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USA Rugby Opens Arms To Academies To Be Part Of HP Pathway

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USA Rugby Opens Arms To Academies To Be Part Of HP Pathway

Atlantis vs San Diego Legion Academy at the LA Invitational. David Barpal photo.

USA Rugby is unveiling a slightly new approach in its high performance pathway.

Part of that will be a verification process to officially recognize National Development Programs (NDPs) as part of its pathway. 

To have verification potential, organizations must provide development outside of scholastic or club programs to players aged 12-25.  Operations should run 6-12 months out of the year -- with weekly or bi-weekly sessions -- including rugby, strength & conditioning and nutrition programming. 

To achieve NDP status, applicants will be evaluated on the degree to which they meet a set criteria under the following benchmarks:

Organization and Planning

Player Development

Coaching Development

Information, Reflection and Growth



What this basically means is that USA Rugby is doing more to embrace academies and select sides in helping to identify and develop young players with potential.

Each benchmark has its own set of key performance indicators (KPIs).  Potential NDPs will be rated on a scale of zero to four, based on how closely the minimum standard is met. Those who average 2-3 across all KPIs will receive status as a NDP while those who score above 3 will be recognized as a Gold NDP. Verified NDPs are re-evaluated every year while Gold NDPs will be reviewed every two years. 

For players, coaches and parents, verification provides a roadmap to programs that deliver high performance development and may yield opportunities for identification and entrance into the national team pathway. USA Rugby may also direct athletes to verified programs in their area. 

Verified programs will be listed on the USA Rugby website and receive opportunities to shadow pathway assemblies. Access to guidance, support and best practices from high performance staff will be regularly available, as well. 

The submission period for verification will run from July 1-31 each year with notice of status provided by early September. 


For questions, contact Men’s High Performance Pathways Manager Brendan Keane at bkeane@usa.rugby

“The verification process for supplemental high performance programs that support development of elite players has been long awaited by the rugby community," said Director of Women’s High Performance, Emilie Bydwell. "The revised system will provide much needed clarity in the community and also allow USA Rugby to better direct aspiring Eagles to programs that meet best practice standards.”  

“In addition to recognizing programs that provide high-performance development around the country, this process is an important piece of building a more connected development ecosystem in the US; one focused on individual and collective excellence," added Keane. “As we look to improve and deepen our connections and cooperation with club and school teams, it is necessary to do the same with programs seeking to provide additional player development. We also hope this initiative will deliver a framework to help offer advice, support and information sharing for those who wish to create high performance programs.” 

“This process and structure is vital to ensuring we provide clarity around high performance for all stakeholders in the rugby community," said General Manager of USA Rugby High Performance Pathways, JD Stephenson. "It also ensures that we can continue to work hand-in-hand with those who are developing tomorrow’s Eagles.” 

This is a significant shift for USA Rugby. With the national governing body in a financial crisis, and with the COVID-19 outbreak stopping rugby during the spring, this has afforded several at USA Rugby, such as Stephenson, Keane, and Bydwell, to reevaluate how the NGB does business. Instead of repeating history and turning away the help that academy teams such as those that participate in the NAHS 7s could offer, they are using those programs to find players, and recognizing that those players are developing talent.