coaching and stellar rugby all inspired by stellar opportunities. If anything the emphasis on family emboldens the Utah rugby culture and helps Rugby Utah as we look to build these pathways. Family is at the core of the Utah culture and its what rugby is all about.

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