Highlights from the 2019 National Development Summit

For the past 13 years, NDS has been a place where individuals can reunite, network and learn from experts in the rugby community. This year’s summit was no exception.

The 2019 National Development Summit(NDS) took place in Houston, Texas on January 11 - 13. With over 350 in attendance from over 40 states, rugby enthusiasts gathered to learn from their constituents and influencers on topics ranging from development on the youth level to high-performance standards.  

In addition to the session-packed agenda, there were many other great takeaways from the summit. Here is a rundown of how the weekend went along with some notable highlights.

HP SESSIONS: This year's NDS kicked off on Friday with the option to attend High-Performance sessions led by Gary Gold, Rob Cain, Jamie McGregor, Richard Every, and Nick Ricono. These sessions proved to be wildly popular among attendees as the rooms nearly fell to standing room only.

PARTNER SUMMIT: USA Rugby leadership met with a collection of the organization's strategic partners for a number of hours to reconnect and open up new lines of communication between each and the national office. Discussion topics included an introduction to the USA Rugby restructure and how each partner now interacts with the union. Additionally, each partner was given a forum to communicate their current challenges and work with USA Rugby resources to help alleviate such challenges.  

DAY 2 LUNCH: Lunch was coupled with a State of the Union Update and Q&A session with Interim CEO Ross Young, USA Rugby CFO Eric Gleason and USA Rugby Commercial Director Mark Griffin. For the first time, this portion of the summit was available on Facebook LIVE. By doing this, it opened the Q&A session to an audience beyond NDS attendees. Questions ranged from info on the current Board of Directors to broadcast exposure to in inclusivity within the organization.   These answers and additional questions can be watched on the recorded Live feed by clicking HERE.

NETWORKING: Knowing that NDS is a place where individuals can reunite with past connections as well as make new ones, the USA Rugby Staff ensured that there were plenty of networking brakes built into the agenda throughout the weekend. In a survey distributed to attendees after the weekend, 59% of responses indicated that networking with other stakeholders in the rugby community proved most valuable. "NDS is a great opportunity to not only further my knowledge but also get an idea of how other administrators are running their organizations across the country," one attendee noted. Concluding the survey, the question was posed, "Would you likely attend NDS in the future" to which a majority percentage answered, yes.

AWARDS DINNER: Leading into the Awards Dinner, ten individuals were honored for their extraordinary work in developing rugby across the county. These individuals are trailblazers in their local and regional work granting each awardee a well-deserved recognition. Click the video above to watch the acceptance of the awards.

Awardees included:

• 2018 Female College Coach of the Year:  Amy Rusert
• 2018 Male College Coach of the Year: Tony Brown
• 2018 Female Community Referee of the Year: Emily Sharfstein
• 2018 Male Community Referee of the Year: Nigel Platt
• 2018 Female Referee Coach of the Year: Wendy Young 
• 2018 Male Referee Coach of the Year: Richard Piraino 
• 2018 Female Senior Club Coach of the Year:  Nora Westcott
• 2018 Male Senior Club Coach of the Year:  Steve Lewis
• 2018 Female Youth & High School Coach of the Year: Kate Zackary 
• 2018 Male Youth & High School Coach of the Year: Jeremy Moore

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: You might know Annise Parker as the Former Mayor of Houston. But what you might not know is that the mayor used to be a rugby player. After a little banter with the audience to help them better understand how to eat like a Texan, she began noting the importance of every individual in the room who is helping to promote the sport - especially those who are promoting the sport into the lives of the youth. 

"One of the defining features of CEO and high-level executives and politicians is that we played sports," she told the room. "Every one of us knows what we get when we play sports. We get discipline. We get focus. We understand preparation and practice. It's also about learning how to win and learning how to lose." Parker noted that she lost her first two races when running for public office then came back and won nine races after that. She credits her time as an athlete as to why she had the resilience to return to the races.

"It is really clear. Participation in athletics for boys and girls, but especially for girls, is absolutely critical for future success," she Explained. "With rugby, more so than some other sports, there is the ethic of respect for the game, respect for the referees and respect for the other team" All of which, Parker notes as ethics which individuals can take into their everyday life and profession.

As for advice for members of the audience? To keep developing youth through sport. "Every time you help someone master themselves, master the game, and become a better leader on the pitch, you help them to become a better leader in their lives and the future" she concluded.

While attendees left the summit on Sunday with a wealth of knowledge, they also took with them new contacts, nuggets of advice and a positive, rugby-filled weekend. The USA Rugby leadership and staff give special thanks to everyone in attendance and look forward to the 2020 National Development Summit.