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2019 USA Rugby National Development Summit Highlights Back
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Date: Friday - 02.08.19

Luke Turner | President

I, along with members of Rugby Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Rugby Elite Referee Society (OREOS), recently attended the USA Rugby National Development Summit in Houston, TX.

The Summit is a tremendous tool for developing the game across America as it brings together individuals from all over the country (and the world) to share ideas, network and learn from some of the top experts in rugby on how to better develop their teams, coaching styles, leadership, and overall rugby communities.

I was lucky to attend the following sessions:

High Performance Sessions

Men’s Eagles XV’s Head Coach Gary Gold. Coach Gold presentation was on The Study of Cohesion in Team Sports and How it Impacts Preparation

Gary Gold Player Pathways -

Coach Gold will discuss the pathway for the men’s national team and field other questions surrounding how the team will operate in 2019 and beyond.

Adminstrative Sessions

Chris Reed, USAR Chief Development Officer - Fundraising and Philanthropy. A Discussion to Elevate your Organization focusing on some of the best practices around fundraising in rugby and help you to develop a plan to walk away with and implement at the local level.

Margaret Dessypris Thomas, MAC CR & Capital GU Representative and Kurt Weaver, USA VP Rugby Operations - Adult Club Rugby Development

Clubs with the right organizational discipline and coordination stand out when it comes time for successful runs at success on and off the field. Discussing the developmental and administrative habits of thriving clubs. Gaining perspective on the administrative activities most crucial to club success.


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. 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.

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.




Overall, USA Rugby put on an excellent event that was well worth the trip to Houston. Myself and other local representatives were able to take in a significant amount of relevant content while networking with contemporaries from around the country with similar concerns, challenges, successes and issues. Most importantly, the weekend of engaging with other rugby folks recharged the batteries and renewed my enthusiasm for what we are doing here in Tulsa and NE Oklahoma.

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