A youth outreach program has won US Olympic Committee backing for expanding into training school-age standouts.
Play Rugby USA, in combination with the Northeast Academy, has been named a 'Community Olympic Development Program', the USOC's designation for grassroots organizations that help athletes progress from beginning to elite levels in so-called medal sports. While the distinction brings no direct funding, the 15-person, New York-based organization can expect it to lead to operating benefits.
'This is an opportunity to build up our program ... to finish off the pyramid', PRU chief executive Mark Griffin said in an interview.
The appointment looks to be another step in America's ambiguous move away from rugby's conventional organizational model, the union.
Traditionally, as in virtually every other country, local and regional bodies held broad responsibilities for competition, development, commerce, and so on. These functions both mirrored USARFU's efforts and progressed athletes and teams toward the national level.
Over the past decade, however, Boulder has promoted the formation of alternate school-age and collegiate bodies, in the interests of mirroring conventional American sports. Simultaneously, it has sought to re-form the broadest regional unit, the territory, in the name of efficiency.
Perhaps the outstanding result has been the abandonment of representative play. Other gaps have emerged, such as the separation of governance and competition or more than a dozen states being unrepresented in the national body's congress.
In the meantime, independent organizations ranging from PRU and the US Rugby Football Foundation to the National Small College Rugby Organization to Olympic development academies to United World Sports and Pro Rugby have sought to address areas where Boulder has been uninterested or ineffective.
As groups like PRU begin to span several functions, the purpose of the governing bodies, reformed or otherwise, is less and less clear.
Founded in 2003 by Griffin, a former Old Blue and USA hooker, PRU operates in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, often managing rugby programming through the schools system. Its flagship New York operation also include competitions management and sundry other programs.