January 31, 2000

Hälsningar Fellow Ruggers,

Welcome to another week mates!

Because our last letter was so inept, weíve put our crack staff of researchers to the test and challenged them to come up with some insight that is sure to inspire.

In the last couple of months, we have seen a dramatic rise in discussions about youth rugby. A lot of the discussion has been generated by the $180,000 grant, which USARFU will be receiving. With Hooker Rugby being right in the middle of the youth discussion, I have heard and listened to a lot of different ideas. One thing everybody agrees on is that we need to teach kids how to pass backwards and run forwards, itís that simple. The younger we get them hooked, the sooner the Eagles will win the World Cup.

The likes of Dan Porter, Pat Walsh, and former USARFU President, Gene Roberts have an incredible vision of what it would take to "wake the sleeping giant" that is US Rugby. Iíve decided to throw my vision into the ring (Rugby magazine- if you want to publish this, feel free).

Before becoming a rugby entrepreneur, I taught US History and coach High School Rugby. Having the teaching perspective, Iíd like to believe that I know what it takes to reach todayís youth. A lot of the youth coordinators have talked about using existing YMCA programs, and overall, I think that might be the best idea. However, I feel that we need to introduce the game to a broader audience of kids.

Looking back at my youth, I thought that the YMCA was just a song by the Village People. I did not have any access or real knowledge of their facilities or programs. But, every kid in the US goes to Middle School and for that matter, Elementary. Hereís my idea (keeping in mind that this is an amalgamation of other peopleís ideas): Make club level rugby clubs responsible for creating youth programs. Clubs in other countries (like New Zealand) might have 10-15 teams under the umbrella of one club. Understandably, that will never happen in the US because of the variety of sports that kids have available to them. However, if each menís club could sponsor an U15 and a U19 team, we would see wide-spread improvement in US Rugby. We could also use the existing infrastructure for leagues and schedules. For every second year menís club sponsored youth program, USARFU could give discounts on CIPP registration.

Hereís an easy way for teams to get these youth programs up and running. Ask any Phys. Ed. Teacher in the US, if he would like someone to teach his class for a week, and you will hear a resounding YES! For example, a senior level club picks five middle schools in their area, and once a month, for one week, players go into the Phys. Ed. Teacherís class and teach touch rugby. Along with teaching this class for a week, the club donates two rugby balls (which can be purchased from Hooker Rugby Supply). In return, you ask him/her to promise that he or she will use the balls to teach another unit of touch rugby in the future.

I know what youíre thinking now, many senior level clubs have a hard enough time finding dedicated players. That problem stems from players learning the game after their formative years when theyíve already committed themselves to other endeavors. The key for the teaching program to work is finding 5 players each month who have the time to give up one day. It may not even take five days of teaching. Touch rugby is easy enough that the Phys. Ed. Teacher might only need you for three.

The bottom line is you teach young kids how to play rugby and the cost is minimal. When the kids are hooked, you let them know that your team, in conjunction with the local YMCA or community program, has a youth team and they would love to have you come and play. Then when they move on into high school, the team at that level takes over. I have on my high school team this year, two boys that watched their older brothers play a couple of years ago, so now they want to have their shot.

Any program is hard to start, but once it is firmly established it takes on a life of its own. Over the past two months one thing has become very clear. We are very good at coming up with ideas, but we lack in follow through.

Pat Laczkowski
Hooker Rugby Supply