Middle School NIT Launched
Middle School NIT Launched
A new rugby national tournament has been created with the announcement today, Feb. 15, 2017, that a Middle School NIT will be held this coming June in Rock Hill, SC.
The brainchild of Erik Saxon at Charlotte Junior Rugby Association (CJRA), the MS NIT (or, the Ruck in Rock Hill), will be open to middle-school tackle rugby teams from all over the country. Details on registration, entry fees, etc. will be available in the next couple of weeks.
The tournament is slated to be 12 or 24 teams, with competing teams playing four shortened games over two days.
Saxon, who also coaches the Charlotte Tigers HS team, said the need is there.
"CJRA focuses mainly on middle school rugby," said Saxon. "We have a really strong high school program, but that is only because we draw from a pool of hundreds of middle school players in our club. Until recently, it's been an afterthought at RCTs to have any sort of high performance play for middle school teams if at all. For us at CJRA, we've been lucky to play teams from Atlanta or Raleigh. The kids and the parents love it."
Saxon said every other sport has high-level travel opportunities for middle school teams, but not rugby.
"There is a vacuum," he said. "Everybody loves the high school NIT, and it's been wildly successful over the years. We want to open up middle school rugby in the same way. We know there are other rugby hotbeds across the Nation, and we want to create a stage where all these teams can point to and say the best are all going to play the best."
The tournament will be union tackle rugby. Saxon said he acknowledges that many middle school programs ease their way into rugby, and sometimes play with law variations in order to teach the game. But, he added, once you get to the high-level play at the end of the season, the goal is full 15s tackle rugby union.
"Everybody does their own thing as their progression, but we all circle union rugby as where we want to end up," he said. "We understand that some areas play 10s and 12s, or 12s with an eightman. But through our experiences at RCTs, we have found that at the high level the players have zero issues playing some pretty beautiful union rugby."
This will be an open tournament, meaning that girls can play as well as boys (as happens with other middle school contact sports). But, Saxon added, each girl and her coaches, and parents or guardians, will be fully informed that this will be a championship-level tournament, and it won't be for everyone. Saxon said that as the MS NIT concept grows, he is open to a girls-only bracket if there is the demand.
The tournament will be held in June in Rock Hill, SC, which is only seven mils from Charlotte, NC. For more information, check back here over the next week. The tournament portal is being built now and soon more information, including schedule, specific venue, and fees will be made available.
The tournament will take applications from any middle school team - single school, community club, state all-star, and/ or geographic area compilation teams.
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