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North Carolina Youth, HS 7s Season A Massive Success

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North Carolina Youth, HS 7s Season A Massive Success

Photo Charlotte Junior Rugby Association.

Over 60 youth, middle school, and high school 7s teams just completed a winter season in North Carolina, showing that you can get kids on the field, competing and having fun, and follow COVID precautions at the same time.

The season was played during the winter period, which is normally when North Carolina single-school teams play their 15s schedule. But this isn't "normally" and organizers within North Carolina's youth and high school rugby community tried to make do—they were enormously successful.

"Turnout was fantastic," said Erik Saxson of Charlotte Junior Rugby, who helped run the whole thing. "We accepted whatever teams wanted to enter, we took a lot of precautions, and we accomplished completing a season."

Teams (coaches and players) wore masks during practices and games as well as on the sidelines. All players, coaches, and team staff were temperature checked at all practices and games. The tournaments followed North Carolina state guidelines in terms of how many people could gather in a certain area while outside. Those guidelines allowed players and staff to be kept on one side of the field and up to 100 spectators on the other side of the field, with no mixing.

The teams also followed a little-mentioned CDC guidelines limiting contact by time. The CDC says that during a day you not only want to try to stay more than six feet away from other people, but when you are in close contact, you want to limit that contact to a total of 15 minutes. Once contact goes past 15 minutes, chances of spreading the virus rises significantly. So, the NC League instituted a 15-minute close-contact limit in practices and in games.

For games, the coaches studied older game film and concluded that a forward in 7s encounters about three to five minutes of tackles, scrums, and rucks in a game. So they decided to limit teams to two games each competition day, thus keeping players well under the 15-minute limit, and allowing for a buffer if a game went into overtime. It's a good thing they did.

The Competition

Teams were split into six brackets: Prep (Under 10s), Middle School JV, Middle School Varsity, Boys HS Tier 2, Girls HS, and Boys HS Tier 1. Each bracket was split into a Western Conference and an Eastern Conference. The two youngest divisions played only in-conference, but the other groups crossed over. The four oldest brackets played in-conference the first three weeks—everyone playing only two games on the day—and then over the next three weeks they crossed over with teams from the other conference. This ensured that every team played every other team once.

Then they finished it all off with a championship day on February 6.

The U10s and Girls brackets had eight teams each, and the other brackets boasted 12 teams each. Many of those teams were made up of players from the same school, using their own team nicknames. There were some other club teams, as well, including a motley group that was rather successful.

The standard, and the level fo enthusiasm, was very high.

"People loved it," said Saxon. "It was great. The championship games were all very close, and while the players we expected to do well played well—the players from EIRA and who had played with Atlantis—we also saw the freshmen just come out and kill it. Every high school team had at least one or two freshmen on it and they all played really well."

The Success Stories

Tier 1 HS Boys: Charlotte Stallions defeated the Clayton Comets to win the championship.
Stallions flyhalf Porter Goodrum was a superb playmaker and a powerful attacker and led from the front for his team.

HS Girls: The Charlotte Tigress defeated the North Charlotte Valkyries to take the title.
On a team of very young players, EC Cantrell was the expereinced leader for the Tigress. She has been captain for two years and brought a young team together, got everyone involved in the effort, and led them superbly.

Tier 2 HS Boys: The Charlotte Spartans were not expected to do much but ran the table, beating the North Stars in OT in the final. More on the Charlotte Spartans here >>

Middle School Varsity: The Ballantyne Pumas won in sudden death overtime over the Cornelius Cobras.
Scrumhalf Keith Austin and wing Vincent Keller were dynamic and highly skilled and had several high school players watching them and hoping the two would be on their high school team next year. They were a cut above.

Middle School JV and Prep played separate conference seasons.

Being Careful

As we spelled out, the tournament and the teams in practice followed some stringent rules to reduce the risk of spreading COVID while still getting kids outside (which is usually healthier than being inside all the time). There was not bad news regarding spreading the virus after the first week, and there continued to be no spike in spreading throughout the season.

The teams played outside of the official purview of USA Rugby and NCYRU, and insured their teams on their own. They provode this can be done, and by using rugby analysis saw how you can follow CDC close contact guidelines and still play 7s games.