Photo Credit: Eagle Impact Rugby Academy
Every year, one of the most common questions that come up in meetings with families is whether or not a student should play on an All-Star or Academy team for the summer. Often there is confusion about what is an all-star or academy team so I figured it might be helpful to explain as much as I can to help families make a decision.
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 (many, many years ago!!), 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 renamed 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 that 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 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, Tropical 7s, and other ID clinics, allowing high school players to be seen by national team selectors.
Another good reason to play on an All-Star or Academy 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. Players also get a chance to learn from different coaches, see what styles or philosophies help, and also develop additional growth in their playing experience they can then take back to their home team.
Photo Credit: Atlantis Rugby
Photo Credit: Robert Benson, NorCal All-Stars Las Vegas 7s
Lastly, larger national 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). Many tournaments have started to focus 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 an All-Star or Academy team, take it! It’s your chance to represent your region, show off what you have, and take your shot to be seen by National Team selectors. Good luck!