USA Rugby is the national governing body for the sport of rugby in America, and a Full Sport Member of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and World Rugby.
Currently headquartered in Glendale, Colorado, USA Rugby is charged with developing the game on all levels and has over 110,000 active members. USA Rugby oversees four national teams, multiple Junior National Teams and an emerging Olympic development pathway for elite athletes. USA Rugby is governed by a Board of Directors, National Councils representing the membership and a professional staff headed by a CEO.
In 2009, Rugby returned to the Olympics and Paralympics, with Rugby Sevens being featured in Rio in 2016. At the NCAA level, rugby is an Emerging Sport for Women.
Sports Destination Management: What kind of initiatives does USA Rugby have going on right now?
Brandy Medran: We have a variety of programs to get people interested in the sport. One of our bigger programs is Rookie Rugby, also known as flag or touch rugby. The Rookie Rugby programming consists of introductory games and skills to teach mostly kids but it can be used as tool to teach adults too.
On the national team side, we have our talent development pathways which allow players to get international experience before they become a USA Eagle.
USA Rugby is split into three general councils, each focusing on a specific player population: Adult club rugby, Collegiate rugby and Youth/high school rugby. Each of these works separately to develop the sport in those populations.
SDM: Do you see the sport growing, contracting or remaining the same?
Medran: Rugby is growing; we have had our up and down years but once the sport was reinstated in the Olympics, we started seeing consistent growth.
SDM: What else are you working on?
Medran: We are putting together a bid for the Rugby World Cup actually! Both Men’s and Women’s and looking at 2029/2031 years.
SDM: In one city?
Medran: No, we are creating a whole USA bid to give all parts of the country a chance to see the game. It would be a different bid for World Rugby since the Women’s World Cup has traditionally been held in one city.
SDM: When will you know whether the bid was successful?
Medran: Right now, the date is kind of a moving target, but we hope to hear from World Rugby by May of 2022.
SDM: At the moment, rugby is an Emerging Sport for Women at the NCAA level. How is that going?
Medran: Having it as an Emerging Sport has been huge for us; I get inquiries all the time from college women saying, “Hey I am at this school – how do we start a club rugby program?”
SDM: Do you feel as though the sport would have an easier time gaining members if it were more widespread?
Medran: Rugby gets most of its entry to the sport from students at the collegiate level. We want to try to get kids into it earlier. Experience does matter as you get into the higher levels of play.
SDM: What other sports are rugby players coming from?
Medran: You know, it’s funny. We have had a lot of success on the women’s side with soccer players; it’s a big crossover sport there. On the men’s side, players tend to come from track and field backgrounds. Speed is really important, particularly in the 7s game, and once you teach those players the tackling and ball handling, they really shine.
SDM: What more would you like to accomplish?
Medran: I would say the one thing we really need to work on is ramping up our fan base. As with professional baseball or football, you have people who may never play a sport but that doesn’t stop them from attending games and being fans. We need to focus on helping people understand how the game works so that they can get excited about it. SDM