Rugby is growing in the United States. It’s undeniable. Each of the last several weeks has proven that. There are more viewable rugby options today than ever before. Whether you are watching elite rugby like, Super Rugby or Guinness Pro 12, or you’re watching PRO Rugby North America, or you’re watching college or high school rugby like, the USA Rugby College 7s National Championships or Penn Mutual College Rugby 7s Championships, there are so many avenues that are available to watch great rugby. After you’re done watching you get to sit down and wonder:
“How does my rugby team compare? Rugby is growing, but why are we still struggling so much to field a team? Struggling to collect dues? Struggling to gain support from community? Just putting in work and just not moving forward as fast as expected.”
Well, it’s good that you’re thinking about it. Well, good news. Many of those questions don’t have to be answered with creating a youth rugby team/league and waiting 4-10 years for those players to come of age and load up your team. Most likely you’re not looking to be inactive for that long. Also, you don’t have to wait until your team is on TV. Contrary to popular belief, TV is no longer the magic wand needed to spread your name around. So let’s key in on the reasons no one cares about your rugby team.
#5. You Don’t Update Your Website and Social Media
We all know that it is a requisite to have a digital presence. Every team should have at least a Facebook page, Twitter account or website. One advantage of this digital presence is that people can get updates on the activities of the team. BUT, one overlooked caveat is that people are no longer looking to social media for the occasional update of when a game is scheduled. People check teams‘ social media for rosters, names of players, pictures from games, videos from events, and more. People connect to teams because of their activity on social media.
If you have a social media page, as well as a website, it is critical that the website be regularly updated. If your website‘s most current roster is from 2013, then there is a problem. If it isn’t possible to consistently update your website, it is in your best interest to maintain information that is subject to fewest changes. Essentially, your teams information, your location, and current schedule, should always be up-to-date.
The history of the team is one of the most underrated pieces of information provided. Many teams will post a small blurb about their team and brief summary of their origins, but the part that is often missing is the details. One of the most erased forms of information are former rosters, former pictures of players, old schedules with records and scores from previous seasons. This is information that gives a team its depth and character. It provides data trends for analysts and offers people a chance to connect with the foundation of the team, as well as associate with the current team.
#4. You Haven’t Created a Community
Now I know what you’re thinking, “What are you talking about? We have alumni and old boys/girls who contribute.” Yes, that is one type of community. The community that I’m talking about is the culture of the team that attracts other people OUTSIDE of your niche group. A team that has a motto, a theme, a mantra that they unite around year in and year out. Not just an objective like “winning” or “Getting a championship”, but singular defining concept.
By being associated with the team, participants are immediately placed under the expectations of this concept. It can be a motto like the famously spoken line from the TV show, Friday Night Lights, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose“, or the US Marine Corp, “Semper Fi”. It can be a constant course of action, like the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities preamble, “To promote a more perfect union among college men; to aid in and insist upon the personal progress of its members; to further brotherly love and a fraternal spirit within the organization; to discountenance evil; to destroy all prejudices; to preserve the sanctity of the home, the personification of virtue and the chastity of woman.” These are just to name a few.
The culture that makes people want to gravitate to the team organically, is the culture that has the chance to maintain a long legacy. To create that, you have to establish your motivations. Let people know what your team’s constitution is, and what it means to become an associate of the organization. When you can define who you are, the people will want to shape themselves to adhere to the standards that have been laid out so they can be included in your community.
#3. Show Your Personality
This is Rugby! This is the sport that is known for its songs, its camaraderie, and many other social aspects that make rugby attractive to the participants. While rugby is trying to step away from the rambunctious frat culture that it is known for, that doesn’t mean your team can’t show personality.
You don’t have to be a drunken mess to show the personality of the team. In this era, being different is actually better. A great recent example of this is PRO Rugby team, The San Diego Breakers. They place short videos on social media that eat up too much time, but give their supporters samples of the team’s personality. Whether it’s behind the scenes in the sports facilities, or engaging in something as trendy as the Running Man Challenge. Make sure you are presenting yourself as being unique and different.
Give your audience a chance to see another side of the team. Show the individual quirks of the team, and let the audience know that they are as much a part of the club’s family as the athletes. You want to create content that people can emotionally connect to, because it’s about showing the real you.
#2. Be Transparent
You don’t have any secrets that matter (as a rugby team). I know, you really want a competitive advantage. You think that if your opponent can’t study you, and you can’t study your opponent, the field is going to be even. In reality, everyone loses when they isolate themselves. The team that is best prepared for what the other does, is the team that is far more engaging to watch because team plays better.
Rugby is based on communal interaction. Sharing information is the core benefit for improvement. Whether you’re sharing rosters, sharing film, or sharing game knowledge, it’s the responsibility of each team to assure that they are putting the best watchable product on the field. Yes, the term product is purposeful. Rugby is still a form of entertainment, and has to be enjoyable for the spectators, as well as the athletes.
Additionally, a club’s secrets have to go beyond the field. The best way to squash rumors and whispers by regions, clubs, teams and individuals is by addressing them. Rugby, particularly in the USA, hasn’t developed to the point that anyone has found an answer that needs to be hidden so extensively. Rugby is in such dire need of constant new knowledge and ideas for its growth, that holding back information actively hinders the sport. Perception is reality, and so are facts. The more open your facts and truths are, the more people will trust, listen and watch what you do.
#1. Buy Your Own Bullsh*t
In any competitive sport, the general purpose of playing is to win. You practice over and over to create the confidence in a plan of action, and skills development with the expectation to win the game. Almost nobody practices with the intent to lose (and if they do, they are trying to perfect the art of losing. The feeling of confidence after time spent preparing is the end goal as the team heads into their game. That same confidence should be expected when believing that your team is worthy of more than just charitable attention.
As a team, if you believe that you are TRULY a hardworking team, who truly puts it all into winning, than stick your chest out like it. When it comes to looking for sponsors or building relationships, you have to have utmost confidence in the team’s abilities to deliver. The only reason groups of people are attracted to anything, is because they feel that it provides them with some value. The more value you believe your team has, the more people will gravitate to your team.
Rugby is the sport of the 21st century. Sure it may have been started in the 19th century, but it was built to thrive in the digital era that we are in. Whether you’re a senior club, or a U19 club, how you connect has far greater importance today than ever in the past. The excuse that you lack a direct medium to use to interact with the greater population, is gone. You have problems recruiting, then commit and make the creative efforts to do so. Have problems raising money, think outside the box and utilize the resources you have. The playbook has changed and you’re no longer limited to the traditional methods of the last century. In the ever shrinking global environment due to the increasing interaction through the digital landscape, the sport of rugby is set up to thrive.
Now go forth, utilize that same passion that you have for rugby, be creative, and use it to connect. The progression of your club will definitely benefit.