The Northeast Academy recently hosted the inaugural Elite Women’s 7s tournament at Dartmouth College, featuring top sides including Atavus, Stars, Tiger Cubs, Combined Services, and the Northeast Academy.
This Elite Women’s 7s was conceived at the 2017 USA Rugby National Development Summit (NDS), and Academy Director John McGeachy plans for it to be the first of many. After the NDS, McGeachy opened a dialogue with coaches of elite women’s 7s sides and US National Team coaches, with the goal of creating an annual tournament featuring the best academy and elite women’s 7s sides in the US. “We wanted to create an Elite Women’s 7s competition at the end of the summer 7s season, similar to the Elite City 7s held two years ago,” McGeachy says.
The goal of the tournament is to not only create more high-level competitive opportunities for the top women 7s players in the country, but to also provide the USA Eagles 7s coaching staff the opportunity to assess the best players in the country, competing head-to- head before the Eagles 7s residency contract renewals.
While at Dartmouth, Northeast Academy Advisor and USA Rugby Performance Game Board representative Steve Lewis facilitated a discussion with the coaches of the participating teams, discussing ways to grow the women’s game and competition at the elite level, as a means to support player transition to the National level.
“A positive conversation was had, with the twin focus on how to provide more opportunities for top women players, and define what the optimum 7s season should look like,” Lewis said.
The Northeast Academy’s tournament-winning coach, Ryszard Chadwick, was impressed with the high level of play across all of the competing teams. “It was obvious to see straight away the fitness levels and how powerful the women looked – another step up from the USA Club Nationals a few weeks prior. Players with increasing levels of fitness, skills and decision-making will only bode well for the national team,” Chadwick says. “With the addition of elite-level tournaments, there is a serious amount of competition from around the county and its important now that all the academies, clubs, colleges, youth programs continue to push and develop their players in their region.”
McGeachy says that plans are now in the works to establish the tournament as an annual event, scheduled to avoid conflict with the start of the 15s season, and hosted on a rotating basis by other academies. Additionally, a concept was floated to kick off the 2018 summer 7s season with an additional elite tournament to aid the US coaching staff with selections and preparations ahead of the 2018 7s World Cup in San Francisco. With the Vegas 7s in March, this plan would result in three domestic Elite Women’s 7s competitions in 2018.
“We’re quite pleased with how this first tournament came together,” McGeachy says. “We had a fabulous location and facilities, and some of the top players in the country playing in a very competitive tournament. We’re excited about the future of the tournament and providing additional elite-level opportunities for these athletes.”
The Northeast Academy is a National Development Academy sanctioned by USA Rugby as the official designated pathway to the USA Eagles National Team selection for both Men and Women in the Northeast of America. With training locations in New York City, Boston and Buffalo, the Academy offers development in three distinct areas: elite player advancement; coach education; and local union enrichment; and has the ultimate goal to augment the skills of players and coaches alike, growing the game within the EMPIRE and NERFU Unions.