Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Is A National Youth Academy Within Reach?

U.S.A. Rugby recently announced a restructuring to the High Performance pathway. Part of that pathway focuses on tracking All-Americans over a four year time frame. That is absolutely fantastic to see. All players have ups and downs and so being able to give them feedback and see growth over a long period of time is only a good thing. Ideally that would be done in an intensive environment in academy systems. Unfortunately nothing like that exists yet. Some teams have well done youth programs that produce a lot of good players and some teams have grand plans. However, nothing like that exists yet.

One of the reasons has always been invest and facilities. Rugby has never had money like U.S. Soccer where they can establish a residency program for players from 15-18. That's what U.S. Soccer did for many years before enough clubs had their own facilities and well oiled academy teams. Now you have teams like Real Salt Lake that are building world-class facilities that feature dorms on their own school.

Take the jump to read more.

Could soccer's development be rugby's gain? Specifically, let's look at the potential of Real Salt Lake's system for rugby. The club recently opened up a $78 million dollar training facility in the south of the Salt Lake Valley. It features a full sized indoor field (the largest free standing structure in North America), six outdoor fields, world-class training facilities, and as mentioned a school (focusing on STEM) and dorms for up to 100 students. It also features Zions Bank Stadium, the home of the Utah Warriors.

Real Salt Lake is not just one team in MLS. It is also home to a team in the NWSL, a USL side, and several academy teams. However, the facility was also built to be able to handle more than that, including potentially rugby. For the first time rugby has an already built facility in a rugby hotbed with connections to a professional rugby side. It seems ripe with opportunity for those in the American rugby community to step up and set up an academy side.

Imagine 20-25 of the best rugby players in the country being in a full-time training environment. Sure, not every player to come through the system would go on to be an Eagle but you can bet that some would. American rugby is looking for a Landon Donovan and the likelihood of that only increases when players are in a full-time environment.

No question that this endeavor will cost a lot of money. The amount needed per player for a whole year at a boarding school is high. Then you also have to pay coaches and to use the facility. There have been a lot of folks in apparent positions of influence (i.e. money) that have been talking about how to make American rugby better. What better way to do that than to step up and fund the education of a few young men or to pay the salary of a coach for a whole year (maybe that coach could even teach at the school). In fact, it wouldn't even need U.S.A. Rugby. Private sources could fund the whole thing.

Will it happen? Who knows but it's an interesting idea to think that there is a facility out there are ready to be developed into a great opportunity for young rugby players. 

1 comment:

  1. RSL is building a bunch of these all over Utah. First was in Logan.