Web Site: http://www.twitter.com/JoeGrohovsky
Bio: Name: Joe Grohovsky Education: Youngstown State University '78 Major: Business Administration Current Status: Former Coach/Art of Coarse Rugby Enthusiast The Pelican became smitten with rugby as a university student and has come to embrace all codes of footy. This love of the sport, along with an aggressive shirking of all adult responsibility, has enabled the Pelican to play for clubs throughout the USA, South Africa and Australia. A lengthy tenure as a player, referee, coach and administrator has developed strong opinions that he will eagerly share with anyone trapped within earshot. This oratory is delivered under the motto “Ego saepe sed nunquam male dubitavit”.
Posts by pelican:
- Ego. Rugby players tend to think that what they do is unique and that they are special. The reality is that rugby is just another option in how we choose to spend our time. It may serve us well to realize that in many parts of the world a rugby match is simply something you fit in between other weekend activities. Regarding any testosterone-laced bravado that may accompany our ego, we’d do well to remember that men and women of all ages and skill levels play rugby. A participant needn’t be a high caliber athlete to enjoy this game.
- Monopolistic structure. USA Rugby requires every member to partially fund our collection of national teams. To my knowledge, no other sport imposes this burden on all members. Think of the last time you played a round of golf or participated in recreation league basketball. Did you simply pay your own way, or fund some national endeavor?
- Not enough casual rugby. In any given park or playground you’ll see people playing with soccer balls, basketballs, Frisbees, etc. Our true measure of success is when rugby balls are as common as any other piece of sporting equipment. Another measure is when a rugby match can be scheduled as casually as a softball game. Imagine on St. Patrick’s Day if every AOH Chapter (Ancient Order of the Hibernians) formed a rugby team from its members to play another chapter across town. Or when CYO rugby 7’s tournaments were as common as 5k fun runs. Rugby needs to shed its stigma of being a confusing, violent sport.
- Misguided focus. The most common occurrences in any rugby match are running, passing and tackling. Americans are raised using these skills, yet for new ruggers these basics are often downplayed for an intense focus on scrums, rucks, etc. Admittedly all aspects of rugby are important, but why not encourage new players and teams to express themselves with what they already do well (running, passing, and tackling)? The goal should be to get as many people playing at whatever commitment or skill level they have. Rugby can’t grow without players.
The March 6 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer carried a story that should cause every rugby fan to shake their head. The article mentioned that there is now a professional Ultimate Frisbee league and that”5 million people currently play it nationwide, as compared with lacrosse, which is 1.9 million”. USA Rugby’s website indicates it has 90,000 members nationwide. Think about those numbers as we briefly glance back in time.
USA Rugby was officially formed in 1975. During the past 37 years sports such as soccer, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee have exploded in popularity. Can any rugby enthusiast possibly be happy with the limited amount of growth that we’ve had?
Below are some thoughts on what may be restricting the spread of rugby in this country. The comments are empirical in nature; think of them as one man’s opinion.
My intent isn’t to impugn USA Rugby or its current structure. There is a void that exists in our rugby landscape that needs to be filled before we can realize our full potential. Developing elite competition isn’t wrong, it’s just not enough. Organizations like Rookie Rugby and the US Rugby Football Foundation are doing a tremendous job of promoting our sport, but more needs to be done. It’s a victory every time players are on a field chasing a rugby ball, regardless of their skill level.
What ideas or comments do you have? Reply to this blog, or drop me a note at email@example.com with your comments.
American rugby has developed an interesting foothold in our sporting world. This foothold is divided between Rugby Union, Rugby League, and Rugby 7’s. A very common scenario involves animated conversations between aficionados of each code that extol the virtues of their favorite while denigrating the other versions and all those who participate in them. The situation often seems to serve as a proxy for class warfare among the constituents.
Not only is that viewpoint counterproductive but it’s completely illogical. Each rugby variation should be judged on its own merit, not compared to the others. Rugby Union, Rugby League and Rugby 7’s are very much unique games with their own value systems and requisite skill sets.
Rugby Union is very much a “Thinking Man’s Game”; truly a triumph of brain vs. brawn. The sense of sport and tradition accompanying Rugby Union provides a wonderful background reflective of its rich history and global appeal. Many American players first play Rugby Union while in college, which may be a contributing factor to its image and the mind-set of the participants.
Rugby League places much more value on a player’s pure physical wherewithal. The raw athleticism on display is incredible, and there is absolutely no place for a player to hide during a Rugby League match. If a player doesn’t possess “The Goods” he’ll quickly be discovered and exploited by the opposition. Rugby League has a strong following of devoted supporters who revel in the tempo and physicality of their rugby code.
Rugby 7’s involves those rare athletes that possess single-digit body fat and supersonic speed. This may be the code best suited for American spectators. A game is brief, has lots of action, plenty of scoring and the players always manage to keep their hair perfectly coiffed. Inclusion in the 2016 Olympics has accelerated Rugby 7’s entrance into the American mainstream. Both USA Rugby and USA 7’s have undertaken efforts to expand the commercial and competitive value of this code. The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) that USA 7’s has masterminded may be the single best opportunity rugby has to endear itself to the American public.
To my way of thinking, why should a choice between the various codes even be made? There is very little overlap between the playing seasons, and plenty of enlightened players are already playing any form of footy whenever and where ever they can. The broad spectrum of athletic ability and body types among participants may play a huge role in determining the feasibility of an individual’s involvement with a specific code. Why shouldn’t players be encouraged to play any and all forms of rugby, as much as possible? American rugby needs more participants, not fewer choices.
So what do you think? Are these codes different enough to stand on their own, and does America have room for all of them to prosper? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
The AMNRL is poised to expand across the USA. First time spectators will immediately recognize some very familiar activities; lots of running, ball-handling and tackling. Most American males have played sports involving these activities since a young age and are generally very comfortable with them.
This leads to a sensitive question; why do American players, or predominantly American teams, often struggle to compete with foreign players and teams? As mentioned above, Americans are raised practicing the fundamentals of rugby league so it’s unlikely to be a lack of general skills. It’s certainly not a difference in our collective demeanor or athletic ability, as a quick glance down either sideline during an AMNRL match can confirm.
Two possible culprits that remain are fitness and game-sense. It’s my opinion these are the primary factors that limit our success in rugby league, and without a doubt fitness is the larger area of concern.
The strength and endurance required for top-level footy is incredible. Once fatigue sets in then the proper execution of those familiar fundamentals becomes less likely. Fatigue also cruelly impacts decision-making ability, so even well coached players struggle to think clearly or quickly.
Tell me what you think. Am I correct that fitness is the greatest obstacle to America emerging as a top-level rugby league contender?