USA Rugby has big goals in 2015

2014 was a big year for the development of rugby in America. The sport continues to grow at a faster rate than any other team sport in the U.S., while the Eagles versus All Blacks match in Chicago on November 1 raised awareness of rugby around the nation.

In 2015 USA Rugby is set to continue this growth trajectory by introducing new programs and initiatives to develop coaches, referees and youth programs around the country. At the same time our national teams will be competing in high profile matches throughout the year.

This year officially begins the road to the 2016 Olympics in Rio with a few different qualifying events. The Men's and Women's Eagles are competing in the IRB Rugby World Cup. The teams ranked 1 to 4 in the final rankings will qualify for the Olympics games. There will also be a Regional Association Sevens Championship tournament held in 2015 in which the United States could qualify for the Olympics.

The Men's Rugby Union World Cup will be held this fall in England from September 18 to October 31. The eighth Men's Rugby World Cup will be one off the most watched sporting events of the year around the world. Rugby fans in America will route for the Eagles, while the increased exposure will introduce even more people to the game.

On the development side of USA Rugby new programs to improve coaching and refereeing in the United States are being rolled out while youth programs will continue to grow.

Director of Coach Development Josh Sutcliffe says USA Rugby will use the annual Stars and Stripes Camp to help develop coaches. Last year's camp included a coach education aspect and this year will see even more emphasis on coach development, including more substantial follow up plans. Josh also said USA Rugby will continue to hone and expand its online and in-person coaching course work, especially the successful Level 200 course.

"It is a super dynamic experience," Sutcliffe said of the Level 200 course. "Even a 20 year veteran coach will come out of it with some new beneficial skills."

Referee Manager Brittany Jacobs said in 2015 USA Rugby hopes to implement a referee mentoring program in which more experienced referees are trained to act as mentors to new refs. While Youth and High School Director Kurt Weaver said 2015 is "1000-percent" focused on growth of the youth game. Weaver said he will be using what was learned during an outreach initiative launched in Chicago around the New Zealand match last fall to expand youth outreach around the country.

All of these programs benefit from the generosity of your support to the USA Rugby Trust. Consider donating to one of these worthwhile efforts or giving to the greatest need to help make rugby fun and accessible at all levels of play across the country in 2015.