The world of sports always finds a way to surprise fans. One of the latest surprises is, drum roll… rugby! After a damaged 2020 season, things were shaky in the sport, to say the least. But now, we’re seeing an uprise thanks to proving a good old rugby cliche true — if the U.S. were to convert some of its domestic athletic talent that didn’t make it to the NFL or the NBA, it would dominate the sports scene.
A Smart Move for American Rugby
If you’ve never heard of Peter Pasque before, you’ll surely remember his name now. Pasque is the general manager of the American Raptors, a rugby team in Glendale’s Denver suburb, known as RugbyTown USA. Pasque’s job is to rebrand the team after its failed third season. If you remember, the MLR was founded in 2017, with its first season in 2018.
His approach? Directing the team budget toward identifying converts, training them, and paying them to play against pro-development squads, amateur clubs, and teams from South America. Over the last two seasons, the American Raptors have thrived because of this somewhat strange method of recruitment.
An Open-Minded Recruitment Process
So, how does identifying recruits happen? It’s more informal than you think. Pasque says his team started recruiting online by going through college football rosters and messaging players on Instagram or Twitter. It’s now evolved to going to football combines, pro days, and networking with agents. “We’re always looking,” says Pasque, “even in airports.”
Of course, the idea of making football players and basketballers into rugby players isn’t far-fetched. However, there’s still a lot to consider, given the specificity of the sport and the great strength it requires.
The 2031 World Cup Announcement Changed Everything
Although American rugby seems to move forward with newfound zeal, that’s not the only reason the sport is having a moment right now. Fans’ hope that rugby will become as popular and loved in the U.S. as football and basketball may not be so far-fetched anymore. Not after World Rugby announced that the men’s World Cup in 2031, the third largest sporting event on the planet, will be held in the U.S. Not only that, but the women’s tournament will also take place on U.S. soil two years later, in 2033.
Ross Young, chief executive of USA Rugby, played a major role in making that happen. He credits that success to programs like Rookie Rugby and domestic recruitment like the one Peter Pasque is pioneering for the American Raptors.
Behind the Scenes of Niele Ivey’s Historic First Season at Notre Dame
In April 2020, the world of US women’s basketball welcomed its well-known college star Niele Ivey as the new head coach at Notre Dame. The 19th pick in the 2001 WNBA draft and a former All-America guard for the Fighting Irish, Ivey was more than qualified for the job. However, even she couldn’t have predicted what challenges she’d have to manage in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Here’s a look back at Ivey’s historic first season at Notre Dame.
Niele Ivey and Muffet McGraw’s Long-Term Coaching Relationship
Just minutes after the announcement that Muffet McGraw is retiring as head coach after 33 years, Notre Dame named none other than Niele Ivey as McGraw’s successor. The two ladies go way back.
McGraw is the one who first discovered Ivey’s talent in college and welcomed her to Notre Dame, where she played from 1997 until 2001. It is then that their player-coach relationship was first established. After Ivey stopped playing basketball professionally, she spent a whopping 12 seasons as McGraw’s assistant coach.
A Season of Challenges
Ivey’s first season as head coach of the Fighting Irish was far from easy. She coached in gloves and a mask and was constantly worrying about her players’ health amid the pandemic. If their 105-69 win over Ohio University for their first 2021-22 game is anything to go by, fans are in for a treat. Despite the challenges of the job and the world health crisis, Niele Ivey is making it work. What’s more, she’s making it look easy.
The First Female African American Coach in Notre Dame History
In addition to Ivey’s historic first season, that’s not all the history the new head coach is making. By taking on the position, she became the first female African American in Notre Dame’s coaching history. Despite the pressures of representing African American women, to Ivey, this “felt like it was a blessing” rather than a burden.