USA Rugby League (USARL) has announced the creation of a national developmental team called the USA Pioneers, and confirms their inaugural tour to Jamaica.
Every year there are a number of opportunities that are presented to the USARL and their members clubs, that allow for development and growth of the game. They range in visits to developing USA regions that are hosting local one-day tournaments, regional international development tours to place like Jamaica and Canada, and international tournaments such as 9’s and invitational events in both hemispheres.
In the past individual teams have been faced with the decision to participate, and therefore accept the burden of funding, where it was placed on the players of that particular club. The concept for the USA Pioneers is to allow all member clubs to participate in these national and international events, while sharing the cost of travel related expenses across the entire USARL player pool. It will allow for a central point of contact and organization under the USA Rugby League banner, while potentially allowing the acceptance of more invitations to various Rugby League events.
The Pioneers will be a self-funded team where players who are committed to help develop both the sport of Rugby League and the USARL Brand, are invited to join specific tours and events. There are no performance related selection criteria and the team is open to all registered players who have the desire help the sport grow, while fostering new relationships and experiencing different national and international locations. Although there will always be the desire to win games, the focus of the USA Pioneers is to share, and absorb, information to strengthen relationships that will expand the Rugby League footprint, rather than the score line. The Pioneers can also be assembled for certain events where the USARL or its clubs host visiting teams.
The Pioneers will also be used as part of coach development by allowing domestic coaches to experience the role of managing a team during travel, remote locations, and unfamiliar surroundings. “Every coach who has traveled with a team, weather domestically or internationally, knows you take on additional roles and challenges to those faced in your local area”, said former Axemen coach Spinner Howland. “The opportunity to add this facet to a coaches development is invaluable for any future instances where he will assume tour manager roles in addition to preparing the team to play.”
Peter Illfield, USARL Chairman, also stated that in the future there will be opportunities to include game officials as part of the Pioneers tours, and noted the importance as the USA Rugby League develops regions across the nation. “With the USARL continuing to develop game officials across the league, being able to send experienced referees to new regions is a great tool. They can assist in the development of local officials, and take advantage of the Pioneers game as part of the education and assessment.”
The USA Pioneers will make their inaugural tour when they visit Jamaica in early April for a two game visit. Full details about the tour will be released very soon, but players from three USARL clubs are already confirmed for the first ever Pioneers Team.
Current NOVA Eagles Coach, Craig Webb, is also joining the team as Coach and Manager to further his development as part of the USA Rugby League coaching education program.