Via my e-mail, an explanation from the Women’s National Team coaches clarifying the changes in the age-grades.
Changes to Women’s National Teams Structure
To athletes in the USA Rugby Women’s National Team pool; and to TU senior and U23 coaches and administrators:
The 2008 select side season will be the first full year that we use our new age grade structure. The WNT program now consists of the USA Under 20 National Team; the USA A Team; and the USA Women’s National Team (Eagles).
While the differences are subtle, we realize that the change in structure has raised some questions for many of you. We’d like to address some of the questions, and we hope that you will be as enthusiastic about this change as we are.
The U19 to U20 adjustment will align us with other international programs and the IRB, and we also believe it is an advantage for our athletes to stay with Coach Chivers for another year of training at that age grade level.
The other major adjustment is that we have dropped the “Under 23” age grade designation from the team leading up to the WNT. In its simplest explanation, it means that players will no longer “age out” of the program formerly called the USA U23 National Team. That team will still be selected, train at camps, and play international matches. And a player who turns 24 will not drop out of the development pipeline, which frequently happened in the previous structure.
What will happen with the U23 NASC?
The USA U23 NASC will continue exactly as it has in previous years. It has proven to be an extremely productive development venue for the TU’s, and it provides a unique level of competition at that age grade for 200+ athletes each year.
The USA A Team coaches (the former USA U23 staff) will attend that event and select players from the U23 TU’s to join the national team pool, just as we have done in previous years. The only difference this year is that those selected players will join the USA A pool and may train alongside athletes who are 24 or older.
What will the USA A Team do in 2008?
The schedule will look similar to U23 events in previous years, except that we may add some development opportunities to make sure we are reaching enough of the athletes. We will invite athletes to development camps, and we will assemble to play international matches. For example, this year the CanAm competition will be designated as a USA A event, so the A Team, not the WNT, will compete for the US at that venue.
What is the advantage in dropping the U23 age grade designation?
We strongly believe that the change will benefit the athletes. Players who aged out in previous years often found themselves in select side limbo, and we missed the opportunity to continue to develop some of those athletes between their 23rd year and the point at which they earned a place with the WNT. The age grade became
something of an arbitrary boundary for us.
Further, the relationship between the USA A team and the WNT will become more fluid now that we are not restricted by age grades. Athletes may move up and down between the squads, depending on the venues available and on the individual athlete’s development path and performance. This fluid relationship also means that the WNT and USA A team coaches will work even more closely in jointly training and
tracking our athletes.
The USA WNT, USA A and USA U20 National Team staff is very enthusiastic about these changes. We believe we are providing an elite athlete identification and development program that will benefit our athletes, and will ultimately help the USA compete
successfully on the world stage.