This past weekend was a busy one – not just on the pitches but also in the classroom. USA Rugby hosted its National Development Summit (NDS) in Philadelphia for three days of forums and clinics. Nearly 40 presentations in four tracks – coaching, referee, administration and specialty – kept approximately 350 attendees active.
There were almost too many options for the eager attendee (see what you missed here), but one of the best attended sessions saw the towering Luke Gross in front of the microphone. USA Rugby’s High Performance Development Manager led “Winning the Collision,” and about 100 coaches and referees tuned in to the hour-long session.
“I do a lot of team and coaching clinics around the country, and this one – the contact area – focused more on the ball carrier and getting the ball back to the scrumhalf,” Gross said. “So we didn’t get into a lot of detail on all the support players; we just touched on it.”
That was the idea for many presentations, which were at most an hour long. Attendees received insight into coaching the new scrum cadence (Gavin Hickie); creating a grassroots referee development plan (Kurt Weaver); and the player development models of New Zealand and Canada (Mike Chu); among many other topics. Some valuable information came out of Karen Fong Donoghue’s “College and Rugby: How to Make the Right Call,” which paired with the college fair; as well as Tom Goslau’s presentation on the Albuquerque Model, a blueprint for youth player development in a mid-sized city.
Gross also delivered “Developing Lineout Strategy,” which is a popular course for his clinic circuit around the country. When he isn’t working as the forwards coach for the Women’s National Team or Men’s U20s, he’s traveling the country educating coaches on the offensive and defensive aspects of the lineout, as well as how to build a lineout based on one’s personnel, scrums, level 200 coaching courses, and of course the contact area.
“Usually when I do clinics, coaches are bringing their teams with them,” Gross said. “I did one in Indianapolis where there were something like 30 teams in the Hoosier Dome. The coaches come with me, I’d demonstrate, and then coaches would go off and work with their teams. We go back and forth all day.”
The NDS is better suited for classroom work and discussion.
“Today there was a bit of dialogue, which I like, because it makes it so much easier when people want to know about stuff, even if they’re not the questions you like to get,” Gross smirked. He confessed that he’s still refining his public speaking and feels more at home coaching on the field. For those who were unable to attend the NDS, fortunately, Gross and his counterparts are available for one-off coaching. And that’s where it starts to get interesting.
“We’ve started something new,” Gross said. “Chris O’Brien, who is the USA’s kicking coach, and I went to Texas recently and held a two-day camp for the Southwestern conference. I worked on the contact area, scrum, lineouts and kickoffs, while Chris did back play and open field play. We coached the coaches, and then they go work with their teams.”
That exchange of ideas, which roots both Gross’ clinics and the NDS, wasn’t limited to the classrooms themselves this weekend. At any point in time, several former and current national team coaches (presenters Danielle Miller and Salty Thompson, Emil Signes, Julie McCoy, Martha Daines and Alex Williams, to name a few) hunkered over tables in discussion. It was a great weekend to meet, learn and discuss with people looking to further American rugby.