The Outsourcing of American Rugby and this Weekends Congress Meeting

Ben GollingsToday it was announced that Ben Gollings, well known international rugby superstar, would be coaching the USA Youth Olympics 7s teams.

 http://www.rugbytoday.com/national-teams/big-name-lead-team-usa-youth-olympics .   

The article mentions Golling’s position as a member of the Serevi coaching stable, along with Matt Hawkins (Men’s 7s coach), Ric Suggit (Women’s 7s coach), Richie Walker (Women’s 7s Assistant Coach), and Justin Fitzpatrick (Men’s 15s Assistant Coach).

When did Serevi take over our National teams?  It’s a good question and one we should be asking.  Rather than developing coaches here in the US – coaches with lifelong skin-in-the-game, our leadership has made a conscious decision to outsource the success of our highest profile product – our Olympic 7s teams – to a for-profit foreign owned company.

At first, we were dazzled by the name ‘Serevi’.  But, with the exception of Suggitt, Walker, and Fitzpatrick, this is an organization populated by players who have rebranded themselves as coaches.  Maybe we need to examine their record – have the Serevi coaches now in charge of our Mens and Women’s 7s teams outperformed our previous American coaches, who had to do so much more with so much less?  Has Hawkins outperformed Alex Magelby?  Has Suggitt outperformed Julie McCoy?  The answer is unequivocally – NO.   Gollings, for all his success as a player, has never coached youth before, where other applicants for the position have.  Not one line in Golling’s bio describes his experience as a coach. http://www.serevirugby.com/pages/info/index/coach/7/page/coach-profiles/.  Doesn’t this trouble anyone?

Don’t get me wrong – I think the Serevi organization has done a lot of great things to grow the game in the USA, and there is certainly a place for them as a partner.  As the sport grows and the demand for camps and clinics rises, they will reap rich rewards and we should embrace them as a partner.  But they should NOT – repeat NOT – be running our national teams.  What do we tell a highly motivated upwardly mobile coach, who has dreams of one day coaching the USA?  We’ve done away with ITTs and NASCs, so that path isn’t available.  Should he or she be applying for positions with Serevi?   It appears today, that if you want to coach the USA, Serevi is the prefered pathway.

An opportunity like this – coaching a youth sevens program in a major international event – is a precious development opportunity that should have been made available to the American public.  This opportunity is rugby gold, and we gave it away to an organization with a for-profit mission.

This is just one of several recent movements by former overseas players who see a potential market in the US.  This was an opportunity for perhaps 4 up-and-coming US coaches to cut their teeth in the international community, and it has been squandered.

The article also makes it unclear if there is a girls team – it specifically speaks about the boys program, but also refers to both “squads”.   So is there are girls team?  How will it be funded?  Will Gollings coach both? Will it be funded?  Currently EVERY Women’s National team (even our Olympic team!) has to crowd source via https://www.coloradogives.org/RugbyUSA/programs.   If the Senior Women’s National Team doesn’t raise enough money, they will go into their pre-world cup tour with only 26 players.  Yet there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how much we can spend on our mens side.  Where is Todd Clever’s ColoradoGives page?

This weekend in Houston the USA Rugby Congress is meeting.  The Congress are the direct representatives of the membership.  We in the rugby public are pretty good at complaining (myself included) online and to our like-minded buddies.  Say something to your congress reps.  SPEAK UP to the people who have influence and can do something.  If you aren’t happy with the current state of affairs – MAKE YOURSELF HEARD.

You can find your congress representative here:

http://usarugby.org/congress

Let’s not give away anything else, and let’s try to take back ownership of rugby in the USA.   This is our organization, our sport, and our country.  Let’s own it.

10 thoughts on “The Outsourcing of American Rugby and this Weekends Congress Meeting”

  1. Servi isn’t a “for-profit foreign owned company” like your article suggests. Rugby Nation, LLC, is a Washington registered LLC, and owns the Serevi brand. Having foreign born shareholders does not make the company “foreign owned.”

    And I disagree that coaching at the international level is a “development opportunity.” Its a performance opportunity.

    Ben Gollings is the highest scoring playing in 7s history and has played underneath world class coaches on a world class stage. I understand the frustration about other coaches getting shut out from the position, but I think more credit needs to be given to the amount of professional experience Gollings has.

    Tom Billups, the most-winning USA men’s coach, took over the program without any significant head coach experience and performed better than anyone before or after his time.

    I appreciate your thoughtful article about maintaining a separation between the national governing body and its intermingling with a for-profit group. But I think that criticism of Serevi and Mr. Gollings is unwarranted.

    Reply
    • I appreciate your thoughtful feedback – but my criticism isn’t of Serevi or Gollings. Gollings has a stellar resume AS A PLAYER. I’m concerned that our National team coaches are Serevi employees, not USA Rugby employees, and that coaches like Hawkins and Gollings get Olympic appointments with little (Matt has some) to no (Gollings has non) coaching experience. When it comes to my Olympic team, I want a coach with a winning record as a coach – not as a player.

      As you said – its a performance opportunity, but is is ALSO a development opportunity. What has Gollings done to demonstrate that his performance as a coach merits this appointment?

      Reply
      • Yeah you bring up a great point that I hadn’t thought of. Do you know of any other coaches who were in the conversation for appointment?

        Reply
        • I do, though Iwouldn’t put their names out here without their permission. Everyone I know of has a successful coaching record, nationally and internationally, and one is a capped former Eagle.

          Reply
  2. Coaches (national team or otherwise) should not be forced to take a vow of poverty to coach rugby. I have no problem with national team coaches supplementing their income with camps, endorsements, etc. I also applaud the Gollings / Thompson selection. It pairs a young, dynamic coach (and very accomplished player) with a more experienced and established domestic youth coach. However, I believe that our best rugby coaches will come from the domestic ranks. Pacheco, Magleby, Fee, and Manheimer exemplify the strength and professionalism of our home grown coaches. National teams should be supplemented with young domestic coaches as a platform for observation and learning.

    Reply
  3. As an outsider (foreigner) this issue is clearly the biggest issue facing rugby in the USA. An impotent NGB is a major issue. Leaving development to for-profit entities simply doesn’t occur anywhere else and with good reason. There needs to be a unified objective.

    To be fair, the national team issue is always related to Serevi eg Gavin Hickie had never coached until he got to the USA and was almost immediately coaching at the U20 level.

    This isn’t a foreign coach issue rather an under-qualified coach issue. The mens 7s even went for a player-coach. Seriously, in professional sport. The minute that appointment was made, I think every excuse about professionalism and money went out the window.

    Since the love affair with under-qualified coaches began EVERY national team has regressed. That’s a pretty telling stat. More money than ever poured in and fewer results to show. I think a lack of global awareness hasn’t helped in the Mens 7s and the USA was probably miles ahead of many countries before the Olympic announcement and now those tier 1 countries actually care about 7s (but thats another story).

    It’s also not only about results. But these coaches are appointed to key developmental roles with out any experience developing and producing elite rugby players. How many of these coaches would have 5+ years of developing elite tier 1 test and professional standard players? Not being at a club when a talented kid walks in, but working day to day with average/decent players and turning them into internationals? I doubt any.

    Reply
  4. The argument in the article is definitely a valid one as its always better to develope or encourage home grown products be it player or coach. However, as an expat who spent two years coaching in the USA – one of the biggest flaws within the Rugby set up in the USA is its coaching education pathway. My observation was that the high level “home grown” coaches who are/were successful had expererience either coaching or playing abroad. The current education system for coaches is severely lacking , I know in the past there has been a USA Level 300/400 course but my time there, this didnt exist. My opinon and observation (and its just that – my opinion) was that the USA Rugby were more interested in lining their coffers with dues/fees for their coaching qualifications rather than the quality of the qualifications and its delivery itself. When that is fixed then the argument here would have more weight.

    Reply
  5. @ Greg

    I would dispute your comment about me never coaching before I became part of the USA U20s. Before I became part of the coaching team that won the IRB Junior World Trophy in 2012, I had coached the Leicester Tigers academy, Wilson High School and Belmont Shore – all of whom were very successful. I am unsure why you felt the need to make that comment but everyone is entitled to their opinion, I just ask that you get your facts straight before you post such comments online.
    Gavin

    Reply

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