USA Rugby and International Gay Rugby join forces again for the US Olympic Committee

Inclusivity challenge selected by USOC as part of FLAME program

LAFAYETTE, CO - A youth diversity and inclusion challenge jointly developed by USA Rugby (USAR) and International Gay Rugby (IGR) has been selected by the US Olympic Committee (USOC) to be presented at their 2018 Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere (FLAME) program. The challenge is a collaboration between head of UAS Rugby Membership Services, Lucy Zugschwert and Gustavo Ventura who serves at the IGR Liaison to USA Rugby and is also the IGR Regional Representative for North America - EAST. Their effort was chosen to join six other national associations including US Triathlon and US Tennis Association for presentations at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Spring May 30 - June 6, 2018.

The USOC's FLAME program focuses on promoting diversity and inclusiveness in sports business and within the ranks of the USOC by providing "college and graduate-level students with an intensive look into the corporate world of elite sport." During the 11-day program, National Governing Body (NGB) representatives are chosen to present various challenges and students are tasked to develop "business and inclusion strategies to assist [those presenting NGBs]." Participants are then given the chance to present their "business models."

USAR and IGR began their relationship in 2015 with the signing of a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the goal to eliminate homophobia in rugby. Ventura and Zugschwert worked extensively on the MOU and created the first such agreement between IGR and a Rugby National Governing Body. The memorandum signed by Nigel Melville, the previous CEO of USAR and Jeff Wilson, the previous Chairman of IGR along with an IGR agreement with World Rugby that same year sent a very powerful message of support for those programs and initiatives that would seek "to end homophobia in all areas of the game."

This cooperation went on to experience successful collaborations including encouraging LGBTQ diversity, sponsoring a national anti-homophobia campaign for rugby, increasing participation of LGBTQ with rugby coaching courses and certifications, and a USAR run player clinic at IGR's Bingham Cup hosted in Nashville in 2016. The Bingham Cup is IGR's marquee international tournament showcasing IGR rugby union clubs from all over the world. The Nashville tournament hosted over 42 teams and 1,200 players, staff, and family members. The USAR player clinic provided IGR players a chance to learn skills and drills from some of USA Rugby's finest national players and coaches, including Kenneth Forehand, Director of Training & Education at USA Rugby, Andre Snyman the former Head Coach of the Glendale Raptors, Sarah Chobot from the Women's Eagles Sevens squad, and Katie Sjeklocha, Director of First 15 Sport Performance.

These experiences developed a strong working relationship between Zugschwert and Ventura, which has led them to this opportunity to co-present at USOC FLAME 2018. The joint USAR and IGR team has chosen to challenge FLAME participants with developing a sustainable diversity and inclusion program for youth and high school rugby. USAR then plans to share the FLAME generated, conceptual business model with the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business to transform the concept to application. USAR and IGR are hoping the Leeds product would then be presented to youth and high school rugby programs throughout the United States to help their players and leadership ensure diversity and inclusiveness in their programs. The program would also serve as a template to help local IGR clubs support their community youth and high school rugby clubs.

To learn more about the FLAME program, visit their website, as well at International Gay Rugby at igrugby.org.