LAFAYETTE, Colo. – The Girls High School All-Americans powered by ATAVUS will venture on three tours in the final half of the year, with more than 80 young athletes set to receive international experience in 15s and the Olympic sport of Rugby Sevens.
Led by Head Coach Farrah Douglas, a GHSAA ‘east’ team will travel to Mount St. Mary’s University for matches against Quebec’s under-18s, while an under-16s team will also play two matches July 29 and July 31. In Seattle, BC Rugby’s under-18s will hope for redemption Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 following last year’s series win by the GHSAAs north of the border. Once fall arrives, a GHSAA sevens team will travel to Vichy, France, for Women European Championship 7s U18.
The competitive rugby season is nearing the end of its cycle, and Douglas and national team pathway scouts have been finalizing their notes from the year for age-grade selection. Student-athletes performing at the Regional Cup Tournaments in Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon were split into ‘JV’ and ‘Varsity’ teams, something the GHSAAs are replicating in Emmitsburg, Md.
“The U16 team is geared toward the idea that we want these young players to be exposed to the beginning of the decision-making needed to compete at the senior level, and look to increase their game understanding and skill development at a younger age,” Douglas said. “By focusing on developing their rugby ability through skill development and early exposure to pressured collective and individual decision-making skills, we are able to encourage these players to explore and express their athleticism within the GHSAA game structures.
“Although the aim is still looking to continue to develop players, our U18 squad is in the beginning stages of transitioning to concepts of improvement and performance. We want to develop an ongoing conversation about how to improve not just skill, but playing ability, shifting some of the focus toward the facilitation of player learning through emphasizing questioning and player engagement in the GHSAA structure.”
The support of ATAVUS since late 2014 has been instrumental in allowing the team to assemble and tour multiple times a year, and the GHSAA ‘west’ team will be in the sponsor’s backyard while the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games kick off in Brazil. The GHSAAs will be housed at Seattle University before match days out at Magnuson Park, home of ATAVUS camps and local senior clubs.
“Because we are such a large country geographically it is always tough with only five RCT events as selection venues,” Douglas said. “However, the combination of the GHSAA Winter Camps and RCTs, in addition to the ATAVUS resident camps this summer, has enabled us to evaluate a larger number of high school players.”
The GHSAAs first assembled for the Las Vegas Invitational sevens tournament in early 2015 before traveling to British Columbia for two matches against BC Rugby U18 Women’s last year. Ten girls part of that squad return to the 2016 GHSAA teams, giving Douglas even more experience in the roster. Assistant Coach Emilie Bydwell will not be with the team on the 15s tours as she will be with Team USA in Rio, but she will accompany the girls to France for the Sept. 10-11 sevens tournament.