Rugby Utah and Scion Rugby Academy Join USA Rugby Olympic Development Academy
Photos: Norma Salinas & Brian Ackenbach -KLCFotos
USA Rugby Press Release: Chad Wise, Jan. 12, 2016
BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby announced Rugby Utah and Scion Rugby Academy as the two newest additions to the USA Rugby Olympic Development Academy in the first Olympic year to feature the sport of rugby since 1924.
Current National Development Academies in areas such as the Pacific Northwest (ATAVUS Academy) and Southeast (American Rugby Pro Training Center, Life NDA) have provided hundreds of athletes the opportunity to train at an elite level year-round with proper equipment, facilities, and coaching and medical staffs. With Scion being a link between the NDAs along the northern edge of the east coast and Rugby Utah filling a much-needed gap in the Rocky Mountain region, USA Rugby’s ODA Program now reaches a greater number of Olympic-hopeful athletes.
The reemergence of Nate Augspurger, who left the Olympic Training Center in 2013 after earning HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series caps with the Eagles, as a selection for Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday can be partly attributed to his time training at Northeast Academy, traveling to World Club 7s and other international tournaments with the NDA. Other Olympic hopefuls, like Perry Baker (Tiger) and new residents Rachel Griendling and Ashley Perry (American Rugby Pro Training Center), were able to take the jump to the national team level following their initial entries into the full-time high performance environment at their respective NDAs.
“Numerous current Eagles have come through the Olympic Development Academy program,” USA Rugby Performance Director Alex Magleby said. “The gap between amateur domestic players and international rugby is being narrowed with smarter training, controlled training volume, and increased competition minutes. The knock on effect has also seen improvements in the club game where National Development Academies are based.”
Scion’s (scionrugby.com) commitment to developing well-rounded athletes that excel in the core fundamental skills of the game was displayed at this year’s Club 7s National Championship, featuring a multitude of Women’s Eagles and Women’s Eagles Sevens pool players alongside others found around the greater Washington, D.C., area.
Along with its high school, college, and senior academy sides exclusively for women, Scion’s youth camps and clinics will be open to boys and girls, drawing from a large pool of talent incubated over the years in conjunction with DC Youth Rugby. Toshi Palamo, brother of USA Eagle Thretton Palamo, will lead an experienced coaching staff at the NDA with Women’s Eagles Stacey Bridges, Samantha Pankey, and Kimber Rozier already involved with the program.
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Scion has partnered with Balance Gym to utilize the world-class facilities of Washington City Paper’s “Best Gym of 2014,” including Olympic lifting platforms, indoor and outdoor turf, sleds, tackle bags, and more. The Academy’s training pitch is located in the heart of Washington, D.C., with a view of the National Mall.
“Between the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument,” Scion Rugby Academy Chief Operations Officer Joanne Liu said, “there’s nothing more American than looking up from training to see the ring of flags surrounding the iconic monuments: an inspiring reminder of the beautiful country we strive to represent on the national stage.
“The Mid-Atlantic region is definitely a hub for rugby and has repeatedly featured top contenders in national competitions, but, as with many metropolitan areas, the athletes are spread across many different clubs and divisions. Adding a local NDA will give clubs and athletes a chance to share their talents, collaborate and train with Eagles and, eventually, as Eagles themselves, in a consistent, high performance environment that challenges them each day.”
The red, white, and blue Rugby Utah (rugbyutah.com) logo was first seen on the jerseys of the NDA’s select sides at Elite City Sevens in Philadelphia last September and the inaugural Halloween Rugby 7s Invitational Tournament in St. Petersburg, Fla., over that holiday’s weekend, but rugby in Utah has prospered at all levels of development for years.
Several Eagles, including current Men’s Eagles Sevens resident Maka Unufe, have come through the rugby hotbed that is Utah. From high school powerhouses such as Herriman High School to elite collegiate programs like D1A Rugby’s University of Utah, the state’s seemingly limitless talent pool will reach new heights with the support of Rugby Utah, which is working with Utah National Guard and Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation/Olympic Oval facility, as well as partners Utah Sport Commission and Utah Youth Rugby.
“We’re Olympic crazy here in Utah,” Rugby Utah President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Rivera said, pointing to the state’s hosting of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games. “Our focus has always been on 15s here, right down to the seventh- and eighth-graders. After the U.S. won [its first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Cup title]in England and qualified for the Olympics, our mantra has changed a little bit: ‘Your kid, your 14-year-old today, could now become an Olympic athlete in 2020 and onward.'”
Each of the affiliated NDAs operate independently from USA Rugby while simultaneously following the international standards set forth for athletes aspiring to participate in the Olympic Games, as well as international test rugby as outlined by the national team staff. Emerging elite athletes in the NDAs are exposed to national team physical, technical, and tactical standards and aim for similar training and match volumes to their international peers.
Visit the ODA page on the USA Rugby website for more information on the Olympic Development Academy and National Development Academies.