Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

Leadership, Culture Focus of Crusaders Academy Tour of USA

irish rugby tours

Leadership, Culture Focus of Crusaders Academy Tour of USA

The Crusaders International Academy is part of the Christchurch, NZ-based Super Rugby power.

Coaches from the Canterbury Crusaders are touring the USA running sessions and clinics for a variety of levels and age groups as they spread the rugby gospel.

The tour doesn’t really have a business motivation as you might expect—a major Super Rugby franchise, perhaps the most storied of them, sending coaches around the United States out of the goodness of their hearts? Well, sure.

Tony Flay and Shane Fletcher represent the Crusaders International Rugby Academy in Christchurch, NZ, and they are the ones traveling the USA connecting with rugby communities.

They ran a three-day session with the Seattle Rugby Club teaching the “Crusader Way.” The three days addressed different levels of the games, from youth to pros, and players to coaches. But the focus was on culture and creating a winning environment.

“People are often looking for that silver bullet, that one drill or tactic that’s going to turn them into a winning side, but the truth is that’s not really how it works,” said Fletcher. “We’re not just going in and saying ‘do this.’ Instead we’re working a lot more on concepts of leadership and fostering leadership, and engendering an environment of family.”

Fletcher used the Maori word Kia, which really is about a state of being. 

Flay, who is originally from New Zealand but was capped for the USA Eagles and played in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, was a New Zealand age-grade representative and is now a resource coach with the Crusader International Academy. He is based in Virginia and oversees North America for the Academy.

Fletcher is the Team Manager for the current Super Rugby champions. He has played and coached at representative level and has long experience in coaching provincial age-grade teams.

Both are part of a Crusaders program that has won 13 Super Rugby titles in the 26-year history of the competition. 

After Seattle the pair traveled to Houston, Texas, where they worked with The Woodlands program.

“They are going places and really building something,” said Flay. “And they wanted to look at ways to get where they’re going.”

It was eye-opening for Fletcher as he was working with a program that starts kids at U6. 

“Working on these concepts with younger players is great, because you think about what are the players who might have an impact in 2031 when the USA hosts the World Cup,” Fletcher said. “You look at Japan and how they performed when they hosted. That’s kind of part of the mission to help everyone be more competitive.”

This weekend the pair if in North Carolina and then will be back to Virginia for another session later on.

And it’s not so much technical rugby practice as it is a look at what makes a successful team, a successful program.

“We’re not like a Manchester United trying to spread our brand around to sell more Crusaders shirts,” said Fletcher. “We want to develop the game and the brotherhood and sisterhood of the game. The game of rugby is an incredible thing to be a part of, we are passionate about spreading the word. If more people think ‘those Crusaders are good blokes’ and support the Crusaders, that’s great. But we’re talking about how you don’t just appoint a captain or a leader, you develop them; how you create a team framework that works throughout the organization and help young people, whether they play for the Eagles or go into a professional career, be successful.

“And we’re having a great time doing it, too.”

The US Rugby Foundation has been a supporter of the Crusaders Academy’s efforts, but while many pay to be part of these different sessions, Crusaders Rugby is picking up much of the bill here

Learn more about the Crusaders International Academy here>>