A lot of teams in the U.S. are doing this, I’m sure – but according to the Edinburgh Rugby Web site the “Black and Red Army” has been handing out Edinburgh-branded rugby kits (gear, uniforms, etc for the Rugby-lingo challenged among the readership here) to volunteers who help out with youth rugby teams in Scotland.
It’s not a lot of additional cost, especially if you are ordering new jerseys every year or two, but if you start to connect your club with a local high school, or other youth rugby club, it might be worth it to invest in some additional gear that the coaching staff might be able to take to their own home games and sport on the sideline, or to help the team with some additional sponsorship fundraising in addition to your own. Especially if you’re one of the high-level teams playing in the U.S. right now.
So a reporter from Reuters bumped into USA Rugby’s men’s national team head coach, Eddie O’Sullivan (of course he’s Irish! What, with a name like that you thought he was from Chile maybe?? 😉 ) and the two of them talked about how rugby has grown in the United States since O’Sullivan had previously been in the U.S. in the ’90’s. I’ll leave you to read the story, which is a fascinating read because O’Sullivan really gets that in the U.S. people are invested in collegiate sports.
Unlike in other parts of the world where high performance athletic centers, or sporting colleges where athletes can really hone their sporting craft before (hopefully) moving into the professional ranks, in the U.S. everyone seems to go through the college system. And for those of us who aren’t athletes of this caliber, we still get to cheer on our alma mater – which gives us somewhat of an identity in the sporting world. (For instance, if you look at the teams I cheer for you’ll find that I’m connected to the UNM Lobos, the All Blacks, USA Rugby and the Buffalo Bills. And I find an ability to discuss, debate, or faux-argue with my friends based on these affiliations. And there are others out there who take their fandom ever more seriously.)
It’s an integral part of Americana that is woven through our society. And in the past, rugby peeps have tried to shoehorn Americans into the Club Rugby model – where people would be interested in supporting the club from their local town, city, or childhood home. That model doesn’t work out here, much to my chagrin. So again, it’s nice to see O’Sullivan talking about how to focus on what works in America, as opposed to how to force Americans into the model for the rest of the world.