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RRRC Competitions Committee Notes – 9/14/20

The Red River Competitions Committee releases their monthly committee call minutes and notes. View all of the archived RRRC minutes or read on for the most recent:

  1. Roll Call
    1. Young
    2. Kurylas
    3. Roche
    4. Dodge
    5. Fosco
    6. Tolar
    7. Watson
    8. Leming
    9. Keuppens
    10. Dale
    11. Grant Cole – Guest
      1. Regrets
        1. Hughes
  2. Rugby HTX Divisional Placement
    1. Dodge:  The first item on the agenda tonight is Rugby HTX’s application to compete in MD1 during this coming season, subject to TRU accepting their application as a new club. Grant, have all of the required materials been turned in?
    2. Cole: I believe so, we’re working on paying the club viability fee. We didn’t have Paypal  setup, so that is taking a bit longer.
    3. Young: You can send a check to our treasurer.
    4. Cole: Oh, good. That would be easier.
    5. Young: I’ll  send you the address.
    6. Dodge: Great, Grant, can you give us an overview of the team, why it’s being formed, and why you believe Rugby HTX should start off in MD1, which would be unusual for a new club?  Committee members, Wendy has prepared a folder with all of their information that you can review, including Rugby HTX’s roster, which is linked above.
    7. Cole:  Yes, our  #1 goal is to prepare players for professional rugby. We have a mixed team of current/former MLR players, All Americans and college players. We’re all about development and will be creating our teams with that in mind. If we play a college side, we’ll play our youngest and most inexperienced athletes. If we play Men’s D1, we’ll step it up a bit.
    8. Kolberg: Who are the coaches?
    9. Cole: Head coach is Paul Emerick, Taylor Howden is attack, Brett Mills is the forwards coach and we have a full S&C team.
    10. Roche: Do you have any contingency plans if any SaberCats get injured or a slew of players aren’t available?
    11. Cole: We are talking about that, we think we’re going to be OK. We’re going to have to see as we go. Rugby HTX has a larger roster than the SaberCats so we shouldn’t have any number issues.
    12. Kolberg: Ok, so the 39 players are completely separate than the SaberCats.
    13. Cole: Correct.
    14. Roche: What if the SaberCats need to pull from Rugby HTX?
      1. Dodge: The concern that Rugby HTX’s roster might get depleted later in the season, around payoff time, is valid and is one Grant and I have been discussing as well.  The agreement between the MD1 clubs and Rugby HTX is that they will be included in the MD1 schedule (subject to TRU membership and this Committee’s ruling) but their matches will be counted as friendlies. So, they will not be able to advance and those teams playing for league points will advance.
      2. Roche: My concern is more along the lines of exhausting all of their resources…if they have to fold, what do we do? Or on the reverse, what if the SaberCats borrow too much? I;m also worried that HTX will be stealing players from HARC, HURT etc.
      3. Cole: That is not our goal and we would not want to do that.
      4. Keuppens: To be blunt, HTX won’t be drawing from the RRRC clubs?
      5. Cole: Right, if we wanted to pull players, we’d pull from college. 
      6. Dodge:  Rugby HTX, as a member of TRU and USAR, will also have to follow the eligibility rules; players wouldn’t be allowed to transfer back and forth between Rugby HTX and other clubs.
      7. Cole: If we did do that, it goes straight against our vision. We want to prepare players for the MLR.
      8. Watson: So the matches will be friendly, but can those points still count for W/L in CMS or toward the other MD1 clubs’ match minimums for playoffs?
      9. Dodge: A couple of things, if we get to play a full season, we’ll be fine for the number of qualifying matches. If we had to meet numbers, we could request a waiver for those (particularly in this COVID year).   Also, the agreement is Rugby HTX’s matches, although they would be in the CMS schedule, would not show up in the league standings, as they do not intend to advance.  
        1. Young: That’s pretty common, the D1 women have to substitute non-league “qualifying level” matches to meet the USAR match minimums almost every year.
    15. Kolberg: What’s the incentive for players to join Rugby HTX?
    16. Cole: To prepare them to play in the MLR and they will be attending SaberCats workouts including weight training and rugby training. This allows them to get a look by the SaberCats directly.
    17. Watson: Do these players get paid?
    18. Cole: No.  The Academy is invitational, and players pay to be part of the Academy.
    19. Leming: Are any of the players contracted with the MLR?
    20. Cole: None.  Although it is possible they could be called up and given an associate player contract.
    21. Leming: What is the contingency plan if you aren’t included in the MD1 schedule?
    22. Cole: We would attempt to schedule as many friendlies as possible.
    23. Dodge: To be clear, this committee is deciding tonight what division Rugby HTX should participate in. The TRU call is next week and the TRU Board will have to review their club application. We’re assuming they will be admitted, so we’re proactively discussing their potential division due to timing.
    24. Keuppens: The majority of the MD1 clubs have discussed Rugby HTX’s request at length and agree to include Rugby HTX, but that the matches would be friendlies.
    25. Roche: One thing to consider is that this is very different than a normal new club application. The players essentially signed up to be in an Academy and they are essentially on a “contract” if you will. We don’t have the concern about their regular lives getting in the way and the club folding since these individuals paid to be here and are fully committed to this “professional” lifestyle for at least the season. I don’t think we can safely put them in anything lower than MD1. 
    26. Kolberg: The reason we worry about new teams coming in, is they don’t have the experience, facilities or finances, and as a result, sometimes they forfeit matches. These guys are coming in with good financial backing, facilities, and experienced coaching and admin.
    27. Dale: I would propose that we allow Rugby HTX into the MD1 competition, matches will be friendlies.
      1. Kolberg: Second.
      2. Roche: Second
      3. Watson: Second
      4. Dodge: Any opposition? None. Approved.
        1. Cole: I appreciate everyone’s time and allowing me to answer any of your questions. If you have any other questions, please let me know.
  3. Glendale inclusion in MD1
    1. Dodge: The MD1 sides have made an agreement with Glendale to play home or away series for the next two seasons. This season, the Blacks, Huns and Reds have agreed to travel to Colorado. Everyone else will host Glendale this season, then will travel next season. The Glendale matches will also be entered into CMS as friendlies, and like the Rugby HTX matches, won’t be included in the CMS standings. Glendale is also going to be playing in the PRP on the same basis. 
    2. Roche: Why are the 3 best teams going at the same time? This will more than likely put a strain on referee resources when it comes time for Glendale to visit.
    3. Dodge: I didn’t consider that, it was more that the clubs are the most financially able and willing to make the trip on relatively short notice.
    4. Roche: For these we would have to consider bringing in referees from out of state and that will be quite a strain including our usual schedule.
    5. Tolar: Why don’t we think our referees can handle these?
    6. Roche: We’re absolutely training D1 referees, but the MLR is going to be sapping a lot of our resources. 7 weeks out of the season, at least 2 referees per MLR Texas home match will be taken from our pool and will be working MLR matches. So if we take off some of our top referees, we’re training them as fast as we can…but that’s tough.
    7. Young: Then if you allow a developing referee to do a game of this caliber, they need top AR support. So you’re further taking from the high performance pool.
    8. Dodge: Can the MLR contribute referees or to referee training?
    9. Roche: Sure, but their rosters don’t have the depth for that. Also, those athletes are focusing on playing professional rugby.
    10. Keuppens: Plus there are three teams and they all have different visions. Some are focusing on developing college players and others are just starting out.
    11. Roche: At this point, we need about 20 referees to cover these top games, men and women’s. We aren’t there yet.
    12. Tolar: So are we training referees? We could be using the pandemic to get tons of people trained up.
    13. Roche: True, but it takes time to develop referees. Even if we get the perfect referee candidate, you would be hard pressed to turn them into a top caliber MD1 in just a few months. And there’s not a lot of top level players who are giving up their team and community to become a referee and spend their saturdays alone and getting abused most of the time.
    14. Young: Absolutely, it can take 1-2 years to develop someone into a top caliber referee and that is if they are younger than 25 and truly dedicated.
    15. Watson: On the abuse issue, we have mechanisms to have abuse reported.
    16. Roche: Of course, it’s not always straight up abuse, but lack of comradery and overall lack of respect for referees.
    17. Leming: Who takes precedence, MLR or TRU?
    18. Roche: To answer that, I would put it back on you. If you have a player who has really high aspirations  and gets invited to play in the MLR…which one is he going to pick? Referees have aspirations as well.
    19. Kolberg: Fil, you have connections…can you sway the MLR to not play on Saturday?
    20. Keuppens: Most don’t intend to, but they may have to. 
    21. Young: Venue availability drives lots of kick-off times. Look at Gilgronis, last year almost every game was on Saturday afternoon.
    22. Dodge:  One of the things we want to do with the Fall tournaments is train up existing and new referees.  Let’s talk about those tournaments.
  4. Fall Tournaments
    1. Dodge: I’m in the process of reaching out to clubs in the major metro areas to see who wants to host fall tournaments if we’re allowed to play. We’ll set dates starting in October and then we’ll make a call 2-3 weeks beforehand if we can proceed. Sign up preference will be given to teams that are in the town hosting the tournament so brackets can be made more easily and its easier to adjust to potentially changing dates. I would like to couple those with referee training.
    2. Roche: I’m with you, more referee training is what we need. The only issue I have is referee education is up in the air. I don’t know when we will be able to host Referee L1 courses. USAR and World Rugby are in talks about how they can proceed, but it’s being built from the ground up.
    3. Young: It’s not a perfect solution, but we did renegade sessions like this before and as long as they are CIPP’d as a player, it can work. Then they take their L1 later on.
    4. Keuppens: Yes, we did that for 7s a long time ago. 
    5. Roche: I’m good with that, as long as we have a referee coach or coaches available. 
    6. Dodge: Is there any way we can also try and get some of the less active referees, or newly certified referees who never joined TRRA, to do these tournaments?
    7. Roche: Absolutely, we keep our rosters from the L1s and are constantly trying to engage them. This is a perfect avenue for this.
    8. Keuppens: What if we could figure out a way to promote dual-track athletes (referee and playing). The club could waive their dues or something? We have this conversation every year and we can never seem to solve the referee shortage. Maybe if we look at it from a different angle…it could be a way to invest into the game?
    9. Roche: The TRRA Board has already agreed to reduce dues for referees that are dual-tracking by 50%.
    10. Young: Encouraging reductions in club dues as well is a really different idea that I am in support of.
    11. Keuppens; Do we think it’s worth the divisional reps reaching out and seeing what the reaction is?
    12. Dale: I have another idea to throw out: why don’t we require every player to take a referee course? This would allow them to see it first hand and perhaps it would be enticing?
    13. Young: We’ve talked about that before but there is a cost for materials and the educator’s travel. So they aren’t free even if we wanted them to be.
    14. Dale: I just think having an educated group would make everything easier and perhaps we’d get a few folks to join up.
    15. Young: Oh, I’m not disagreeing at all, just saying that we’ve looked at it before and the TRU would have to subsidize it. It wouldn’t be cheap.  I think USAR charges at least $70/head.
    16. Roche: What if we require players that receive a red card to take a referee course or they can’t return?  My experience with this in other unions is that they quickly turn into full on L100 courses.
    17. Keuppens: Now this is a solid idea. It may even have players proactively taking referee courses and perhaps it would help with the referee’s respect and camaraderie as well.
    18. Dodge: I think part of this is we have to make a culture change, not only during the match but referees need to feel welcomed by all of the clubs. Clubs should welcome referees to the pitch and recognize / thank them at the social.
    19. Roche: Remember this  is an issue across the nation and we won’t solve it tonight. But I think if we take little steps, we can make progress.
    20. Leming: That’s a great point. We know we can get people to courses, but it doesn’t mean they will never referee a match. So if we can parse this out, perhaps we can find more small solutions. The red card idea is good, but it doesn’t mean that they will ever referee a match. 
    21. Keuppens: Theoretically it helps with referee retention as players that receive a red card and take a course will be more educated.
    22. Dodge: What kind of mentorship programs are in place by the TRRA?
    23. Roche: Yes, that has been tried over the years and every time it’s implemented, it’s lacking. We have to strike a balance of pairing the right referee with the right mentor. That can also take time.
    24. Dodge: Do you think you could put together referee teams that work several multiple match days at the same venue together over the course of the season?  The new league structure may be more accommodating to that approach.
    25. Roche: We do try to do that, it works really well in the major metro cities. We lose it when referees start traveling outside of those areas. 
      1. Young: Can we pivot back to the fall tournaments? The Huns asked if there will be a bidding process to host…what do we think?
      2. Dodge: Yes, thank you for bringing us back around. Do we think we should have a bidding process?
      3. Young: If we don’t have a bidding process, how is it fair? I know this is difficult with all of the unknowns…I think we lock in dates and ask for hosts.
      4. Dodge: I wanted to avoid choosing dates so we could try and keep some flexibility.
      5. Young: For the women we were envisioning that on the same weekend in each venue, there is a tournament in Dallas and in San Antonio. That way there are multiple locations and opportunities for teams to participate.
      6. Dodge: If we hold tournaments on different days it allows for even more rugby. Also, I’d like to depend more on the hosts to pick the dates of the tournaments to match their access to fields and player / admin availability.
      7. Young: I would advise against that, we’ve done that in the past and the brackets can be a mess. I would think we would do this more like the RRRC 7s, where we make the brackets and have a RRRC rep on hand to help facilitate the tournament and help make it successful.
      8. Keuppens: I would agree, we need to try and have a hand in the organization instead of leaving it up to the teams.
      9. Kolberg: I think we pick dates and then ask for hosts.
      10. Dodge: I’m still against set dates as I think that puts undue pressure on the host to pick a date that perhaps won’t work for them. Allowing the selection of different alternate dates in each different major metro area also gives us a better chance of one or more of the tournaments actually coming off.   I think we can also put some requirements in place, like sending in brackets beforehand that the RRRC has to approve. Teams can also have entry fees.
        1. Young: Can we talk more about fees. I’m worried we’ll have price gouging due to the pandemic. 🙂
        2. Keuppens: Could we just set the tournament fees?
        3. Dodge: Yes. I want to be fair to the host clubs though.
        4. Kurylas: I think it should be to cover costs, this shouldn’t be about making money.
        5. Young: I agree.
        6. Roche: Can we find the magic number that costs are covered but perhaps they do make a little? Teams are paying to keep up their fields and have other costs as well.
        7. Leming: To take the money out of it, could we propose to the TRU that hosting fees are covered?
        8. Dodge: Possibly, we’d have to come up with a proposal.
        9. Watson: Is a $250 / team entry fee doable?
        10. Dodge: I was thinking $100.
        11. Young: Same, maybe $150.
        12. Watson: Do we do trophies?
        13. Dodge: No, the focus is about knocking the rust off, getting new players playing times.
    26. Dodge: Let’s get some clarity, do we want to  have a bidding process?
      1. Kolberg: No, we send out dates and first come, first serve.
      2. Young: Yes, it legitimizes this effort.
      3. Roche: I think we have to have a bidding process.
        1. Young: Agree.
      4. Dodge: Ok, there seems to be a majority consensus for a bidding process. Any disagreements? APPROVED.
    27. Dodge: Do we allow host teams to come up with their own 3 proposed dates, or do we dictate the dates?
      1. Roche: The potential hosts should suggest dates within a set window; more options is better.
      2. Dodge: I am of the same opinion, does anyone disagree? None. APPROVED.
    28. Dodge: OK, we’d be asking for two pitches for playing and a warm-up area, minimum. Anyone disagree? None. APPROVED.
    29. Young: Can we also require that brackets are sent in by a certain date. Typically it’s Wednesday?
      1. Dodge: Yes, Fil has a really good template for 7s. Let’s repurpose that.
      2. Roche: I love doing brackets.
      3. Dodge: Ideally hosts would start signing up clubs as soon as they are selected and host clubs can send you the paid teams. Then you can build brackets?
      4. Roche: Yes sir.
        1. Dodge: Ok, brackets will have to be sent in by Wednesday to be reviewed. APPROVED.
        2. Tolar: Does this mean we’re assuming they can’t accept money until stage 5?
        3. Dodge:  Hosts can start collecting entry fees whenever they want, but they would have to do refunds if we didn’t reach Stage 5. 
      5. Keuppens; How are we going to weight the seeding? 
        1. Roche: I think it’s educated guessing. It won’t be perfect but we will try our best. I would also like to have almost a committee that reviews them.
        2. Young: Let’s do Hong Kong style.
        3. Keuppens: Yes, the template currently includes that, it gets re-seeded  after pool play.
      6. Dodge: Kat, can you go ahead and work on the templates, start with 20 minute matches and a few breaks.  I think we should specify the number of teams that can sign up so that we ensure there is enough daylight to complete the tournament, particularly as we get into December.
        1. Roche: Yes. 
      7. Kolberg: Do we want a final? Or do we just give everyone 3 matches?
        1. Young: Oh, good call. Scratch the final.
        2. Dodge: Yes, that  follows more along what we’re  trying to do  here.
        3. Keuppens: The Hong Kong format may help shake that out naturally, a few teams will  lose 1 game or so…
        4. Roche: It looks like 12 teams, each getting 3 matches with 20-minute halves, is the most we could get done in a day.
        5. Dodge: That’s not broken out by women/men?
        6. Roche: Right, it’s just 12 teams.
        7. Dodge: Ok, we can keep talking about the specifics offline.
  5. Review and Vote on Draft 15s Schedule
    1. Dodge: Travis is working on the men’s XVs schedule. Once I receive that, Kat will begin working on the women’s schedule. Then we can vote electronically and send out to the clubs to begin the review and change request process. I want to make sure we’re really looking in-depth at the number of matches per day given the anticipated referee shortage.
    2. Young: We also need to really crystal clear on what the review process is. We’ve received tons of feedback that the process isn’t clear.
    3. Dodge: It was all in the email with the initial schedule last August.
    4. Young: Right, in some cases we had the wrong email. We try to keep the contacts updated, but it’s a tough road. Just relaying the feedback that teams didn’t understand the process last year.
    5. Dodge: Ok, as soon as I get the final schedule, I will send it out and we will vote electronically.  We’ll try to provide additional clarity on the change process when we send it out to the clubs.  
  6. New Business
    1. None.
  7. Meeting Adjournment (9:45 PM)