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The Collegiate All-American recruitment and assessment cycle begins again with a call to all coaches to put forward the players from their teams they believe have the potential to become future Eagles.

The stats clearly show that making the Collegiate All-Americans is a pathway to the national team. Since 2001, 60 athletes who were selected as Collegiate All-Americans have represented the Eagles for a combined 885 caps. That means that roughly 50% of all caps were from Collegiate All-Americans. If America is to develop at an international level it is critical that we identify and nurture the best talent our expanding network of college programs can deliver.

I took the opportunity to reach out to those coaches attending the USA Rugby National Development Summit in January to clarify the qualities we are looking for

What we look for in players

It’s a blend of core skills, positional skills and mindset that makes a good player a great player and this is the basis for the criteria we use to identify players for the MCAA.

  1. Superior core skill execution
  2. Exceptional abilities in the positional skills for their role
  3. Self-motivated mindset, an appetite to develop as a player and coachable
  4. Match performances which show progression in their role and the ability to execute under pressure

Essentially we want ‘individuals who are constantly working on their skills so they can execute them under pressure.’ If coaches believe they have a player who meets this criteria the next step is to rate their player’s stage of development in the context of the national side.

How we rate the players

We rate players on a scale of 1-4 (where 1 is low and 4 is high), with their scores based on their potential and how long it will take them to progress to that next level .

A 1 means that we do not at the moment see the athlete having an impact on the US team. Doesn’t mean that he could not someday, this coaching staff just does not see that at this time.

A 2 means he has a chance to make an impact in the coming years or in the next RWC cycle, just depending on how many quality repetitions the athlete can chase down and how well they do in competition (domestic and abroad) in the coming year or two.

A 3 means he can make an impact on the US Eagles in this RWC quad (i.e. could be a successful international within the next 12 - 24 months).

And a 4 means he will make an impact on the US Eagles in the near term (i.e. can be a successful international within the year).

Coaches are asked to rate their players as part of the nomination process, which can be a challenging task. Their player may be a 4 compared to their team mates, and even compared to other players in the league but are they really a 4 on this scale which asks them to rate players on their international potential?

Coaches should ask themselves, do they believe their player could:

  • Start on the national team?
  • Start on the bench and come on as substitute?
  • Be in the training squad?

It is important to be honest with players when rating them and give them a target to hit. Ultimately that is what will drive development of the game in this country.

The Program Timeline

The CAA year is upon us again and we are looking to build on last year’s structure to enhance the players we have and helped develop along with the new players who join the pathway. Details of dates and options will be confirmed soon but this was the timeline based on the 2015 groups’ experience.

  • Call for nominations
  • Monitor and Track (competition and/or NTCs)
  • Review and selection process
  • Intensive training camp
  • Feedback and training plans
  • Overseas placements

The Role of Coach

So how can coaches help their best players achieve that next step?

  • Identify and nurture the next generation of US Eagles

We are asking all coaches to look at their squad and see if they have players with the positional skills and drive, and who have produced consistently strong and improving performances.

  • Create an environment for players to reach their potential

We want coaches to provide an environment to challenge players to improve, and with our guidance help develop and prepare these individuals for that next level.

  • Get the player to ‘own’ their development

We want hungry players who understand that hard work gets results and are prepared to put in the extra effort required to progress.

If you are a men’s college coach and have not received an email from me asking for Collegiate All-American player nominations, please feel free to email me (ghickie@usarugby.org) with your nominations and ratings.

For information on how to develop as a player read Rugby Revealed.