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TRU Board Meeting Notes – 9/20/21

At the request of our members the TRU Board will be releasing their monthly board call minutes and notes. View all of the TRU archived minutes or read on for the most recent notes:

  1. Roll Call
    1. Young
    2. Roche
    3. Kurylas
    4. Tomsak
    5. Martin
    6. Wilson
    7. Hiller
    8. Dodge
    9. Tate
      1. Regrets
        1. None.
  2. Board Election Results
    1. Tate: Congratulations to our re-elected Board members! 
  3. COVID RTP (Reference data)
    1. Under current TRU policy, Green is GOOD to move to Stage 5 RTP (no restrictions), RED is not.
      1. Texas (COVID % Capacity) (must be under 15% for 7 consecutive days):
        1. Texas (COVID % Capacity)
      2. Shreveport (ICU Beds Available – Caddo Parish Region 7) 16.5% available (must be over 15%)
      3. Little Rock (Hospital Info > Metro)8.2% available (must not be over 15%)
      4. Oklahoma City (Oklahoma County > ICU capacity used)As of Sep 9, 88% utilized (must not be over 85%)
        1. UPDATE 9/30: We’ve taken all the above raw data and placed it into an easier to digest table including each region in the TRU. If your region is marked as green, you’re considered Stage 5. If marked as red, please remain in Stage 3 unless new policies are followed. This table will be updated daily:
        2. Tate: There are some Texas cities that have been under 15% for 7 straight days but none of those places have rugby clubs. While some Texas cities are showing good signs of a few days under 15% they haven’t met our established threshold yet. 
        3. Dodge: Let me raise this issue:  When we created our current COVID policy, vaccines were not available. We were obviously hoping vaccines would be developed, approved, made widely available and be effective. That has come to pass now, so I’d like to tweak our policy to recognize that fact and adopt a policy similar to what we had during the current “pause”.  Specifically, rugby participants (players, coaches, admins, etc.) would be eligible to participate in matches and trainings without restriction, regardless of the COVID statistics, if they provide: (a) a valid vaccine card; OR (b) evidence of a positive antibody test within the last 6 months; OR (c) a negative test for active COVID infection within 48 hours before the rugby event (e.g., Thursday test for a Saturday match). This would be added into our eligibility rules and if a player hasn’t provided documentation they aren’t eligible to participate. If clubs don’t have proper documentation they would be subject to forfeits.
        4. Tate: Ok, a couple of questions. This is for matches? Not training?
        5. Dodge: Yes, this would only be for matches, unless there was a report of a positive exposure to the Club COVID Officer, in which case, anyone who could meet one of the 3 criteria I mentioned (vaccinated / own antibodies / recent negative COVID test) would be exempt from the 10 day suspension of training.  Also, anyone who was not present at the training with the person who reported an active COVID infection could also continue training without restriction.   
        6. Tate: Second, are we still saying that if the region doesn’t meet hospital capacity like for example El Paso who has been OK for weeks…can they return to Stage 5 RTP without having to follow these regulations?
        7. Dodge: I think they could return to Stage 5 RTP without following the policy of showing proof of vaccination, antibody tests or negative tests within the above parameters, similar to what we did with 7s over the summer when the numbers were below the COVID hospitalization / ICU thresholds in all the TRU states.
        8. Tate: Ok, to restate this, if hospital capacity falls within the threshold for more than 7 days, teams can play matches without restrictions. If not, will they need to follow the above amended policy?
        9. Dodge: Correct.
        10. Tate: So we’re saying that anyone can play rugby right now regardless of hospital capacity IF they can show a vaccination card, OR antibody test within 6 months, OR a negative test 48 hours from a match or other rugby event involving participants from a different team / club. Everyone would still be subject to local government orders or restrictions.
        11. Dodge: Right, if local government orders supersede the TRU policy, then the match would need to be rescheduled.
        12. Tate: One thing to note as our language has changed a bit, we’re now saying hospital capacity because certain regions reference it as ICU capacity or total hospital capacity so we will be using hospital capacity from now on. We’re using the best data that is available to us.
        13. Hiller: Let’s look at a hypothetical, a club is at a match and we’re now asking them to include all this information in their “book”? 
        14. Dodge: The short answer is yes. You would have the same rights to check the paperwork like you would for any eligibility. Again, this only applies to clubs that need to follow the above policy because the hospitalization numbers in the geographic area of the home or away Club are above the thresholds.
        15. Tate: Yes, as a reminder we don’t have any league matches scheduled until October 16. So the hope is that we will continue to see downward trends on hospital capacity and matches will occur under normal Stage 5 RTP without restrictions. If we look at Houston and Austin who have the first matches on Oct 16 and 23, they are trending in that direction and we’re hopeful these matches will be played without restrictions.
        16. Dodge: I agree but I would recommend to all Club COVID Officers that they not wait until a week before a match to try to gather the documentation from their players. They need to gather this information ASAP. 
        17. Tate: Correct, vaccination takes 2 shots and 2 weeks after to be considered effective, antibody tests can take up to a week and a COVID test has to be in that 48 hour window. So I agree, if I were an administrator, I wouldn’t be waiting on this. 
        18. Dodge: We usually don’t require any sort of eligibility books for friendlies or social tournaments. If we adopt this exception to the current policy do we want to extend it to those events?
        19. Tate: I think we have to. COVID regulations can’t only apply to competitive matches. It’s either a valid safety procedure to require or it’s not. That would be like saying that concussion protocols don’t apply to friendlies or at tournaments. We can’t do that. So, eligibility rules like you have to be registered for clubs that you’re playing for at a friendly don’t apply BUT COVID safety precautions would.
        20. Young: We also want to mention that providing your vaccination cards is NOT a HIPAA violation to release this card to your club administrator. Reference: https://www.hhs.gov/answers/if-my-employer-requires-proof-of-my-covid-19-vaccination-status/index.html.
        21. Tate: Some folks may say that it’s not the governing body’s place to put rules in place to prevent the transmission of a virus. The truth is that we’ve had these types of rules in place for over 35 years. When I played in the 80s you could bleed all over each other and no one cared, then a blood borne virus (AID) occurred and World Rugby added rules around this to prevent infections. These type of safety precautions have been occurring longer than most of our active players have been alive. It is simply not true that this kind of thing is unprecedented or out of place in the sport of rugby. In the 90s we had a problem with staph infections, they called it “scrum pox,” and a rule was introduced that if a player had an open scrape or cut they had to leave the field or have it bandaged to return. The politicization isn’t something I’ve run into before, but the idea that a Union would make regulations to prevent the spread of illness in the game is not new.
        22. Young: What about teams that are visiting our Union? Will we enforce these regulations?
        23. Dodge: Yes, we did under the prior policy (in addition to the visiting team having permission from their home union to play).
        24. Young: Ok, I will make sure that the Colorado teams (women) are aware.
        25. Dodge: If this proposal is acceptable, I can tweak the existing policy and documentation.
        26. Tate: Do we have any objections or further discussion? Hearing none, the proposal is APPROVED. 
          1. Tate: We encourage everyone to review this policy when available, begin preparing for the documentation and keep hoping that we will return to Stage 5 RTP soon. Another thing to stress is that we’re modifying the policy so we CAN play the season even if COVID doesn’t go away, or we see another spike in hospitalizations in the future. We’re looking to manage the season so that we can play regardless of COVID.
          2. Dodge: Yes, our existing policy would preclude play in most TRU areas under the current hospitalization numbers, so the proposal we approved is an exception that allows us to play.
          3. Tate: It also bears mentioning that if hospitals in your area are overfilled that administrators should look at their emergency plan in the event of injury. You must take into account your local conditions. The above stats that we’re looking at are entire trauma areas and are quite large. So it could mean that a nearby hospital could be full but another one could have room. 
          4. Dodge: Ok, I’ll make some tweaks to the existing policy to reflect this exception and circulate later this week.
  4. XVs Schedule
    1. Draft Schedule
      1. Tate: I know the schedule was sent out, were clubs responsive?
      2. Dodge: Yes, we sent out the schedule a few weeks ago and allowed for a review period. That has concluded and TRRA has reviewed changes, etc. Kat is working on inputting the approved schedule into WTR.
      3. Roche: Yes, I uploaded the schedule and the changes that have been approved. There were multiple versions of the schedule so I’d like to ask all of the reps on this Board request that their clubs review. I would love a second set of eyes! This has a dual purpose because clubs will exercise their muscles of logging into WTR and ensuring that their contacts are up to date.
    2. New Clubs
      1. Plano W – WD3
        1. Tate: We received an application from Plano to join WD3. Traditionally if a club has completed all of their paperwork we go ahead and admit them into the Union. Admission to competition would need to go over to the RRRC. Where are they in terms of checking all the boxes in our club application process and is it timely for us to approve their application or not?
        2. Young: We received their application just a few days ago and I’ve asked them to provide the normal details. They are an established youth organization and have a few women that want to play at the senior leveI have also sent this application over to Monique and Marie as the RRRC and TRU women’s reps for consideration. 
        3. Roche: WD3 is a TRU run competition so it should be relatively easy to add them in.
        4. Wilson: We also don’t have a WD3 tournament scheduled until mid-December.
        5. Tate: Great, so in other words we have time to accommodate them.
        6. Dodge: I don’t have any concerns with them being added to WD3, but I was wondering where they are pulling players from? 
        7. Roche: Plano reached out to me earlier and from the tone of the message it sounds like they have a few women that were asking if there was a team in their area. Plano has an established youth organization and this sounds like recent HS graduates that want to continue playing for their club.
        8. Tate: That is great! That is the kind of thing we want to encourage. I do hear what you’re saying, Dodge.
        9. Dodge: I believe that most of the women that have come out of the Plano program have played for DARC. I just want to throw that out there and it doesn’t really have a huge impact around referee allocations, given that WD3 is already playing in a round-robin tournament format, often on the same day / same venue as other matches.  However, I do have a concern with the impact it may have on the existing DFW women’s clubs and their ability to sustain their membership / grow.  Ultimately, how many teams can a single market sustain?
        10. Tate: I do think it does come down to how many capable and positive coaches that want to participate in women’s rugby.  
        11. Dodge: That is a better point, we all know that if you have a good coach and administrator you can do a lot even starting from scratch.  They would come in as non-voting affiliate members until they met the USA Rugby membership number requirements to be considered a TRU Club in “good standing” as we discussed at our meeting a couple of months ago?
        12. Tate: Yes, that’s correct.  Ok, so we’re waiting on paperwork but we seem to be leaning towards accepting their application.
          1. Young: Sounds good. I’ll keep checking on their paperwork.
    3. WTR
      1. See note above about Kat loading schedules into WTR.
    4. CMS
      1. Tate: The USA Rugby Competition Management System (“CMS”) still exists and schedules can be added, BUT it is not linked to Sportlomo, so game day match rosters cannot yet be created in CMS. To do that, Sportlomo’s membership module has to be connected to CMS. We are hopeful this will be done by the time we start league play, but if not, we will require clubs to record a match like normal and “team scores” will be entered instead of individual names. I had a conversation with Sportlomo on Thursday morning and have highlighted the urgency of this.
      2. Young: I’ve asked Erik Geib, CMS Master Administrator to allow me access to add competitions. So once everything is confirmed in WTR, I will enter matches / standings tables into CMS.
      3. Tate: I will follow up with Erik on giving Wendy and Kat the ability to add competitions and other administrative functions.
    5. TRRA Match Framework
      1. Martin: I’ve spent some time in the last week building a database from the schedule that allowed me to break out where games were being played and what division they are in. This pivot table now tells us where the heavy match weekends will be and where we will need to send referee allocations. As an example, this is a snapshot of the North TRU matches:
      2. Martin: So far this only includes TRU matches, we will add in Rugby Texas (youth), D1A, Lone Star, NSCRO, MLR, etc. 
      3. Tate: So, we want to avoid pink weekends!
      4. Martin: That’s not always the case but yes that is the general idea. If we can publicly talk about heavy weekends that can dissuade clubs from moving matches to those weekends. 
      5. Tate: Ok, so we’re focusing on being transparent about heavy weekends? So if a match change request comes in, we can say no because it has exceeded the framework.
      6. Martin: Correct. There may be exceptions but generally match change requests will NOT be accepted if a weekend already has 8+ matches on it. One or two referees aren’t available and we can’t cover a weekend. A referee wedding can decimate the ranks for an entire weekend. 🙂
      7. Dodge: Whenever we put out the schedule and allow teams to make changes, it is always dependent on referee resources. 
      8. Tate: This isn’t just subject to referee availability but on heavy weekends there will NOT be changes. 11/20, 12/18, 1/29, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26 are already at 10+ matches and should be avoided.
        1. Hiller: Side note, at the Maccabi tryouts this weekend we talked with a few players that registered as referees but they never received matches. We dug in and found out that they never registered with TRRA.
        2. Tate: Well that is a problem! Just dual registering as a referee with your club doesn’t cut it. TRRA can’t possibly be expected to monitor that and Sportlomo doesn’t give them an easy way to check that.
        3. Martin: We’d love to have more dual player referees! We even offer a discount on TRRA dues.
      9. Roche: I’d like to make a few other points, when the schedule is made I put LR men and women’s games together. One referee can cover those two matches. So, matches outside major metro areas may not be reflected in the framework but can also stress resources because of travel.
      10. Tate: When Scott was TRRA Chair, he really stressed to me that it is very helpful to have more games at a single venue where referees can cover one another and potentially do multiple matches. We don’t want to always require multiple matches on the day but it does sometimes happen. This also means that CMOs can go to one venue and see multiple matches and referees receive coaching and development.
      11. Roche: Second, clubs that have multiple sides make one change and they can swing an entire schedule. An example would be if the Reds move all of their matches, it can take a weekend from green to red real fast.
      12. Tate: Yes, we can see that in the Central schedule, if the Huns and Valkyries want to be together that is 5 matches. That can swing an entire weekend into chaos. 
    6. Match Changes Culture
      1. Young: Kat, Shawn and I met to talk about the above framework recommendation and we’ve identified that there are some additional match change ‘culture’ issues that we wanted to raise. It feels that teams believe that if they put in a match request that is agreed upon by the teams it will happen. It also feels that teams believe that if they pay the late fee, the match will be added to the schedule. This simply can’t be the case, we wish it could be but it’s not possible.
      2. Tate: Correct, everything is subject to referee availability and we now know that the 11/20, 12/18, 1/29, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26 weekends already have poor referee availability due to the number of scheduled matches. On the match change request form do we call out referee availability and if so how strongly is it shown?
      3. Young: We do not mention that on the form.
      4. Tate: I would suggest that on the form we add a notice that change requests are dependent on referee availability. That should be in BOLD TYPE. Please also add it on the actual form, under ‘New/Updated Match Information’. It should also indicate that the administrator should check WTR before requesting the change.
      5. Young: We can do that.
      6. Wilson: Can we also add this matrix to the website?
      7. Tate: Yes, that is a good idea.
      8. Young: We shouldn’t need to, clubs can check WTR directly or the TRU Calendar which is an output from the WTR database.
      9. Martin: Can we also add on the page and the form to email admin@texasrugbyref.com if they have questions around referee availability?
      10. Tate: I’m not opposed to that.
      11. Roche: I received the match change request forms and will do a quick check on the above TRRA Framework. If it is 8+ matches on a requested weekend I will confer with the TRRA Administrators. 
      12. Young: We want clubs to understand that their match request change is carefully considered but there are lots of factors that would allow for a change. We’ve partnered with TRRA to build a framework that allows for match changes to occur but TRU/TRRA administrators will go through a few extra validation steps now.
      13. Dodge: So on late requests that require the late fee, do those come through your normal workflow?
      14. Roche: Yes, there can be multiple changes on a day and we want to review all of them as they come in. 
        1. Dodge: The last season before COVID we started to implement a policy around clubs that don’t have active registered referees that their matches would be on Sunday. Do we need to formalize this for the start of next year, and give Clubs plenty of notice?
        2. Tate: We don’t have a good way of knowing who really is a certified referee. Shawn and Kat can tell us who is actively refereeing. So part of it is identifying and understanding the club affiliations, this isn’t easy in Sportlomo. Another part is that this is a pretty easy thing for our larger clubs to do but it’s a lot tougher for smaller clubs. We’ve had lots of discussions around equity on the burdens we put on clubs.
        3. Dodge: I would say that for every X number of members you have, you have to have an active registered referee.
        4. Tate: Yes, I do think that is the direction we have to go. We have to figure out the enforcement on this too. 
        5. Dodge: Ok, let me think through this and share a proposal with RRRC, and then bring it to this Board for consideration.
        6. Roche: We also offer dual track referee options, there is a discount code for registration dues. Get certified and then request your discount code from admin@texasrugbyref.com.
  5. Summit (Nov 5-7 in Pflugerville, TX)
    1. Registrations OPEN!
      1. Coaching L200 – 15 spots left on Sat/24 on Sun
      2. Coaching L300 – 9 spots left (Sat/Sun course)
      3. Strength & Conditioning L1 – 23 spots left on Sat/22 on Sun
      4. Referee L1 – 24 on Sat/24 on Sun
      5. Referee L2 – 22 (Sat/Sun course)
      6. Referee CMO – 23 on Sat/24 on Sun
    2. Hotel Block
      1. Young: Also note that the hotel block expires Oct 8 or once we fill our block. 
  6. HOF (Nov 6, 2021)
    1. Tate: We were recently asked about COVID protocols for the HOF Banquet. Also, the hotel required a COVID plan as well and so after consideration I made an executive decision. We will have elderly and immunocompromised people at the HOF banquet. So I made an executive decision to require vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours. It’s not an event that we can mask at because of social drinking and eating during the event. It would not be a safe event to ask them to attend without adequate safety precautions in place. If it was an outdoor event we would have more options but this is an indoor dinner.
    2. Young: Thank you, there will also be children who are as of right now unable to be unvaccinated in attendance this year. We’re working on adding verbiage to the website and will notify those that have purchased tickets.
    3. Tate: Any questions or concerns? None.
  7. Swag
    1. Young: We’ve released some new swag, some of it is 50th Anniversary specific and some generic TRU. Some have limited availability or order deadlines, go check it out! When you come to the Summit there will be a welcome bag with more stuff…
  8. All Stars & 50th Anniversary Tournament (Dec 4-5 in Houston, TX)
    1. All Stars
      1. Roche: For women’s All Stars we have confirmations from TRU, Capital, Pacific NW and Mid-America!
      2. Young: I think with COVID we should keep it at 4 teams this year unless we have major interest in the next few weeks.
    2. 50th Anniversary Tournament
      1. Dodge: Have we heard anymore about the 50th Anniversary Tournament?
      2. Young: Yes, we have some yes responses from MD3 and Women’s clubs. They have until Oct 1 to express interest.
  9. New Business
        1. None
  10. Meeting Adjournment (9:50 PM)