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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Want Rugby To Succeed Post-Rio?--Get Involved


Over the past few days I've been asking as many people as I can if there was a sport they saw at the Olympics and then followed closely afterward. Almost universally the answer was now which was extremely surprising. After all, for the last several years all we've heard is that all rugby needs to do is get into the Olympics then people will discover it and it will take off. That may be very true--in fact I had several people tell me that they saw the Vegas 7s on TV and started following it after that--but unless there is a plan in place to help the sport take off then it's going to sink and it all begins with increasing participation.

In thinking about my own experience I think of my own experience watching field hockey during the London Olympics. I didn't come from a field hockey area and hadn't really been introduced to the sport. I just assumed that it was like ice hockey but on grass. That's partially true but after watching I gained a much better appreciate for the sport. However, how many field hockey matches did I watch after London. None. I couldn't even tell you if it is a professional sport. Instead, I bought sticks for myself and my son to play in the yard. I even called around to see if there were field hockey lessons in the area that he would enjoy. If I had been able to find lessons and he started playing the sport you bet we would have made an effort to watch a game on television or attend one in person.

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The overall point that I would like to make is that if we want rugby to take off after Rio we as a rugby community need to be prepared to take those people that buy rugby balls or look for rugby lessons after the Olympics. We want to take those people and make them into life-long rugby fans that in turn support youth clubs, making college rugby better, move on to club teams, and follow the Eagles. So what should be we.

We challenge anyone out there that reads this post to do several things to help bring in new fans post Rio:

  • Make sure your club's info is up to date. There is nothing more frustrating for someone trying to find out more then having a website that doesn't work or contact info that is poor. We need updated websites with good contact information. If you have a Facebook page, make sure your contact info is there as well. Also, it's not a bad idea to pin a post with the times you practice and a note letting people know that newcomers are welcome. 
  • Make sure you are welcoming. We all know that rugby players like to party. It's a great element of our sport but it's not always attractive to newcomers right away. That is especially true for parents looking for info for their child. If they see pictures of college players acting irresponsibly or even club players (they will find your images and judge you off of them) they may be very hesitant to give rugby a try. Go through and make sure your language and images are clean and welcoming. 
  • Hold a free clinic. There is nothing better than drawing new people in with a free clinic. You can scale it to have a section for youth, high school players, and senior club players. Make sure people know that they are welcome to come and give it a try risk free. Hold a barbecue so they can meet members of the club or have it before a match. Also make sure you have information about your club. If you are in an area with a senior, college, and youth team or teams, band together so that if a family shows up they have a landing spot for every member. 
  • Share your passion. Rugby players are passionate people. Make sure that you show that and let people know this is the greatest game on earth. It's hard not to feel excited about something new when the people introducing you are full of excitement. 
This is an opportunity that is too good to pass up. Studies have shown that initial participation after a sport is in the Olympics goes up but tapers over time. If rugby wants to buck that trend it's going to need everyone making an effort to bring in new fans. The most crucial thing is that you must be prepared. Don't do anything half hearted. If that means putting in extra time over the next week to get things ready, then do it. Rugby is such a great sport so let's all band together these next few weeks to grow the sport. 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Curtis for sharing. I posted this to our local Rugby youth club page. The tips were great as well.

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  2. I posted to our local club as well. Thank you for taking the time to share.

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