Sunday, June 25, 2017
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Information for High School Coaches
To High School Coaches... PDF Print

Rugby is played during the High School Spring season.  We are starting a High School aged rugby Club in St. Cloud and are looking for your support.  It is a great opportunity for your athletes, who do not already compete in a spring sport, to build on the skills and conditioning they have learned throughout the year.  We believe rugby will have the following positive effects on your athletes,

  • Make Better Athletes - Rugby is a sport that requires athletes to be in top physical shape.  In rugby you need to be able run, tackle, pass, and kick for 80 minutes.  It will help take your athletes to the next level.
  • Keeps Players Active - Lets face it many high school athletes only compete in one or two sports.  This gives them a third option to stay active.
  • Gets People Involved - Rugby offers a unique allure that I can't explain.  It just may get kids involved that hadn't been playing other sports, which may in turn get them to come out for your sport of choice.
  • Builds Comradery - I have personally seen rugby help build friendships that will last a lifetime.  It is a sport that requires you trust the other 14 people on the field with you.  If your athletes play rugby I guarantee you will see these relationships when they come back into the wrestling room, soccer, and/or football field.

Although most of the below videos and information is geared towards Football Coaches we believe it still makes sense for other sports.  Please take a minute to look over the below information.  We believe that it will be worth your time.

 
Minnetonka Football Coach Testifies PDF Print

Check out this video made by MARF (Minnesota Amateur Rugby Foundation).  It has a quick testimonial from the Minnetonka football coach on Rugby.

Click HERE to watch the video (embedded video on front page).

 
HS Coach - NFL Players talk about rugby PDF Print

 

 
Is Rugby Dangerous? PDF Print

Much like soccer, rugby is safer than other team sports like hockey, football and lacrosse. Because they don't wear heavy "protective" equipment, rugby players are more aware of their physical position, particularly their head, neck and shoulders. By playing for possession of the ball, not yardage, and the rule of no blocking, players are less likely to be injured by other players.

For more on rugby safety, read this short article written by Dr. Lyle J. Mitchell, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.  Click HERE.

Also check out this study which compares rugby injuries rates to that of other comparable sports, such as football.  Click HERE.

 
Rugby Helps Football PDF Print

How Rugby Makes Better Football Players (This First Appeared in Gridiron Coach Magazine)

By Alex Goff

Your High School season is over. Your players are already making plans to play other sports during the winter and the spring. What should they play?

In the spring, especially, football coaches find themselves at odds with their players’ choices. But what if your players could play a sport that not only keeps them in shape for football, but actually makes them better football players? The sports is out there, it’s called rugby, and strangely enough some football coaches won’t let their athletes play the game.

High-school age rugby is played throughout the USA, culminating in a national championship tournament in late May. The game itself is an ancestor of football, and is similar to a no-huddle, wishbone gridiron game with all two-way players. Forward passing is not allowed, so the ball must be advanced by hard running and intricate lateral passing. After a tackle, play continues as teams for essentially a compacted line of scrimmage and try to drive each other off the ball. Players and football coaches who have been involved in both sports agree that playing rugby can make for better football players, and more dedicated athletes.

The improvement in fitness, hand-eye coordination, and tackling technique after a season of rugby is phenomenal," said Mark Bullock, who served as head football coach and head rugby coach for Kentwood High School in Kent, Washington before becoming the USA Under-19 rugby coach. "I always recommended my football players to play rugby is they weren’t playing a spring sport.

Everyone Plays the Ball

In rugby, every type of play handles the ball at least a few times. Every player is expected to be able to pass and catch, tackle, and break tackles.

"You’ll have players tackling and trying to break tackles which is great for contact skills in the off-season," said Dave Hodges, former pro football player and currently the captain of the U.S. national rugby team. "They will be working on fitness and should continue on with there strength and explosive exercises. They will be handling the ball, which will benefit hand-eye coordination. If they want a sport that complements football, rugby is much closer than the other sports played in high school."

"The ball handling skills are almost unmatched in American sport," explained Tom Billups, who was a starting offensive lineman for Augustana college during the school’s 49-0-1 stretch in the 1990s. Billups later took up rugby and played professionally in Europe, and for the USA a record 44 times. A physical trainer by profession, he is currently the USA Rugby strength and conditioning coach. "The development of the sense of space, timing, and teamwork are even greater than those in basketball. The total number of sets of hands that are involved in a well worked try [touchdown] is much greater than any in basketball."

Everyone Runs

There are stoppages in rugby, but not after every tackle. A well-played game of rugby requires backs (the runners) and forwards (like linemen) to run great distances as they work to retrieve the ball and launch another attack. Playing that way for 80 minutes requires fitness that can only help an athlete when he plays football.

"The aerobic requirements are dramatically different between rugby and gridiron," said Billups. "I can still remember my first senior side rugby match for the Quad City Irish in the Midwest. I must have asked how much time was left a dozen or more times. The continuity was the most drastic difference from one sport to the other. The concept of continued play asks the American football player to continue to react, scan, and process information rapidly. The assignments I remember from National Championship college football were more like, ‘you block the guy in front of you at the line of scrimmage.’"

No Pads!

Actually rugby players can use pads. The scrum cap, designed to protect the ears, is much like a 1920s football helmet, only a little softer, and players can also opt to wear foam padding over their torsos. However, rugby certainly doesn’t have the padding football has, and that makes coaches worry about injuries.

But those who have played both sports say that playing a tackle sport without pads forces you to use good tackling and driving techniques. Football pads can be used as weapons, while rugby players have no such luxury.

"The neuromuscular recruitment that is required to control your body in a tackle in rugby is much greater than that of a tackle in gridiron football," said Billups. "American football is much more of a collision sport now than it has ever been, where a rugby tackle still requires a wrapping of the arms to be a fair and legal."

"It’s a great way for plays to gain courage," said Fred Jones, who coached both rugby and football at Vacaville High School in Vacaville, Calif., before becoming the fulltime football coach and athletic director. "Varsity football can loom so huge, and rugby can give younger kids the opportunity to get out there, get into contact, and participate in a related sport."

Culture

Athletes follow their role models, and it’s an unfortunate state of football that coaches are constantly trying to get their players to emulate what they see their heroes do in the game, but not what they do on the sidelines.

Rugby is a little different. Complaining to the referee, excessive celebration after scoring, and playing to the crowd may be discouraged in both sports, but in rugby it’s simply not part of the game at any level.

"From a culture standpoint, rugby can improve the American high school football in more ways than a coach can count," said Billups. "The mere fact that, in rugby, you address the referee as ‘sir’ — can you image that in American football? That there isn't this towel-whipping, look-at-me behavior we see kids emulating. Score a try, and leg it back to halfway to get ready to go again is the way it still is in our game. No touchdown dances or athletes taking off their helmets to show their mugs for the cameras."

Rugby Helps Football

Can rugby make a good football player? Consider the story of Richard Tardits. He grew up playing rugby, then one day, as a student at the University of Georgia, he walked on to preseason football practice.

"He didn’t even know how to put his pads on," said then head coach and now Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley. "We put him in tight end and asked him to fire out and block, and he fired out and tackled the guy. So we figured we better put him on defense pretty quick."

As a linebacker who had never played gridiron before, Tardits learned quickly, and in one scrimmage sacked the quarterback five times.

"I gave him a battlefield promotion right there," said Dooley. "I gave him a scholarship. He had such explosiveness."

Upon graduation, Tardits had made all-conference as a linebacker, and had set a record for sacks at Georgia that still stands. He went on to play in the NFL for New England and Arizona.

After his NFL career was over, Tardits returned to rugby, playing for the United States 24 times.

"All those things he learned in rugby, mobility, running, reaction, and tackling, can help develop a young athlete," said Dooley. "Richard went on to have quite a career in both sports."

"It’s an excellent way to provide continuity between football seasons," said Jones. "I suppose there’s a risk of injury, but a lot of things carry a risk of injury. It’s a wonderful tool in the development of young football players."

Football can also create great rugby players. Second-team All-ACC tight end Dan Lyle of VMI took up rugby while waiting for an NFL tryout. The tryout came, but by then he had shown a great talent for rugby and was hooked. Lyle is now one of the three best at his position in the world in rugby, and plays professionally for Bath in England.

Great Opportunities

Rugby offers athletes opportunities that gridiron cannot. Rugby has a national championship, for one, an Under-19 and senior national team, and a chance to travel the world.

"The culture of rugby is worldwide," said Billups. "You can go to any country on Earth, you can find a rugby team, and an immediate friend. Having heard I played for the USA, an acquaintance asked, ‘how much money do they pay?’ It’s never about the money. A sport where the highest honor you can receive, to play for your country is still coveted in the professional era should be admired by high school football coaches. The issue of character is white-hot in the NFL right now. Why would a football coach not want a kid who values the efforts of his teammates, plays with extreme passion, and after taking a knock, picks himself up and gets on with it?

"My experiences in college football I wouldn't trade for anything. I was lucky to have a great coach and tremendous teammates who played to their potential every weekend in the Autumn. But I would have loved the opportunity to learn about all the rugby represents at an earlier age."

The consensus among those who know football and rugby together is fairly clear: if you have a player on your football team who you wish would get a little stronger, a little fitter, and a little more aggressive, then have him play rugby. Rugby is fun, it’s different, but still enough like football that he’ll be able to play, and it makes you a better football player.