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NASC Underway at JMU

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NASC Underway at JMU

USA Women head coach Pete Steinberg (USA Rugby photo)

The National All Star Competition (NASC) has lured 203 senior, collegiate, and U20 women to James Madison University through Saturday, June 6. USA Rugby will release the attendees, who will be divided into four senior, two collegiate, and two U20 teams for a two-game series within each respective age grade.

The NASC is serving short-term and long-term objectives. For USA Women head coach Pete Steinberg, he will use this competition to select the squad for the Super Series in Alberta, Canada (June 1 – July 5 vs. England, Canada and New Zealand). All American coaches Sue Whitwell and Wil Snape will also be choosing squads that will represent the junior Eagles on summer tours.

“The cool thing is we have players from the last World Cup, players who’ve been in the Collegiate or Junior All Americans for the last couple of years, players scouted at the college playoffs or National Recruitment Festivals – we even have five players from last weekend’s club playoffs,” Steinberg said of the player pool. “It’s been a broad selection process, which is great.”

Steinberg, Whitwell, and Snape have seen about 75 of the attendees in action recently, while the remaining quarter were either discovered through the National Recruitment Festivals, coach recommendations, or have been off-the-radar for the last couple of years. The goal, however, was to see as many players actually play before being invited to NASCs.

“I, with Martha Daines and Peter Baggetta, can see 200 players play for the 2017 World Cup [team] in one place. That’s great,” Steinberg said. “For Sue Whitwell, of the 200 here, about 120 are college eligible – that’s the biggest chunk here. For the U20s, Wil Snape has about 70 players who are U20 eligible. Richie Walker is coming and players will have a chance to get into the 7s program, too.”

Today marks the second day of NASC, and it’s been just as beneficial for the guest coaches. Since the assembly is a competition – not a camp – each of the eight teams is staffed by coaches in the Coach Development Program, led by director Josh Sutcliffe. He is on hand in Virginia, as are advisors who are watching and working with all of the coaches after every training session.

“Since there is no [National All Star Championship] in USA Rugby anymore, there is a generation of coaches who don’t have the experience of pulling a team together, having a couple of practices, and then going to play – and that’s essentially what international rugby is like,” Steinberg said. “We’re using NASC to also leverage coaches. … It’s a powerful process. I’ve seen huge improvements already after one day.”

Sounds like there is a lot of intense, yet fruitful, activity occurring in Virginia right now, and although the NASC is a much-needed addition to the women’s annual schedule, Steinberg acknowledges that some tweaks that must occur in the future.

“We pulled this together,” Steinberg said. “We’re happy how it’s going, but there’s a huge learning curve. The timing wasn’t great, for instance, but this was the only week in the spring that wasn’t leading into a club or college championship. There are some schools on the quarter system, and they’re not out yet.

“There were about 100 selected who couldn’t make it,” Steinberg added. “In August, we’ll do something similar at UNC, only smaller with two college teams and two senior teams. Those who couldn’t make it this time will be invited in August.”

We’ll check in with NASC attendees throughout the week, and hopefully learn who’s making a good impression at the national level.