The purpose of identifying and enmeshing bedrock principles within charter and policy is not to prescribe an organization's activity, but to ground it, to lend experience and even wisdom to ongoing activity and new ventures. In an effort to elucidate the few principles on which any successful rugby policy in America must be grounded, I recently reviewed writings on the 2009 season and then backtracked further, while also drawing on the work of colleagues at Rugby Magazine, American Rugby News, and elsewhere. I've also benefited from speaking with many players, coaches, and officials; but any errors of commission or omission must be my own.
1. The nucleus of American rugby is the team, and itspurpose is to provide competition for its members.
- The main role of third parties (e.g., referees, league officials, vendors) is to promote competition. Commerce is a byproduct of serving teams.
- Decisions about competition are best made by those authorities closest to the competitors, because the game encompasses the diversity of a continental nation.
- To the extent that it directs resources away from team competition without delivering practical benefits, the claims of unions on teams are limited.
2. The leading resource for growth and improvement is the school system, which requires rugby to adopt a mainstream approach to sports.
- Junior high, high school, and college teams sanctioned by school authorities enable rugby to systematically access valuable public resources.
- Rugby teams, varsity or otherwise, that emulate mainstream sports in providing advanced coaching, facilities, sports science, etc. obtain more of the most valuable resource: athletes. School teams also benefit from scholastic brands.
- Elite (i.e., representative or national) teams that replicate the varsity structure better prepare athletes since superior training is more practical than tougher competition. Olympic 7s represents the apotheosis of varsity training and support.
3. The sport is too small for a large number of full-timers, so union administrative and commercial initiatives should be measured according to benefits for teams.
- The playing community, even if energized by successful national teams, diminishes its focus when asked to endlessly pay for athletes, coaches, and officials. The game will become ‘professional’ only when subsidies are no longer necessary.
- The purpose of union initiatives is to generate financial returns to seed the growth and improvement of team competition.
- The most important commercial opportunities lie in 7s because it is an Olympic sport with a privately managed international tournament, posing no risk to teams.