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Youth and HS Membership Numbers and Analysis

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Youth and HS Membership Numbers and Analysis

One of the largest HS rugby programs in the nation, St. Joseph's Prep, huddles up, Alex Goff photo.

Youth and High School rugby membership topped 44,000 in 2022-23.

Now, this doesn't mean there were 44,000 (actually 44,537) individual members, because coaches might also register as referees or administrators, and even players might also be registered as referees. But the number is still very large, higher than the youth and high school membership levels GRR understood to be the case before the USA Rugby bankruptcy and COVID.

Of the 44,357 members, about 24,000 were high school players. 

USA Youth & HS Publishes End-of-Season Report

Some other observations:

About 25% of the high school players are girls. Overall in high school and youth, girls are about 23% of the players.

About 3,400 coaches are registered in youth and high school.

The pyramid does not yet have that wider base (although there are probably more youth players who don't register with USA Rugby). According to US Youth & HS Rugby, about 12,000 youth players and a further 3,000 non-contact players registered last year. So there are still more players in high school than in youth.

The Biggest

The largest state in Youth and HS Rugby is undoubtedly California, with 8,077. Even if you split the state into their governing bodies of Rugby NorCal and SoCal Youth Rugby, you'll find they are now #1 (SCYRO at 4,268) and #2 (Rugby NorCal 3,809).

The third-largest state is Ohio. This would have been a surprise for GRR a few years ago but having spent more time in Ohio of late we are not surprised. It is one of the densest states for rugby activity and reported 2,682 Y&HS members.

Close behind are:
4. Texas, 2,364
5. Pennsylvania, 2,313
6. Indiana, 2,212
7. Colorado, 2,168

Those seven regions make up just under 40% of the total Y&HS membership.

The biggest single programs in terms of membership are the Charlotte Cardinals, with 305 members covering all levels. They are followed by Memphis Inner City Rugby, Belmont Shore, Woodlands, and Danville.

The biggest high school-only program is St. Ignatius, an all-boys Catholic school in Cleveland, Ohio. (Note: GRR Editor Alex Goff is an assistant coach at SIHS.) They were listed at 174 members, including coaches and admin. Just one behind them is LaSalle College HS in Pennsylvania, which had 173 registered.

The top 100 Youth & HS programs represent 14,700 members, accounting for one-third of the total Y&HS membership.

Some Observations

So our conclusions are this:

The Youth & HS game is certainly growing, but it also seems that the strongest programs are growing faster.

The strongest programs attract players, but they also attract coaches. When a program is run well (whether in Rookie Rugby or Middle School tackle or in High School) then coaches are drawn in, attracted by the fact they are more likely to have large numbers of players to coach at good venues.

Where there is work to do is in the smaller regions and smaller programs. Not that the states where there are a lot of players should ease up, but more that USY&HS should probably be spending more time helping grow the game in states not as well represented.

Also ... we took a look at how membership in each state compares to the Under-18 population of that state (population numbers sources from the US Department of Health & Human Services). For California, we split the U18 population based on the population distribution of the state, which goes about 60% SoCal 40% NorCal. With all of that, here are the top 20 regions ranked by number of USY&HS members per 100,000 children in that region:

Top Y&HS Rugby States by Members per 100K U18 Population
1 Idaho 261.4
2 Hawaii 235.5
3 Utah 205.1
4 Colorado 172.7
5 Indiana 139.4
6 Montana 132.7
7 NorCal 102.9
8 Ohio 101.8
9 Connecticut 97.9
10 Wisconsin 90.7
11 Washington 86.5
12 Pennsylvania 84.1
13 Iowa 82.0
14 Oregon 80.5
15 SoCal 76.0
16 Maryland/DC 70.6
17 Virginia 66.5
18 Tennessee 64.7
19 North Carolina 61.3
20 Alaska 56.4