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(Special reporting from Kent Oszmanski)
The Women's Rugby Coaches and Referees Association (WRCRA) Conference took place at Queens University, Charlotte, North Carolina last weekend. The meeting was attended by 117 people and featured three-days of informative lectures and breakout sessions.
The core speeches concentrated on the many variables that affect rugby play and rugby participation. Some highlighted topics were:
- Global Women in Rugby;
- Talent Identification;
- Developing Leaders; and,
- The Female Brain Project
A discussion on NCAA Women's Rugby brought members up to date on the status of this important initiative. Currently, there are 18 women's colleges that have formed Varsity programs under the aegis of their Athletic Departments, breaking away from the former club rugby model. These teams pay in the National Collegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) with a playoff every year.
The NCAA requires forty colleges to become an official NCAA emerging sport. The panel of Katie Dowty (Dartmouth Coach) and Becky Carlson (Quinnipiac Coach) along with Ashley Potvin-Fulford cited that three more colleges would join NIRA, bringing the total to 21. In addition, they anticipated at least three new schools signing on next year.
Katie Sadleir, General Manager of Women's Rugby for World Rugby, provided an overview of the organization's eight-year strategy to increase global female participation.
The range of the conference's topics covered multiple aspects; referees, marketing, sponsors, and Women's club rugby. Each lecture and breakout session included Q. & A. from attendees.
The Saturday night dinner featured personal stories of life in rugby via narration of the past five decades from KO Onufry, Vicki Hudson, Kathy Flores, Phaidra Knight, and Clara Lehane.
The Conference solicited sponsorship from Atavus, 24K Brands, Tacomac, Penn Mutual Insurance, Carolinas Geographic Rugby Union, World Rugby Shop, Irish Rugby Tours, Ruggers Rugby Supply, and RHINO equipment and team wear.
The WRCRA goal is to plan an annual event for the free-flowing expression of ideas and initiatives that are beneficial to women and girls' rugby in the United States. The momentum to move forward was expressed by Kerri Heffernan, the WRCRA Chair, who wrote, "Our collective energies can secure a bright future for the sport we love."