Bruce McLane is the head coach at Super League champion NYAC, a JV coach at Xavier High School in Manhattan and a member of the Ruggamatrix America podcast crew.
There is a lot being said about the Super League (RSL) currently, and I want to set a few things straight. First, it is important to make sure that competitions matter in a country in order to get the best out of the players and to help them have the desire to do the work necessary to become top performers.
The RSL receives no money at all from USA Rugby. Everything we do is completely self funded,
including paying a ref contract (no other competition pays USA Rugby for refs). We pay our dues to the local GU or LAU organizations and all other dues every other competition pays.
The facilities in the RSL have gotten significantly better since its inception in 1997. Most current teams wouldn’t get players to train on fields that we were playing on less than 10 years ago.
NYAC has a newly renovated top-class facility, Old Blue has the Columbia soccer stadium permanently lined for rugby, Life University has a dedicated field, OPSB had a dedicated all-weather field with stands, SFGG has a dedicated facility and Denver plays several games in an MLS stadium. This was all achieved through the hard work of those at the various member clubs.
RSL clubs are involved in coaching several youth, high school and college sides.
NYAC people coach at Xavier, Fordham Prep, Iona College, Fordham University, and several other places including having the current Men's National Team coach and current and former men’s 7s coaches. Old Blue coaches Columbia University and runs programs through Play Rugby USA for about 100 schools in New York and more nationwide. OPSB is involved heavily, with their staff in Serevi Rugby and is developing rugby on the west coast and in the state of Washington. Dallas has had a coach in the High School All American program for over a decade. Life University has coaches for the USA U-20 program and the senior Men’s National Team and took a University side from scratch to a National Semifinal. SFGG has coached the USA A side and has a high school side and a vibrant youth set up. Boston has 2 coaches on the U-20 coaching team and coaches Boston University and other schools in New England. Denver has a coach on the U-20 staff, and their former coach was with the Eagles staff until this year.
Even former members are very active in their communities, with PAC at Gonzaga and Charlotte with many schools in the Charlotte area. Santa Monica coaches US Maccabi, and Stu Krohn runs an outstanding program for the underprivileged in LA. St. Louis has the Lindenwood program, and I could go on. I know I missed the work of many and I apologize.
Sometimes we are made to be seen as takers, when in fact while we are often short on both money and time, we have used our money to improve the playing conditions for our players and we have given very freely of our time to help develop and grow the game. This is not to say that others haven’t, it is just to say that from a small, under-resourced pool, we have really made conscious efforts to give back to the game, often at great personal expense. We don’t have any paid administrators. We all do it volunteer, and it works because the people who do it are concerned and want to do it
We do this because rugby matters to us. Tt is a very important component of our lives, and we strive to give it our best, both on and off the field. We realize that we don’t have very much in the way of sponsorship, but prior to getting back in with USA Rugby and not being a separate entity, we did have sponsorship. I think it is more due to the economy and our members spending time growing and developing the game instead of trying to raise money than to USA Rugby.
We have altered our playoff schedule for the past five years midseason in order to accommodate the Eagles, because of lack of communication from USA Rugby. This was at tremendous expense. Currently the Eagles coach is in direct communication with us for dates he needs free, and we have accommodated. With the lead time it is far easier and less disruptive.
Many suggest that we can go to rep-side play and scrap the league, that it is impossible in the current environment. There would be no fields, no uniforms, no jobs, no apartments, no gyms, no medical coverage, no equipment, and most importantly, there is nothing there that people can wrap themselves around as desiring to give support to through the long haul.
I’ve seen the NA 4 come and go, and I don’t know a hawk from a falcon in the air or on the pitch. Where would the money come from, who would coach, who would pay? If you don’t think this whole approach would be mired in politics, you are sadly mistaken.
It is RSL people and clubs and former clubs who made up most representative coaching staffs anyway, and it was done on a shoestring while virtually impossible to have an effective, engaging training environment that developed players. The standard would be much worse.
Many suggest put it all back in D1. This too is an excuse to bring teams down. Isn’t it better to raise the bar than to lower the standards and shoehorn teams into inferior competitions? Many clubs left the RSL because of the hassles given them by LAU and TU politics. NYAC has chosen not to engage, that is our model. Others see it differently, and as dues paying members they were screwed. That is the truth. The RSL is just a group of teams who aim to play the game at the highest standard they can in a competition over a three-month period, sharing costs of air and bus travel.
We’ve made mistakes perhaps in not allowing Santa Monica in on their initial bid and the same with Glendale. Glendale has since said no to us, and, hopefully, they and other clubs re-consider. It is actually very well run from a competitive standpoint. We could maybe get on TV, but recently we couldn’t afford it and spent our money on facility upgrades, refs, workout facilities, web streaming for National Team staff, and many times on developing the game at youth, high school and college levels. We aren’t perfect, but perfection is not an option.
I can say, with 100-percent certainty, that our member clubs welcome those who wish to join and raise the bar, but dumbing it down is not an option and definitely a mistake. To be what we all want, rugby must make all competitions matter and see the importance in all of them.