By Kat Aversano / Jan 6, 2021
This is an ask for the rugby community - especially our BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and women: Join in the work of the national USA Youth & High School Rugby (USAY&HSR) organization by applying to the Y&HS Committees.
What is USAY&HSR?
USAY&HSR is the governing body of youth and high school rugby in the U.S., an affiliate of USA Rugby (USAR), the Community Council of USAR for youth and high school, and a separate 501c3 organization. It was created out of the governing reorganization of USAR bankruptcy.
I know that there has been frustration with U.S. rugby administration - I have been one of those people. Until May 2020, I held local grassroots positions as coach and admin. When the governance reorg occurred after bankruptcy, I wanted to see if I could get more involved. I saw it as an opportunity to use my insight and experience on a larger scale - a national scale.
I cross Community Councils both as a Sr. Club coach and a Y&HS coach and admin. While I greatly value the many folks in Sr. Club who dedicate themselves to that community (and I rely on their experience), I know that change will not come overnight so I look to Y&HS to effect change. I believe that if we start with the Y&HS athletes and get them to experience a more equitable and professional version of rugby, they will carry that expectation as they grow through College and Sr. Club. That is why I focus my energy in Y&HS - it can be the catalyst for change simply based on the views and expectations of the next generation of ruggers.
I was especially hopeful for the USAY&HSR since it is a separate organization with an affiliate status and governing body agreement with USAR. This allows Y&HS greater autonomy as a community. The result of this governance shift is that all 7 elected Board of Director members (including myself) have not previously held any USAR leadership position. We are all grassroots rugby people with greater professional experience in business, legal, and other areas.
USAY&HSR has been working on creating our organization (negotiating contracts, writing Bylaws, etc.) since August 2020. We are new and instead of correcting past policies or working fully within damaged structures, we are creating them anew - this is a unique scenario that I hoped would inspire the community to be involved in new ways. So far that hasn’t been the case, so I’m making the ask.
I believe in the power of people to raise their voices and together move forward. For far too long, the same people have been leading the work and the greater community doesn’t feel ownership of rugby in the U.S. Having the same people engaged in the work is not a sustainable structure: People get burned out, there isn’t continuity of effort, and many voices are excluded.
I know people are tired and untrusting, but our community is also full of intelligent, professional, and motivated individuals. I’ve been asking people to get involved, to throw their hat in the ring, and many would rather critique from the sidelines or only work within their own club structure. Some are worried about the time commitment - but the commitment is what you make of it. Each committee should hold 1-2x per month Zooms and most importantly be pushing ideas to create effective programs/policies. This is a manageable commitment and personal tasking is taken on as individual schedules allow.
Unfortunately, rugby in the U.S. only changes if we change it. In general, sport is way behind other U.S. businesses on many elements of inclusion, access, and overall public trust. I hope for a revolution of folx raising their hands to help, to be heard - not just one at a time in their own small areas, but at the national level.
I view these Committees as a way for people to turn their critique into action - to create a better rugby community for the next generation of athletes, coaches, referees, and admins. A way to get people involved who previously weren’t heard. Right now, we have the chance to build something great, but we need to get the community to have ownership. And I am stuck about how to get the community to believe that it is possible - that it is possible to change things at a national level. I know we can do it. I just want to put in one year of effort toward the new National USAY&HSR and build a better rugby future. This is my plea, my ask.
Some of what rugby in the U.S needs:
We need new ideas about how to grow youth rugby into our traditionally underrepresented communities, to promote more coaches and admins of color. We need equitable policies and ways to bring in non-English speaking communities and athletes with disabilities - that is work for the EIA Committee.
We need a code of conduct, a disciplinary structure, to create a system that equitably holds all community members to the same standards - that is the Discipline and Dispute Resolution Committee.
We need to make sure sound spending decisions are made, that any funded programs are studied and have community buy in, that we report our financials - that is the Finance Committee.
We need to create reasonable budgets and make sure we are not only funded by the community but that we go after corporate and other sponsorships - that is the Budget & Planning Committee.
We need to make sure we are addressing Y&HS specific needs for education of coaches and referees, that we are providing resources to grow our athletes in healthy and safe manners, that coaches are up-to-date on evolving coaching theory - that is the Training & Education Committee.
We need to make sure that leadership and decision-making positions are fairly open to all, that we bring in decision makers that reflect the perspective of our athletes, that positions are widely communicated - that is the Nominations & Leadership Committee.
We need to make sure that organization structures and practices are professional, efficient, and in line with the mission of the organization - that is the Governance Committee.
Committee work is not abstract. It advises the BOD and helps form the policies and working relationships of the organization. It investigates possible shifts in procedures and supports the evolution of an organization.
Please get involved - and you can personally reach out to me if you have questions. I believe in the power to change and that it comes from a mass of people who will make the effort for that change.”