The 7s national team's development initiative is up and running, with more than a dozen non-roster players and three outside coaches participating in this week's San Diego training camp.
Authored by coach Alex Magleby, the former Dartmouth and College All-American coach now in his first full year at the Eagle helm, the so-called Olympic Development Program is effectively the first expansion of senior or collegiate *domestic* representative play since USARFU's restructuring in 2006.
Announced last month, it comprises six regionally elite, privately managed teams that collaborate with the national squad based at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego. The purpose of these 'academies' is to provide competition outside the domestic summer 7s season, year-long coaching and fitness training, and related supervision so that players who are not contracted with USARFU are ready to step into 7s World Series teams.
USARFU retains 15 athletes in an 'off-site residency' program at the OTC, for a reported 20,000 per annum plus amenities, while another 3 athletes receive regular stipends. The terms can be onerous, such that some elite players have declined contracts.
Meanwhile, the 7s Eagles routinely use more than 30 athletes during the course of a 7s World Series season, according to Magleby, meaning at least one-third of US internationals would come from outside the OTC environment.
Academy players are expected to compete in 50 matches per year, roughly double the college or senior player's campaign. The schedule is to feature high-level, out-of-season tournaments such as the Las Vegas Invitational, staged next month in conjunction with the USA 7s, and hopefully some international events.
A USA 'A' squad called the Falcons will appear in Vegas, as will
entrants from the academies: Emerging Tigers (Columbus, Ohio, and Long
Glendale (Colorado), and Serevi Rugby (Chicago, San
Diego, and Seattle).
The academies do not reach the entire country, however, as there are no programs on the Eastern seaboard as well as the deep South (including Texas). Several organizations have expressed interest, Magleby said in an interview.
Some 87 7s players are presently monitored on a national depth chart, Magleby said.
2013 USA 7s Contracted Players
Nate Augspurger, Andrew Durutalo, Nick Edwards, Tai Enosa, Jack Halalilo, Matt Hawkins, Colin Hawley, Luke Hume, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Blaine Scully, Shalom Suniula, Mike T'eo, Zack Test. Brett Thompson. Maka Unufe
Olympic Development Program: January 2013 San Diego Roster
Gabe Adler, Michael Garvey, Dean Gericke, Kellen Gordon, Kyle Hitt, Madison Hughes, Elliot Joses, Leland Hunter, Rocco Mauer, Zach Pangelinan, Nick Schwieger, Tyler Spitz, Alex Taefu, Pila Taufa, Keone Tawata, Pete Tiberio, Dustin Umeda, Taylor Welch