I recently was fortunate enough to attend USA Rugby’s Collegiate Sevens National Championships in College Station, TX. I encourage you to take a look at the YouTube replays or the ESPN3 coverage if you haven’t. For those of you that weren’t in attendance, I figured I would jot down my highlights from the weekend as well.
What stuck with me most was how much better all of the teams were. Compared to last year’s event, the rugby was simply better. Teams had obviously played more sevens leading up to the tournament. Skills were better, game plans were better, and as such, I’d assume the coaching was better. Life, Arkansas State, and Norwich did stand out from the rest but the next 16-18 teams on the men’s side were all very competitive. Overall, you would have to say that the lineup of teams was better than what has been at the CRC. This coming June’s event could come close, especially if Central Washington qualifies through the LVI (where’s Arkansas State?), but there will most likely be a big drop off after the top four or five.
I also walked away having seen a lot of new and excited players. Jimmy Kowalski of Delaware, Dylan Carrion of Arkansas State, Shelby Williams of Central Washington, and Tom Hemmings of Wisconsin on the men’s side, Akua Adu-Gyamfi of Ohio State and Stephanie Goetz of James Madison on the women’s side just to name a few. That’s not to say they are the only ones, but those are some that I hadn’t heard of or seen before. And how about Chris Ryan as coach for both Delaware men and Princeton women? Two third-places at the same tournament! He knows what he’s doing. It’s a shame more people haven’t seen the tournament (watch those replays!). There was a lot of skill on the field.
Which brings me to how it was simply fun to see. A stadium would be fitting to show off these teams and players. Even just a university soccer stadium. The two fields are necessary but they draw attention away from each other. One field or two, you have a good product that fans will watch. The CRC is proving that. People have mentioned how it would be great if you could combine the qualification and (nearly) complete lineup of USA Rugby’s event with the production and financial backing of the CRC. What a fantastic event that would be. But why limit the competition? With all of the talent available, I’d say we are lucky to have both.