« Scope key to 7s tournament success | Main | College playoffs expected going back to schools »

18 August 2008


Kurt is a great writer most of the time. "and they dont have a patent" love that.

Well, our - am I still allowed to refer to SFGG as we? - high school program is darned good, and has produced Super Leaguers in the national team frame (Danny LaPrevotte) already. We may not yet be Jesuit good, but we're close. This is a pretty astonishing turn from when I started playing in 1999 at the age of 14, when we had 16 kids and three props. This year we had I believe over 120 kids, many from the community on Treasure Island, which is disadvantaged. Standards have risen to rarely-heard of levels for American HS rugby, thanks to a strong support network led by some demanding and brilliant coaches who do great work. At SFGG HS rugby is not an afterthought, but rather the core of the whole club, taken more seriously than any other level besides Super League. There's even been an expansion to mini-rugby this year led by SL coach Paul Keeler.

Obviously it's helped that in SF everybody knows somebody, and maybe even with all the phenomenal work done at SFGG, there might not be a facility if Treasure Island wasn't vacated by the Navy. But to the club's great credit, there have been no incidents at Treasure Island (something I understand city government was worried about when the lease was signed) and the club has not failed to distinguish itself both on and off the field. Combine that with several club men willing to work extra to help the club grow and SFGG I think has positioned itself as well as any club in the country in the future. Sustainability is a key in American rugby, particularly in the somewhat volatile NorCal scene with great clubs like Old Blues disappearing, but it's difficult not to see an SFGG around 20 years from now.

From my understanding of the club, if I had to write a primer for establishing your club as a part of the local community, it would be to invest in youth (particularly disadvantaged youth), understand that you are representing your club and rugby - so don't be a drunken lout, and try hard to establish relationships in local communities. Get to know people.

By the way, why was rugby kicked off the Polo Fields? I remember being there as a kid and seeing the Gaelic games posts and the rugby posts everywhere, then they came down for the disastrous Pearl Jam concert and never came back. Is it that simple or was there something else to it? It's a shame that hallowed American rugby ground like that no longer sees much rugby.

Having coached against SFGG's high school team, I am not sure where your "shortage of a strong HS program" point is coming from. I think that their numbers are excellent, (got to be close to 80 kids) they have expanded to having a youth program too, so from my perspective this analysis was not accurate. At the same time former HS players from around the Bay Area have looked to the 'Gate as a place to play and continue their rugby education.

From a quality standpoint, I think that Mike Caravelli and his staff are among the best HS coaches in NorCal if not the best. They have been in close contact with Sacred Heart HS, where the majority of the players attend, and if rugby was an official sport, there would be an on-campus team, instead of lacrosse. This is a problem with USA rugby, not SFGG.

As far as collegiate support, they have sent players to Cal (10 miles away) and St Mary's College (15 miles) and get players to come back to play later in their careers. It would be great if USF and SF State had teams, but don't you think that you are raising the bar a bit high Kurt?

For crying out loud guys, use your reading skills tied to your brain.

Kurt writes a very glowing article on SFGG. A well deserved glowing article and points out what might be the next step in their growth and contribution to local rugby and he gets these defensive responses.

Fact, the local JC and SF colleges don't have teams. Yes I'm aware that USF makes an occasional run at putting out a team put they underachieve. Same with the local HS's. Petty, is it great that SFGG has 80 player? Yes. But is Kurt correct to point out that the next step would be having 4, 6 maybe 8 SF high school teams all competing under their school name and colors on Treasure Island? Yes, with a capital Y. The risk is, it becomes easier to have no school sponsored HS rugby in SF, because we have the local club side fielding a team. This is most likely and hopefully not the SFGG plan. They have shown to be forward thinking and lets hope they will be forward thinking on this expansion plan. Catholic high school are excellent breeding grounds for HS rugby and it just so happens, SF, has some great Catholic high schools.

Congrats to SFGG and I hope you take the next step in spawning multiple team college and HS rugby in the great city of SF.

Please don't omit the SF Fog's efforts on TI. We also are building a facility and pitches.



Yes! Please support gay rugby clubs too.


Chuck Norris says - gay rugby...no thanks, I am happy enough.

Some clarification
SFGG had over 100 hs players
Had a tour to argentina with 100 players(15-23 yrolds) including 30 of whom are under 23 and most in college.
Has sent players to the following schools in the past 2 years: Cal, St Marys, Cal Poly, Colorado, Fordham, SDSU, Davis, Santa Rosa and more
Lost to Jesuit by a point twice this year
Had between 60-100 kids every week at their mini rugby
I heard they are launching a PlayRugby usa program in the bay area this fall and have plans on developing some sort of academy to develop players. The varsity model that Dan Lyle has been advertising is great, but high schools are not buying in(Iknow SFGG has tried, because Caravelli a sacred Heart alumnus has tried), so until they do we need a player development model and an academy works pretty well. Also not every kid is going to college and how does a varsity model deal with that. I think until rugby becomes widespread or mainstream, this is the model to go with.
Teams can build fields or raise money all they like but SFGG is building a community.

I wonder why all those SF Catholic High Schools are so different than these Catholic HS all over the country that have embraced rugby?

I agree than a community youth team is fully in our control, so it should be used until the HS's come on board. But at what point does the community club become a competitor to HS's having a team. Sure would feel better if the plan was to get rugby into all those Catholic HS's to be followed by the public schools. This would be much more powerful than one SFGG youth team, no matter how big.

How many Catholic high schools all over the country have embraced rugby? Jesuit and De la Salle (which is basically run by ex-DLS old boys who played and are part of SFGG) in the NorCal area..am I forgetting anybody else?

Riordan, SH and SI are pretty much par for the course in Catholic HSs when it comes to rugby.

As well, breaking up SFGG's HS team into schools means you have to find 6-8 good coaches, not just Tony Wells and Mike Caravelli, and you assume there is sufficient untapped interest. I went to Riordan and it's always been a bitch to get guys to come because frankly there aren't that many guys whose grannies come from Ireland and have a family knowledge of rugby. I've tried and teachers of mine who went to St. Mary's have tried, and it can be difficult (though not impossible).

Furthermore, the varsity model is discussed as the best way for American rugby *as a whole* to progress. But the Commonwealth model, which is more or less what SFGG practices, has its benefits. If you have a club that has as good of a structure of SFGG, why change it for change's sake, especially when the demand may not even be there?

"Chuck Norris",

Grow up. If all rugby clubs were run as effectively as clubs like SF Fog and Gotham Knights the overall landscape of rugby in the US would be vastly improved.

I refereed at the Bingham Cup when it was hosted by Gotham in NY City two years ago. It was an excellent example of how to plan an event, market an event, obtain sponsorship, ensure mass media coverage. All of this while dealing with the issue of Randall's Island having the absolute worst rugby pitches in the country.

So by all means make homophobic swipes, it effectively highlights how ignorant you really are.

Chuck I know men, and you are not a man. Go insult the gay rugby community on some other board. This board doesn't need hate spewing cretin like you.

What the hell is gay rugby? I thought it was just rugby?
It is ridiculous to identify a sport by sexuality.
Is there womens gay rugby? Is there gay football too.
Unbelievable, just play rugby I dont care what you do in your bedroom. Whats next BDSM rugby no I got it... african american rugby. What does an article about what a club is doing thats good have anything to do with the fog. Good they are building fields, but...so what, a lot of other clubs doing good things were left out...because it was about how 1 club is apparently getting it right and maybe just maybe people should be calling sfgg and finding out what they are doing right and trying to emulate and improve upon that.


Catholic HS's all over America have embraced the sport. Something like 7 of the final 8 teams standing at the recent national championships.

The varsity model is for HS and colleges, SFGG is the club community model. I think Kurt was highlighting the fact, a key component of the varsity model is engagement with the school and its institutions. He compared this with the engagement work SFGG has done in the community to secure the venue at Treasure Island.


i like where your head is at: woman's gay rugby. i'm sure they way i'm picturing it is not quite how it would be, but it will help get me through the day...

SFGG has pushed for schools to pick up the sport. The HS team is apparently comprised of about 80 students from sacred heart but the school decided to add lacrosse despite the fact that they already have 3 teams. The varsity model is good but can not be the "only" way forward, the way to go is the community model, and to continue to press for schools to pick up the sport. Also, public schools are slow if at all to pick up the sport and in order for the sport to be mainstream and for a varsity model to really take hold that needs to happen. I think SFGG is a varsity model and I think thqat was Kurts point. I also want to note I think Dan Lyle's comment about scrapping academies is wrong. We need an avenue to develop players. I hope SFGG starts some sort of academy because I dont think the LAU's or USA are capable of doing it.

You don't have to be officially "in" the schools to follow the varsity model nor do you have to wait around for the school system to pick up rugby as an official sport.

Find some kids from the same school, order a set of jerseys with the school colors and mascot, and off you go. It works, if you are willing to lead.

Those that want to wait on the schools, the LAUs and TUs, or USAR are simply going to get left behind...

"Varsity" rugby carries a lot of definitions within the rugby world. Simply put, you don't need the school to bless your program to be varsity. At the high school and collegiate level, varsity can be an attitude, not a designation.


I absolutely agree with the concept of "Varsity in attitude, not in designation", it's the same concept as the professional attitude that Scott J wants the Eagles to have.

However teams should be careful about calling up a rugby vendor and ordering up a set of kit in the school colors, with school logo's and "Varsity Rugby XV" on the chest. Many school will not take kindly to teams assigning themselves a title, and many in fact are wary about allowing teams to use colors, names and logo's without formal approval.

I'd suggest that anyone seeking to know the pathways to setting up a successful Varsity rugby team at the HS level should contact Coach Lapham at Greenwich HS in Connecticut. He's been through the entire process and runs one of the top HS programs in the NorthEast, and this is at a public HS. Programs such as Xavier in NY are also very successful but as a private school the process will be slightly different.

I feel a Mora coming on... Scott Johnson, Scott Johnson.. whats Scott Johnson got to do with a conversation about American varsity anything.

Also, when you're quoted daily saying our players aren't good enough and we need professional rugby players and you are bringing in marginal overseas players to replace American players, you have no credibility talking about professional attitudes.

I'm all too familiar with the perceived liability exposure that a school administration will use as an obstacle when someone wants to start a team/club.

As we seem to keep repeating, the single-school model is mostly limitted to Catholic private schools. By their very nature, most single-school programs cannot start and develop youth rugby programs.

To best improve our game we need to introduce it to kids; we need to develop youth rugby leagues throughout the country. Clubs have the resources and the structure to accomplish this most important mission. SFGG is a great example of this concept in action.

Single-school is a false and unnecessary distinction that only benefits those privelaged few who have the unique opportunity to participate. They are no better than multi-school U19 clubs and deserve no special playoff or national championship. Since they cannot contribute to the youth movement, perhaps the single-schools are of less value to the future of US rugby than the are the clubs.


Doesn't your youth team draw from an area that includes over 15 HS's? These type of clubs may keep down the start of new clubs, I don't see this as a long term positive.


I coach youth for Lamorinda. We draw primarily from the 3 HS's in the 'Lamorinda' area, with the majority coming from just 2, Miramonte and Campolindo. We do get some kids from outlying areas but the majority of these kids don't play for our HS sides; they typically participate in our youth programs (U15 through U9). (We certainly do not recruit from overseas or afar as is suggested by the common misperception of multi-school clubs.)

To your point, even if there was school and district buy-in, at present levels it would be impossible for any single feeder HS to start its own program and have ample bodies and competitive sides. And if they did, they wouldn't have the resources to build and develop a youth program - the game wouldn't be presented to the kids that matter most.

Fortunately we don't have 2 or 3 single-schools, each operating with inadequate resurces. Instead we have one combined organization that can continue to improve its structure and its offering, introducing the game to over 200 youth players each season. In turn these kids will bring a passion for the game to their friends and help build the popularity of rugby.

So, question, your point is exactly wrong, I think. A national effort to support 'Club' or multi-school programs that introduce the game at the U9 - U15 levels is the only way we can ever expect to see any real improvement and growth at the HS level, which will lead to improvement at the collegiate level, then improvement in club and RSL, and then improvement at the international level.....

Lamo has players from as far away as San Ramon.

I think youth clubs are great, I just think they also have an unintended side effect, of restricting the growth of new teams.

I agree with needing both at this point in time. But more kids will play rugby when its more locally available. HS rugby would be best, with youth club rugby the second choice.

I would be surprised if the number of Catholic men's/co-ed HS's in this country who have rugby is over 25%. Figures would be greatly appreciated.

...And Oakland and Antioch and places in-between. When there are more local HS programs for these kids to join they will join. In fact, the Hayward Rugby Club's youth program started with a handfull of their kids playing with Lamo a couple of years ago. They have been self-sustaining ever since, a feeder to their HS / U19 program.

You seem to be ignoring the point: there are not enough kids currently playing the game for all these hypothetical single-school programs to evolve. And if there were, who is going to coach, schedule, get fields, arrange competitions, arrange travel, pay CIPP, get referees, etc.??

It takes a lot of resources to run a rugby program at any level. Clubs have those resources and, by promoting the game to kids from ages 6 to 15, we are building an ever expanding pool of young athletes that are passionate about rugby. The more kids we can teach from youth and move into the HS age levels, the more opportunity there will be for single-school programs to emerge in the future. The key is growing the youth programs. Clubs can develop youth programs; single-school, by and large, cannot. If clubs can do it and single-schools cannot, then the clubs should be our obvious priority.

Starting an HS program would be very, very costly. I don't think you can expect kids to play a new sport, so you're left with you and maybe a couple of other people picking up the tab for kit, insurance, first aid, facilities, etc. I don't see how that would cost less than $20K.

Wow, I guess I have never disagreed more with a thread of comments on Gainline more than some of what I've read in this one...

"Fortunately we don't have 2 or 3 single-schools, each operating with inadequate resurces. Instead we have one combined organization that can continue to improve its structure and its offering, introducing the game to over 200 youth players each season."

In our area, we've managed to do both fairly well... We have a strong central organization that manages competition for 11 high school clubs representing 16 teams (boys and girls). All 11 clubs use school colors and mascots and only a couple of them are actually recognized by their school as an official club. But, a most of them have what I would call a varsity attitude - with some of them even lettering.

Starting a high school club can bed done for under $1000, not $10,000. But, it takes commitment and leadership from someone will to put in the effort (and a strong central organization).

Regardless of your methods, keep the go forward if its working.

Apologies for the grammar and typing errors. In a bit of a hurry between youth events on a Friday night.

M Bradley,

You don't see the value of growing the youth game?

Yeah, I see the value... Those that know me would find your question rather humorous.


Nice site and impressive league. I respect your contribution to the future of our game.

My comment you quoted above speaks to a level of success we have had creating and building a youth rugby league within the organizational structure of our multi-school club. We get over 200 kids in grades 1 - 8 playing rugby each season. To get that many bodies, enough to field multiple teams per age group, we need to draw from a fairly wide geographic area.


Our program started with the HS / U19 sides and then grew down the respective age groups. Looking at the structure of your league, it seems that a centralized youth program could be developed using existing organizational resources. Good luck. It is very gratifying to see the little ones play.

Youth rugby is the key. Whatever any of us do to promote the game to kids of all ages is the ultimate contribution we can make towards ensuring the future of rugby in the US.

The comments to this entry are closed.


About Comments

  • Gainline.us values readers' thoughts and wisdom. While correspondents are encouraged to use given names, aliases in combination with a valid, publicly accessible email are acceptable. Profanity will be edited and unverifiable identities unpublished. Thanks to all who write in for helping to advance our collective understanding of American rugby, as it is and could be.

Corrections & Amplifications

  • Gainline.us values accuracy and fairness. If we fall short of the goal, we promptly correct errors or oversights. Strikethroughs denote text which has been replaced. *Asterisks* denotes text added after the initial post.
My Photo