U.S. Olympic Committee designates Play Rugby USA/Northeast Academy as nation’s first Community Olympic Development Program for rugby

Northeast Academy & Play Rugby USA Press Release: Ryan Trost Jan. 7, 2016

United States Olympic Committee designates Play Rugby USA/Northeast Academy as nation’s first Community Olympic Development Program for rugby

Play Rugby USA, in partnership with the Northeast Academy, is proud to announce it has been selected by the United States Olympic Committee as the nation’s 16th Community Olympic Development Program and the first in the country for rugby.

Formally launching in January 2016, the CODP will combine resources from Play Rugby USA – an established grassroots rugby development program – and the Northeast Academy – a USA Rugby approved elite development program – to formalize and consolidate a pathway for talented young players to USA Rugby national teams.

“We are pleased to welcome Play Rugby USA to the Community Olympic Development Program family,” said Alicia McConnell, USOC director of training sites and community partnerships. “The organization is committed to providing sport opportunities for underserved youth across New York and its mission is consistent with the Olympic and Paralympic ideals.”

“The Northeast Academy is incredibly excited about this partnership with Play Rugby USA and becoming an official CODP,” said Northeast Academy Director Sean Horan. “This all fits into our mission of identifying, developing, preparing and placing young rugby sevens players on the U.S. national and Olympic teams.”

To formally launch the CODP, Play Rugby USA and the Northeast Academy will invite a group of current and prospective supporters to a fundraising benefit at the New York Yacht Club in February, courtesy of long-time Play Rugby USA supporter Frank Dunlevy. All proceeds raised will support the delivery of the CODP. To learn more about or to support this event, contact Mark Griffin, founder and CEO of Play Rugby USA at mark.griffin@playrugbyusa.com.

The timing for the CODP designation is all the more exciting given rugby’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016 after a 92-year hiatus. Team USA is the reigning gold medalist, having won the last two Olympic tournaments in 1920 and 1924. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will feature the debut of rugby sevens – a smaller, fast-paced version of the more common 15-a-side rugby union format that last appeared in 1924. Both U.S. men’s and women’s teams have qualified to compete in Rio.

“We are incredibly excited about the inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and very honored to be selected as the first rugby CODP,” said Greg Sigrist, chairman of Play Rugby USA. “The collaboration with the USOC and the Northeast Academy is a milestone that reflects both Play Rugby USA’s quality programing and the dedication with which Mark [Griffin] and his team inspire and connect with our players.”

The mission of the jointly run CODP is to identify, develop, empower and support young talented athletes from the Northeast to achieve their rugby dreams by maximizing their potential to compete effectively on the international stage.

“USA Rugby has firmly endorsed this partnership, which combines one of the highest performing adult sevens programs in the country with the largest youth outreach program in a city with more young athletes than anywhere else in the country,” said Alex Magleby, high performance director for USA Rugby. “Between Play Rugby USA’s reach and Northeast Academy’s high performance program the potential to unearth and develop the next generation of national team talent is a truly exciting prospect.”

Core CODP events and activities will include youth outreach programs to schools across New York, combined with a series of tournaments, player and coaching education clinics and camps; and the opportunity for regional high school and club coaches to recommend athletes to train and compete with the Northeast Academy and CODP team at elite level tournaments. The CODP will aim to support approximately 500 aspiring young rugby players each year.

About Play Rugby USA
Founded in 2003, Play Rugby USA is achieving its vision of creating “A Better World through Rugby” by providing young people with programs that help them develop a vitality for life, both on and off the rugby field. Play Rugby USA’s mission is “to use the unique power of rugby to inspire and empower youth primarily from underserved communities, to go-forward and realize their true potential. The long-term objectives of the program are for young people to achieve economic success, exhibit healthy habits and be positive influencers in their communities.

About the CODP
The United States Olympic Committee has partnered with sport communities across the nation to help American youth receive the best sports development services possible. The USOC created the Community Olympic Development Program in 1998 to help address the needs of progressing athletes from the beginning stages of development to the elite level.

About the Northeast Academy
The Northeast Academy, with training squads in New York City and Boston, is a National Development Academy that has been sanctioned by USA Rugby as the official Academy (Men & Women) in the Northeast of America and as a designated pathway to the USA Eagles National Team selection. The purpose of the Academy is to identify, develop and prepare Sevens rugby players with the intention of placing ambitious athletes onto the USA National teams and future USA Olympic teams. The Academy will provide athletes with top level coaching, physical preparation, and playing competition to accelerate their personal development as Sevens players in line with current USA Eagles High Performance criteria.

About USA Rugby
Founded in 1975, USA Rugby is the national governing body for the sport of rugby in America, and a Full Sport Member of the United States Olympic Committee and the International Rugby Board. Currently headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA Rugby is charged with developing the game on all levels and has over 115,000 active members. USA Rugby oversees four national teams, multiple collegiate and high school All-American sides, and an emerging Olympic development pathway for elite athletes. USA Rugby is governed by a nine member Board of Directors, a Congress representing the membership and a professional staff headed by a CEO.


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