Photo Credit: USA Rugby
Earlier this month, I had a parent ask me whether it was important for her son to try out for their state’s regional All-Star Team. As we delved into a conversation about All-Star Teams, Regional Cup Tournaments and much more, it prompted me to think this would be a good topic for many more families wondering the same thing.
First some background: the All-Star Team model has been a part of USA Rugby’s National team selection pathway for a long time. When I was a player, the country was split into various Territorial Unions (“TU’s”) such as the Pacific Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, etc. Each year there were Men’s & Women’s Collegiate (aka U-23) and Senior level All-Star Teams who would compete in tournaments called Inter-Territorial Tournaments (or “ITTs” as it came to be known).
Here I am (Top Row, 8th across L to R) with the Pacific Coast 7s All-Star Team when we beat the USA U-23s to win the 2002 ITTs
As the years passed, these tournaments were re-named National All-Star Championships (“NASCs”) but the mission was still the same – to allow the best players in each region to compete in front of National Team Selectors and the chance to represent our country. In fact, it was my performance at the above USA Rugby 7s ITTs which got me selected for the National U-23 team.
As of 2012, Territorial Unions made way for Geographic Unions (“GUs”), and with the addition of more high level tournaments all over the country, the pathway for National Teams has changed drastically. The necessity to participate in an “All-Star Team” has all but fallen away as a the sole method of being seen for National Team selections. High School rugby had already begun to address the need for elite competition and top notch tournaments like HS Nationals, Fullerton International Tournament, Great Northwest Challenge etc. allowing high school players to be seen by national team selectors. Starting in 2016, USA Rugby adopted a number of these high level regional tournaments and folded them into the previous “ITT” model and renamed them “Regional Cup Tournaments.”
Right now, try outs for state All-Star Tournaments are popping up so players have a shot at playing for their region or state representative team. Once selected to these teams, they will compete against other such teams at any of the 5 Regional Cup Tournaments, and, just as the generation before them, compete for a chance to be selected to either the Girls or Boys High School All American squads.
Photo Credit: Rugby PA
Another good reason to play on an All-Star squad is the opportunity to challenge yourself and see how you compare with other players in the same age group but from a different part of the country. I think it’s a great educational moment for a player who may be the top player in their region to go up against a top team and see how they truly stack up.
Photo Credit: Robert Benson, NorCal All Stars Las Vegas 7s
Lastly, Regional Cup Tournaments are also becoming a common place for college coaches and reps to attend and scout out prospective talent similar to how many other sports recruit (see picture below). This year, each tournament is focusing their efforts on inviting and encouraging colleges to attend their tournaments and see high level rugby from across the country.
Photo Credit: US Lacrosse
Bottom line, if you have the opportunity to try out for your All-Star team, take it! It’s your chance to not only represent your region, show off what you have, and also take your shot to be seen by National Team selectors. Good luck!