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Rugby ATL Touts Local Talent In Academy Program

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Rugby ATL Touts Local Talent In Academy Program

Rugby ATL's Academy is called Pathway 404.

Rugby ATL in Major League Rugby is pushing ahead with an academy and development program they have dubbed Pathway 404.

Named after Atlanta’s area code, the program is headed up by Santi Sodini, Rugby ATL”s High Performance Manager, and will broaden the club’s reach to four states.

“It is very regional in scope,” said Sodini. “But we know at Rugby ATL that to support our mission in putting MLR players into the Eagles we have to know the local players."

Sodini, who is from Argentina and played at a high level in his home country as well as in Italy and England, said he has brought a lot of knowledge from the Argentina academy system, which is extensive. The Argentina system is all about removing barriers to play, developing basic skills, and exposing young players to great coaching.

Professional teams in the USA have to target young, local players as well.

We Need To Build It

“If it’s not here, then we need to build it,” said Sodini. “We want players to come into Rugby ATL but we also want to develop players for the USA U20s, the Olympics, and the World Cup. At the same time, we want to use Pathway 404 to develop the community.

“Rugby ATL has done a good job identifying high school teams that have extensive youth programs,” said Mariano Gallo, who works closely with the Okapi Wanderers in Florida. “We want a unity within Florida and the South, and we’re working with Boca and Key Biscayne and Wellington because they have extensive youth programs, like ours. That’s how you grow the game. Rugby ATL is recognizing that.”

It’s all about developing the skills and making a connection between the younger players and the MLR club, added Sodini. And by expanding out of Georgia—to Florida, and a growing partnership with the USA South Panthers—it’s also expanding the reach of Rugby ATL.

“We will work very hard on offering highly competitive training environments as a bolster to players so they can perform well for their clubs and potentially beyond” said Sodini. “Some will go on maybe to play for Rugby ATL, or play for the national team, but others will come back to their communities as players and coaches. We need all of them.”

Pathway 404 will work with players and coaches during the youth and high school seasons, and then will also start developing a competitive team to play in all-star tournaments around the region.

“In Argentina we did it and made the Pumas better because we looked around at each other and said, let’s all go together to get better,” said Sodini. “And I think we can do that here. By concentrating on developing local players, we will be different, we will increase fan engagement, and we will improve the level of play not just for us but for clubs and teams in the whole region. If we’re going put Eagles on the world stage, we have to invest in a collaborative approach with a long-term view.”