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TRU Board Meeting Notes – 5/17/21

  1. Roll Call
    1. Young
    2. Tate
    3. Wilson
    4. Roche
    5. Hiller
    6. Kurylas
    7. Tomsak
    8. Dodge
      1. Regrets
        1. None
  2. Waiver Process
    1. # of Clubs approved: 26 TRU / 4 Non-TRU
    2. # of pending Clubs: 10 TRU / 1 Non-TRU 
    3. # of matches played: 52 & 4 Women’s Tournament
    4. # of matches approved that are still yet to be played: 11 & 1 Women’s Tournaments
    5. # of matches requested, but for which approval has not yet been granted: 0
      1. Young: You’ll notice a big jump in # of matches played…for some reason I was only looking at a month the past few times I pulled it. Oops! This time I looked back to March when we released the Waiver Process.
      2. Tate: So matches are being played and almost all of our clubs have opted into the Waiver Process. We’re doing pretty good on numbers and I’m pleased with the registrations even though we didn’t have a formal “season”.
  3. Women’s Tournaments
    1. Tate: I’ve been reading the email chains on the women’s tournaments and it sounds like they are going well.
    2. Wilson: Yes, the women’s tournaments have been going really well. We’ve grown each tournament with Denton 2 weeks ago with 5 teams and in Austin there were also 5 teams. 
    3. Young: We have the final tournament this weekend in Austin and we’re hoping that everyone attends! It will continue to be a mixture of 7s, 10s, 12s and maybe some XVs. 
  4. RTP Survey
    1. Tate: We sent out another RTP survey to our Club Presidents as we continue to try and gather information from our membership. The RRRC wants to get a head start on divisional alignments and this information is very important in giving us a good start. How many clubs have submitted?
    2. Young: We have 20 responses but a few are duplicates, looks like 17 clubs have replied.
    3. Tate: Ok, good. That is really helpful.
    4. Young: It closes May 21! I’ve sent out a reminder to the clubs.
      1. Roche: Also, at the end of the summer I’ll do an audit of our contacts list as we know leadership has probably changed and make sure those contacts are updated.
  5. End of COVID protocols/Vaccinations
    1. Tate: We’ve talked about this at every meeting and we’ve been asked on social media this past week. The CDC has given relaxed guidance on mask wearing, the general gist is that wearing masks outdoors is no longer required or urged. Of course, Texas has been open for a bit since our Governor rescinded the mask requirement a few weeks ago. The question is, do we want to A) stay where we’re at for the remaining dozen games or B) open it up C) open it up on some set of conditions?
      1. Dodge: It would be nice to have some sort of program where if 75% or more of a club is vaccinated they don’t have to comply…as we know it’s the world around us that is the important benchmark. So in that regard I think that encouraging our members to get vaccinated if they haven’t been already is prudent. That seems to be the smartest thing to do to bring up that overall number.
      2. Tate: On these 11 remaining games and 1 women’s tournament…are they all this weekend?
        1. Young: No, they go through June 5. 7 on 5/22, 4 on 5/29, and 2 on 6/5.
        2. Tate: Ok, so we’re really looking at the XVs season being done in 3 weeks with most of them being played this weekend.
      3. Dodge: So what we’re requiring of clubs now isn’t terribly burdensome. The most tedious piece is getting the individualized waivers. Now it’s just temperature checking and checking rosters. We have to have the rosters to confirm registration, for disciplinary procedures and contact tracing anyway.
      4. Tate: One thing some states have done is that they have said they will lift requirements when X criteria are met. So we could set some criteria and barring some horrible change in conditions, protocols would end under these conditions or X date. That’s another route we could look at.
      5. Dodge: From an administrative standpoint that is a lot easier to manage than having clubs verify members that have been vaccinated. 
      6. Tate: I’ve looked up the stats and in the places we have clubs (with some exceptions) we are in better shape than the overall state. So an example, Austin vaccination is better than Texas and our infection rate is lower than the whole state. There are some exceptions like Taylor (Abilene), Montgomery (Woodlands) and Shreveport are up over the last four weeks but just a little bit. If we were just to look at places where rugby is played, it more than likely will look better than the state as a whole.
        1. Dodge: Does that county level data exist for outside of Texas?
        2. Tate: It does as far as our four states. My parents are in Colorado and their county isn’t reporting vaccination rates by county. 
        3. Dodge: For the Waiver Process we looked at the Trauma Service Area, is there a # that we can easily use for vaccinations or infection rate?
        4. Tate: I’m using NYTimes but they say their numbers are based on CDC.
        5. Young: I believe it’s based on the CDC Vaccine Tracker.
      7. Tate: I was at the Boys HS tournament in Austin and beyond temperature checking it felt like a rugby match 2 years ago.You saw a mask every once and awhile. I assume it’s the same in Dallas?
        1. Dodge: Yes, temperature checking is occurring but beyond that it is starting to feel pretty normal.
      8. Tomsak: Personally I think that everything is working and I don’t think we should change anything. We have to do everything we can to prevent transmission of this disease.
      9. Kurylas: If we make a change now we’re about to begin 7s. We’ll finish XVs and then right into 7s which will be tournaments with more people.
        1. Dodge: Yes, we finish XVs and then Lonestar 7s is the first tournament on June 5. 
      10. Roche: Personally I’d rather get through this weekend and then look at possibly switching things up.
      11. Wilson: I think I’m with Kat, let’s get through this weekend and then reevaluate. 
        1. Tate: Why don’t we say that we’re going to keep the protocols as they are for now and then we have a special meeting on June 1 or 2? Is there a better date for everyone?
          1. Tate: Ok, the TRU Board will reconvene on Tuesday, June 1 to discuss this further.
          2. Young: I’ll send out an invite!
    2. Texas Mobile Vaccination Initiative
      1. Tate: Dodge, I saw the email chatter on this and I share some of the concerns that you expressed.
      2. Dodge: Wendy shared this information after the RRRC call last week where we were talking about encouraging our members to get vaccinated. I haven’t really had the opportunity to really dig into it but my club would be potentially interested in something like this.
      3. Tate: I would like to confirm the minimum number because it reads as 10 but that seems low?
        1. Young: That’s what I understood, it only needs to be 10 people.
        2. Tate: Wow, so we could bring in wives, teenage children, etc. I think at the very least it would be smart for us to confirm the details and advertise this to our members. 
        3. Young: I think it’s interesting to think about this for our upcoming 7s tournaments. It wouldn’t really be for players but could be for spectators. 
          1. Tate: The Huns have some experience around this because Bloodfest is about giving blood donations. They changed to having blood drives before the tournament because participation during the tournament was not ideal. But this could be different so I think we should look into it.
      4. Roche: Will the mobile vaccination unit care if people are planning on having a few alcoholic drinks?
        1. Tate: I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose we could call the number they provide and see what they think about physical activity, alcohol and such. Do we have a volunteer?
          1. Dodge: I can take that on because we’re thinking about doing it as a club.
  6. Incentives for registration
    1. Stats
      1. 2019-2020
        1. Total: 2,361 members
      2. 2020-2021
        1. 1,068 Senior members
        2. 36 Senior Training members
        3. 72 Coaches
        4. Total: 1,314
        5. Difference from 2019-2020: 1,047
    2. Tate: So we’re doing OK but we are down in registrations in 2019-2020. I want to do a bit more number crunching to understand where we were month vs month compared to last year and then possibly look at building some incentives based on what we find. I’d like to drive registration numbers up for a few reasons. One of them is that the USA Rugby Executive Committee may need to include National Championship entry fees to cover costs of those events. Or we can raise USAR dues to cover these anticipated costs. But if we can anticipate revenue then we can try and get ahead of the curve there.
    3. Dodge: When would we be looking to implement an incentive?
      1. Tate: My thinking is that we would roll it out in the next dues cycle (September 2021). 
      2. Dodge: I think that may be too late, we have to make decisions around competitions before that. Could we look at doing something like this for 7s?
      3. Tate: Sure, I’m open to it.
    4. Dodge: My other question is, what’s the real barrier to new membership?
      1. Tate: That’s a great question and a good point. In my opinion, the barrier to registration is good coaching and good club administration. I believe that really makes the difference. We tend to see clubs grow when those two boxes are checked. Obviously there are exceptions but we find that to be generally true.
      2. Tate: Ok, so as well intentioned as an incentive would be I don’t know that it would make a difference. 
      3. Dodge: I’d like to hear from the smaller clubs and what they think.
      4. Tomsak: I don’t think it will make a difference, they will play rugby or not.
      5. Roche: So we’ve learned in the TRRA that everyone loves swag. What if we provided equipment like match balls or something?
        1. Tate: We could do something like that, we might be able to get a sponsor for that. That could be a low cost perk for membership that the clubs could benefit from. We could even tie it to some of our requirements around L200 coach, administrator, contact information updated etc, when you get all those things done you get X.
        2. Young: I think that’s a great idea!
        3. Tate: Cool, let’s see what we can come up with around that.
          1. Young: I’ll get an email out to Booshie Promo who we’ve done business with in the past.
  7. 7s
    1. TOLA
      1. Tate: I believe we have a TOLA schedule and hosts?
      2. Dodge: Yes, we have selected tournament hosts and are just working to finalize a few small details around tournament guidelines. We should have the guidelines and schedule posted for this year pretty soon.
      3. Tate: Great, thank you!
    2. Referees
      1. Tate: Historically, the TRU has covered the referees associated with the qualifying brackets (RRRC). So combined qualifying and TOLA tournaments only had the referees associated with the qualifying brackets covered – and the hosts paid the remainder. Solely TOLA tournaments were responsible for their own referees.
      2. Tate: How many tournaments do we have this year?
        1. Young: 9 are planned
        2. Tate: Is the daily 7s rate still $200 per referee?
        3. Roche: Yes.
        4. Tate: Ok, how many games per referee?
        5. Roche: 4-6 matches is a good average.
        6. Tate: Ok, I was basing it on 5 matches. I am doing a simple formula of number of matches divided by 5 x $200. So, in other words you know that we’re planning on a referee doing about 5 matches and they cost $200 per day. So if your tournament is 100 matches then at a minimum you will need 20 referees. Clubs must share an anticipated number of matches with TRRA so they can propose an accurate quote. The less information that they give TRRA the more likely it is that TRRA has to plan for the more expensive contingencies. 
        7. Young: But if it’s multiple pitches than this gets a little bit more complicated. TRRA has to know the number of matches, number of pitches and if the host wants ARs for all matches or just the knock-out rounds.
        8. Roche: Right, so we have a bare minimum of 3 referees per field. So if you have 20 matches on three fields, it’s 9 referees. If you have 40 matches on three fields, it’s still 9 referees.
        9. Young: Really it’s a minimum of 12 referees because if all 3 fields are running those referees can’t step off and then go right back on. You have to have referees in reserve. 
          1. Dodge: We have a do it yourself bracket sheet for TOLA, is there a pricing tool that we could provide to our members?
          2. Young: We used to have a sheet that estimated that, I’m not sure if TRRA is using that. But we could put something up on the website if that would be helpful. It would just be an ESTIMATE though. They would have to get a true quote from TRRA after providing the number of matches, pitches, etc.
          3. Roche: We have our own tool that estimates number of fields, number of matches and spits out number of referees. It’s always a struggle to get teams to understand the true cost of referees. We often hear from hosts after they see the quote that they’d like to cut the number of referees down or they ask to cut referees for the women’s matches, which is not okay.
          4. Tomsak: I see what the clubs are asking for entry fees and it’s quite a bit. It should cover the costs of the referees.
          5. Tate: We don’t want any teams to go without referees and in particular we don’t want the women to be left out. Shortchanging the women to save a few dollars is unacceptable; all of our members deserve referee coverage. 
          6. Tate: We can help tournament hosts understand the true costs of referees. Every entry fee should include half of the anticipated cost of a referee. So that would be $100 at a minimum. If a tourney has a large number of games or premier brackets that require a certain caliber of referees, that may require bringing in referees from outside and include flights and hotels. Those hosts would need to build in those higher anticipated costs into their tournament budgets. 
          7. Roche: And if you want to lower the cost of flights and hotel for referees, look at how many games you are planning on having and how many referees are local to your city. And available, because remember – referees aren’t slaves to your 7’s schedule and even if you have 20 referees that live in your city, they might not all be available! 
    3. Cash Prize for TOLA Champions
      1. Tate: There has been some discussion about offering monetary awards this year to help with participation. If we wanted to offer monetary awards we would want to offer a kind of Hong Kong divisional format at the Championships so that we aren’t giving money to the clubs that survive. 
      2. Dodge: I need to review the notes but we talked about taking the top 4 finishes of clubs for Championship seeding. Beginning seeding would be our best guess. 
      3. Tate: If we do cash prizes from the TRU to TOLA Champions, when we get to the end of the season we kind of need divisional brackets.
      4. Tomsak: Can we make a decision around what the cash prizes could be?
      5. Tate: Sure, we can set what we’d like it to be. If we are going to offer cash prizes I want to make sure it’s available to as many clubs as possible.
      6. Dodge: I am trying to think through this and I don’t know how it would work.
      7. Tomsak: I don’t think divisional awards will work…
      8. Dodge: You could possibly do some sort of declaration after a number of tournaments and use the hybrid TOLA / Qualifier format to pay for a specific divisional title, but all in the same tournament so there are sufficient numbers of teams for a tournament.
      9. Tate: So there will be a National Invitational 7s Tournament at the end of the summer and a committee will invite clubs based on historical results as well as any available 7s event results. So theoretically the TRU will have the ability to give out travel grants for that event.
      10. Tomsak: Looking back over the past few years it does tend to be the same men’s and women’s teams that win TOLA but maybe this would change it.
        1. Tate: I believe you offered $1500, $1000 and $500?
        2. Tomsak: I think it was $1500 for each winner, $750 for second and $250 for third.
      11. Roche: Say the total amount of monetary prizes is 5K. I think we could do a lot more with $5,000 around clinics and development for the Union, which would have a longer, more beneficial effect on the member clubs and players. We can still invest a bit in the shiny things like bigger trophies this year and medals, but the bulk going to coaching clinics, or player clinics. I also think playing for money changes the vibe of a tournament and takes away from the TOLA spirit of years past.
      12. Wilson: I’m invested in the smaller teams and we have zero interest or inclination to try and compete at Nationals. We are more interested in going to events and growing our teams. A cash prize isn’t really a draw for us.
      13. Kurylas: Since we’ll award travel grants if they are invited to the Invitational, do they need cash on top of that? Obviously it’s great to get the money but is it fair?
        1. Tate: To be fair, when Tomsak mentioned the prize money originally the USAR ExCo hadn’t made a final decision on USAR Club 7s yet. That decision just happened last Wednesday.
      14. Tate: Let’s break this down into a few motions we can make decisions on.
        1. Tate: Awarding our normal travel grants to the USA Rugby National Clubs 7s Championship (this year it is a Invitational 7s) should follow as we’ve done in the past.
          1. Tomsak: That is the full registration amount?
          2. Tate: Yes, I believe we set a minimum dollar amount so even the smaller clubs would get the right amount.
          3. Tomsak: Ok, what about big clubs?
          4. Tate: In the past those teams often had gotten a XVs grant and then it was exhausted by the time 7s rolled around.
          5. Tomsak: So a big club would get a full reimbursement?
          6. Tate: It would be half. In the past we’d give half if they made it to Round of 8 and then another half if you made it all the way to Nationals. If you made it to 7s and had anything left over you would get whatever was remaining from your registrations. 
          7. Roche: So without XVs?
          8. Tate: So without XVs a club with 40 members would get $50 for 14 players, so $2000 dollars.
          9. Roche: That seems dodgy.
          10. Tate: That is what we did in the past. 
          11. Tomsak: What if we have more than 1 team invited to the Invitational 7s?
          12. Tate: In the past we have put aside travel grants for each division in XVs and 7s. We’ve had some really successful years where we’ve had to reimburse MD1, WD1, MD2, WD2 and MD3 for multiple rounds. It’s not that unusual.
            1. Dodge: That money is really crucial because you often don’t know that you’re going to make playoffs until you win on the weekend. So you’re scrambling to book tickets and it helps us send our clubs to represent our Union on the National stage. If I’m not mistaken we put that minimum in place the year that Euless only had 25 players.
            2. Tate: We did make a change that year because Euless wasn’t going to get nearly anything close to what the larger clubs had gotten in the past. The new minimum also benefited ARPTC for 7s one year and San Marcos another year for XVs. 
          13. Roche: I think Drew and I are on the same page here, we don’t have any issue with giving player grants. But I don’t understand why it’s not a flat rate.
          14. Tate: The “half your club’s registration” formula was put in before I became Union President. One of the changes we made when I became President was to add the minimum because smaller clubs weren’t benefitting. If you only have 22 players the player grant isn’t very much. We put the minimum in place so there was a solid floor for clubs getting to the next round. And the maximum in a year is the total amount of TRU dues paid by the club, so even if one club sends multiple sides to nationals in a season, there’s a cap at the upper end.
          15. Dodge: We were talking about incentivizing clubs to grow their membership earlier, and I think the proportional grant is much more attractive than a flat rate.
            1. Roche: Ok, that makes sense. I’m sold. I approve the motion.
            2. Tate: Any objections?
              1. Tomsak: I object, I would prefer a flat rate for this year because it’s Invitational 7s and a selection committee will be making invitations. 
              2. Tate: I hear you, someone is always going to feel hard done since it’s an Invitational. Any other objections? None. APPROVED.
        2. Tate: What do we want to budget for TOLA Championships? That could be prize money, swag…we’ve talked about a lot of ideas. We will do trophies like we’ve always done.
          1. Tomsak: Streaming? Union balls?
          2. Tate: We could look at streaming the Championships, do we still have contact?
            1. Young: I would need to check and see if they are still in business.
            2. Dodge: If you’ve got the setup it’s not that difficult to do. We’ve been streaming some this season and it’s progressively getting better. 
          3. Roche: Can we push this discussion until we get some sponsor or better numbers together?
          4. Tate: Sure, but it sounds like we’re all in favor of making this a bit more special this year. How long have we been running TOLA anyway?
          5. Dodge: I believe it is the 11th year.
          6. Young: We didn’t have TOLA last year, can we say it’s the 10th year?
          7. Tate: Yes, let’s celebrate it as 10 years.
          8. Dodge: I agree with that. What do we think of a Stanley Cup trophy? We wouldn’t want it to travel per say…
            1. Young: Right, I don’t want to have to track that down every year… 🙂
            2. Tomsak: So a memorial trophy that stays with the TRU?
            3. Dodge: Sure, we can put it up on display at HOF and Summit events.
            4. Young: Yes, that sounds fun! We’d have to start doing it for XVs? And can I wear white gloves?
            5. Tate: Let’s try it with TOLA and see if it works before we do XVs.
            6. Young: Ok, I’ll look at that when I order the TOLA trophies in a few weeks.
  8. Rugby Texas (Youth)
    1. Tate: I’ve been talking with Maggie Rouse, Rugby Texas President about several issues that are occurring. It’s a gamut of things from conflicts of matches between RT and the TRU, match changes that cause conflicts, heavy weekends with TRU games and RT, administrative struggles…the list goes on and on. This is causing heartache on all sides including RT, TRU and then it’s all landing in TRRA’s lap. In a sense we have an imaginary line between RT and the TRU but we have clubs that have youth teams and their players are coaching those teams. While there is technically a separation it’s not helping us and in a lot of ways it’s unnecessary and self imposed. We’re one rugby community that all want more and better rugby being played. It’s literally mothers and fathers and their children all trying to play rugby. So, what I have floated to the RT Board as a way to help move us to a productive place is to increase the cooperation between RT and the TRU. This would be in particular when it comes to referees and centralized scheduling. What I suggested as a possibility is that RT, TRU and TRRA all sit down together as opposed to having those conversations in silos where we make separate schedules and then hand them to TRRA to figure it out. We can sync up our two schedules and have one contract with TRRA. We can do more things at common facilities and avoid collisions like RT Championships in one place and TRU Championships in another location on the same weekend and we all want the best referees. This actually happened this past weekend with Girls HS Championships in Dallas, Boys HS in Austin and the heaviest TRU weekend of the year. Centralized scheduling and one referee contract allows us to stop self inflicted wounds and reduce the tension. I think the TRU can assist by working more closely with RT when it comes to referees and match scheduling. Now to that end I think that there are some things that I need to educate myself on in terms of financials and numbers in regards to RT services and so forth. There is quite a bit of information that I need to understand. But the current situation is not good. No one is smiling  and some of these problems are things that we can mitigate with better coordination between the three groups.
      1. Roche: This all sounds like a good plan.
      2. Young: So would Kat and I be expected to help administratively or will they have their own administrative support?
      3. Tate: That’s a great question and I need to understand what that administrative support might look like. That’s something where you and Kat can help me understand the kinds of things that would need to be done. I’d also like to understand what RT is doing now. If you and Kat had the bandwidth and we could work out a contribution from both organizations to cover the cost, I can see value in a centralized administrative point of contact.
      4. Young: My reservation isn’t money but it’s more of what we will ask of the HS teams. The TRU clubs are used to all of our requirements and it’s pretty easy to get compliance. My concern is that we will have a long change curve to get everyone on board and bought in. 
      5. Tate: I hear you, and I think it would vary across the board. I know there are some coaches and clubs who will be 100% on the board with the increased cooperation and some who will have reservations. As always, getting buy-in is an exercise in building trust and culture.
    2. Tate: So, if we’re going to engage in this collaborative effort with the Youth and TRRA I want to make sure the TRU Board is supportive of this. We have an opportunity to be leaders in this area and I think we should take advantage of it. Is the Board open to me starting open conversations with RT? We would of course not make anything formal without Board approval.
      1. Young: I do think we should do this and I agree that it is an opportunity that we should take on. I have my reservations but we can work through those.
      2. Dodge: It’s late and I’m very hesitant to ask this question. What you’re proposing will decrease tension by increasing communication and marginally increase referee availability through efficiency. What this doesn’t do is increase referees, right?
      3. Tate: Right. When I alluded to understanding RT’s financial situation it would include reviewing referee fee structures and things like that. There is also some feedback from parents that they have young referees that want to get involved but there is a barrier to becoming a referee due to the cost. But I need to do some more digging into that.
    3. Dodge: This is a big enough issue that I’d like to take this back to the members and to include this on our agenda for the June 1 call.
    4. Tate: Fair enough, we’d want to begin planning for next season if we were going to do this. I know RRRC will be beginning to plan schedules soon.
  9. New Business
    1. None.
  10. Meeting Adjournment (10:55 PM)