The end of the year is an interesting time in the rugby reporting business, as we usually get a bit of a break from actual games to do fun things like end-of-year awards.
At RUGBYMag we’re also working on plans and projects related to the USA 7s, and with January upon us, we will be about 40 days from the biggest rugby weekend in America.
Now, as usual, there’s the disclaimer bit, where we say that RUGBYMag is owned by the parent company that owns the USA 7s. But we would be fans of the event even if we had no connection. Why? Because the USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament is one of the most important dates on the American rugby calendar.
Consider a few thoughts on the matter.
Nowhere else can you get over 30,000 rugby fans on American soil screaming and yelling and enjoying the game. On Day Two of the 2012 USA 7s, the attendance topped 30,000, and there’s a good chance two days will do so this year.
Nowhere else can you see the caliber of athletes in such numbers. Sixteen of the best national 7s teams in the world – superstars of the game – duking it out. On TV it’s exciting and wonderful. In person, the skill and ability of these players, how hard they hit and how much work they put in, is that much more obvious.
Every brilliant play, every dramatic finish, every mistake, gives you the opportunity to see not only that play, but how the entire field, and the fans in the stadium, respond. You can be the one studying the game at the highest level, seeing who is out of position, who is tired, and who just saved everyone else’s bacon.
If you are a coach or player trying to take the next step, seeing these teams play can only help and inspire you.
Playing rugby in America is fun, but can be a pain. It’s certainly a lot of hard work – rewarding, but hard. So sometimes, it’s just nice to be a fan, watch the games in a real stadium with a real crowd, and then go enjoy your evening.
If you are a player and you want to play, the USA 7s just happens to have a little thing called the Las Vegas Invitational. From U14s up to Masters, 7s, 15s, men, women, you name it, the Las Vegas Invitational has it all, and at the level that’s right for you. Players show up to have a good time, meet some friends, and play, and some show up to be seen and make it to the national team. The LVI manages to work for both.
The USA 7s and LVI are groundbreaking. The LVI helped change preseason. It helped bolster the USA women’s 7s program, and if it weren’t for Vegas, do you think USA Rugby would be hosting its own Women’s World Series event in Houston the week before? Doubtful.
With the USA 7s on NBC, with a big crowd screaming and yelling, rugby arrives into the national consciousness every year. Nothing comes close to the atmosphere, and the exposure, of the USA 7s. It’s just plain good for the game.
Finally, it’s a great deal. One of the issues I have seen rugby players struggle with as they transition to being rugby fans, is the idea of whether they should pay to see a rugby event, and how much they should pay. The market drives it, of course, but it’s still been a struggle for USA Rugby and their test matches and for everyone else who charges for admission.
At the USA 7s you get about 24 hours of rugby over three days (compared to one two-hour test match). And to see this world-class event, the tickets are a great deal. Kids can see all three days for less than $10 a day. Adults can see all three days for about $51 a day. And then don’t forget that the hotels are selling rooms for insanely ($29 weeknights for the Exaclibur, for example) low prices.
I’ve been to every USA 7s since they started in 2004. It’s a great time, and always has been. Now it’s not only a great time, it’s a massive festival, a time for you to brag about this great sport, and help the game grow. All you have to do is show up and enjoy yourself.