Han-gul Fellow Ruggers,
Do you want to know who hosts a great rugby tournament? Ft. Worth, RFC! Year in, and year out, these guys host an average of 3 tournaments a year. Amazingly, they get better and better at it every year. This year they hosted 4 pools of the National Championship Series Quarter Finals. Besides hosting, they won their pool, and are advancing on to the final four. Congratulations to my neighbors! I also got the opportunity to catch up with some old friends because Buffalo RFC was also there competing. They are the team I started playing with when I was in High School, back in 1984. Most of the guys I was playing with back then have long since moved away, or hung up their cleats, but there were still a few hanging on. Besides playing for a men's club in high school, I also played locally with Buffalo State RFC. Last weekend I only ran into two former college teammates, which got me thinking.
I've noticed a very scary trend over the last year. A number of men's clubs are either having trouble fielding a second side, merging with other clubs to increase their numbers, or in some sad cases, even folding. I could probably write a Master's thesis on the reason that this is happening, but instead, I'll try to focus on some solutions.
I have the luxury of daily contact with players, coaches, and administrators from all levels, hailing from all parts of the world. You might say that I get a daily global perspective of the current state of clubs in the US and abroad. As rugby administrators start to focus their efforts on youth rugby (YAY!), we must also keep in mind that Men's clubs (as well as Women's) should not ignore local college clubs. I haven't seen the official numbers, but the biggest drop off in player retention (without a doubt) is the jump from College Rugby to Men's Club Rugby. If I took the time to look up the starting 15 from my senior year of College, I would venture a guess that only 5 of them are still playing - 8 years of College Rugby was probably enough for them. Those numbers, I'm sure, are repeated around the country.
What I propose is pretty simple. The majority of the administrative infrastructure is already in place. During a College player's Senior Year, the coach will help and encourage each senior to find a senior level club to play with after graduation. Before the College Coaches get in an uproar and bombard me with hate mail, I know that all Coaches and Administrators are over-worked and under-paid. Try to keep in mind that we're all out there for the love of the game. Getting back on track, the College Coach, besides finding a Senior Club for his/her Senior players will also work with some of the Senior level Clubs in regards to job placement. This might be where Hooker Rugby Supply can help (I'll get to that in a minute).
The second part of my plan includes the senior level clubs. What makes more sense for Senior clubs - recruiting from the local gym, church sponsored activity, corner pub, etc… or, recruiting already experienced College players? Please don't hit the "reply" button just yet! I know that there are some successful clubs that already actively recruit graduates; White Plains, RFC, Ft. Worth, RFC, Huntington Beach, RFC, Dallas Harlequins - to name a few. On the other hand, there are countless clubs that relies solely on word-of-mouth to recruit rookies. There are countless ways that local senior clubs can recruit local college players. The bottom line is that the Senior Club has to take interest in College programs. However it gets done, the senior clubs should make it a priority to know the names of the senior players when they're shaking hands. Whether that player is staying in town after graduation or not, he or she should know, without a doubt, that they're wanted by the local senior club. As another service to Rugby-kind, the senior clubs can also help with job placement and team placement of graduating seniors who are relocating to another city.
Now, here's how Hooker Rugby can help with all of this. In the upcoming months, Hooker Rugby Supply will be creating an on-line, virtual, Rugby database. This link, from our main page, will include job contacts, a link to teams, and business contacts. When I originally got into this business, it was because I liked dealing with Rugby players. I feel very strongly that a database such as this, will give other Ruggers opportunities to work with each other. Essentially this will be a classified section and/or Yellow Pages for Rugby players.
Hooker Rugby Supply