Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's A Rugby: Getting the Goods on the Academy System in Cincinnati

With more and more eyes on rugby, more people are  getting involved and more programs and initiatives are being established. With all the developments in the rugby world, it's tough to know what the options are, what they offer and which one is the best fit. Fortunately for those in the Ohio rugby scene, there are some strong rugby minds behind the multitude of athletic offerings in the state - and they're looking to tell all about what they have to offer.

A rugby academy is a place where rugby players come from their respective areas of origin to train and study the sport of rugby in order to receive tutelage from people with high-level experience and training while putting what they learn into action during advanced practice sessions and participating in matches against other high-level players. The Cincinnati Rugby Football Club recently started its own academy, the Cincinnati Rugby Football Academy, and while it hasn't had its member see any competition yet it has hit the ground running on the high-level educational endeavors.

According to Darryl Rice, president of the Midwest Rugby Development Foundation, John Fox modeled the Cincinnati-based Academy off of a very successful rugby academy called the Potomac Rugby Academy. The aim of the academy would be to identify promising young rugby players and give them coaching and training that emphasizes: core rugby skill development, position-specific skill development, decision-making skill development, understanding the laws of the game as well as tactical and game awareness. The curriculum also involves information on nutrition and overall sports psychology. The overarching idea behind the array of topics is to create better, smarter people to send out into the rugby world.

"One of the goals of the Academy is to develop rugby leaders by increasing the skill sets and overall rugby knowledge. The Academy participants, in turn, will be able to go back to their clubs and teach and demonstrate this," Rice said. "These athletes will become the leaders of their clubs and pass along the core rugby values that we teach them."

"The aim of the Rugby Academy is to identify and provide promising young rugby players a holistic rugby development program," Fox said. "We are developing scholar athletes who will be the leaders of their rugby teams and schools. Our focus is to create opportunities for individuals to grow not just as rugby players but also as human beings to develop the core values of rugby, which include commitment, team spirit, dedication, camaraderie and respect for others. We are building the rugby leaders for tomorrow."

"For our high school players, they have the opportunity to get coaching from high-level players and coaches," said Al Lucas, who has been coaching since the late 80s and has been involved with the Academy from the start. "This advanced coaching is not held back by the normal restrictions of a team practice.Typically, teams have to coach down to the lowest skill and knowledge level of the team while these advanced players have to wait for their teammates to catch up. When practicing with the very best players in the area, Academy students get an accelerated learning curve. When they go back to their teams they will be leaders who can pull their teammates up with them. Teams at higher levels will benefit from these academy students as well. Our kids will have a higher skill level and knowledge base than the typical college or club level rookie. They will be able to impact their teams much more quickly than what we have observed from rising high school players in the past."

According to Fox, the program also targets coaches and is set to run for six months - from September through February - with the majority of the sessions being scheduled after completion of the football season to accommodate the players and coaches involved.All the training sessions will take place in the Southwest Ohio area over the weekends and be about an hour long. Fox and the others in the academy also plan to establish a coach residency program.

The main component that makes the academy a worthwhile endeavor for players and coaches is the quality of instruction available. If they are getting information that either isn't new or credible then the value of the experience is lost. According to Lucas, having high-level instructors come in helps coaches and players buy in to the whole experience.

"They have no local club allegiance and are all about improving rugby," he said. "Secondly, they have lived it. Their successes cannot be questioned by anyone. So, when they say it, people listen. Finally, they bring legitimacy to the Academy, provide inspiration for our students and help to increase awareness of our mission."

The minds behind the Cincinnati Academy don't just want to send their players back to their clubs with more knowledge and improved tactics. They also want to ensure that they attend colleges and universities that can best utilize their skills and give them the best opportunities for improvement from there.

"We have the opportunity to have Rugger's Edge instruct students and parents to find paths for collegiate scholarships and financial aid opportunities,"Fox said. "Peter Baggetta, head coach of the 2014 High School National Champion Gonzaga Rugby team and member of the US National Women's coaching team will provide instruction for one of our December sessions. Tiger Rugby is working with our students. Eagle Impact Rugby wants to work with our players. The list goes on. Our players will have the opportunity to be seen for the next level of rugby."

The Cincinnati Rugby Football Academy is gearing up and getting ready to start offering more high-level rugby opportunities to players from all around the state. So, if any coaches, parents or players want to increase their knowledge of rugby, they should be sure to keep their eyes and ears trained on the Cincinnati area.


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