REPLY TO ESPN COMMENTS BY TOM HAMILTON
By Enrique TOPO Rodriguez
Everybody in sports (and now in rugby) wants success and money and believe that TV is the magic enabler that will provide it!
Even though Rugby has some real “showpieces” such as the Rugby World Cup, The Rugby Championship, The Six Nations Tournament and various European Club Cups. All are played by a maximum of 2% “ELITE” players. This world scenario is fundamentally fed by PARTICIPATION at provincial, clubs and lower level of suburbia as well as “schools grassroots” which represents the other 98%, a bit like the TIP and the BASE of a pyramid. It is a big business that employs only that 2% of the players!!!
If this is to happen, it won’t happen overnight or over a decade, no matter how many megastars they enlist. USA Rugby must bite the bullet and develop the juniors into adolescents and seniors, a normal and natural progression. Furthermore, there are two intrinsic elementary points to seriously consider in any development efforts or campaigns:
- RUGBY IS A COLLECTIVE & PARTICIPATORY SPORT played by very committed individuals (individuals alone cannot succeed, here the family group is fundamental); and
- PROGRESS IS LIKE BUILDING A PYRAMID, It must start at the base, block by block. So if USA Rugby wants to go higher first they need to go wider (must admit it is one hell of a big country to cover.
Nevertheless, Americans know how to create and achieve success , they have done it in many different fields through centuries, patience always pays! But must do it together: East, Centre and West.
Moreover, to add some fuel to the discussion, I believe must be several reasons why “15 a side” has not been in the Olympics for more than 90 years. The IOC has only added 7’s very recently for 2016 Rio Olympics, I suggest because is easier and less expensive to run, uncomplicated regarding the rules, etc.). Hence the urgency of USA Rugby to compete well in it and gain instant high TV ratings with it. We’ll still have to see whether this experiment works and if it is translated to 15’s?
Coaches, players and public need to understand the basics of rugby which is more about teamwork and participation than a “money making show”.
Then I suggest USA Rugby may become competitive utilising their local athletes and natural talents which have aplenty. In my opinion, talking about “hiring or buying” big individual stars is akin to run in the opposite direction to team success!
Ball in your court USA Rugby!