Of Scrummages, Mauls, and Rucks – the Promising Growth of US Rugby

US Rugby  pic
US Rugby
Image: usarugby.org

One of the biggest rising stars in Rugby is Greg Gullberg. Gullberg has been working in television news and public relations for nearly a decade. Recently, he returned to graduate school to earn his masters degree and he was quickly recruited to play Rugby. He has been an Anchor, Reporter, and Producer in several television newsrooms including in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He has also been a public / media relations manager for a film & television studio. An avid sports fan, Greg Gullberg enjoys playing contact sports. He was a star player for his high school football team and played in two Missouri State Championships in his Sophomore and Senior years. He scored plenty of Tries as an undergrad while playing Sooners Rugby at the University of Oklahoma. Now, as a graduate student he is knocking heads for a semi-pro Rugby team called the Crusaders.

US Rugby has grown by leaps and bounds since its first official competition was played in 1874 when Harvard went head to head with Montreal’s McGill University. The journey has not been easy, as it has taken a backseat to mainstream sports like football, basketball, and baseball. Today, however, rugby is the fastest growing sport in the United States.

According to USA Rugby, there are over 115,000 registered players in the country in high schools, colleges, and clubs in 48 out of 50 states. A quarter of all registered players are women. A report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association estimates the number of rugby participants at 1.2 million.

Much of this growth has been attributed to the promotion of 7s rugby in the country. Played with only seven players on each side, the fast-paced and high-contact team sport is easier to understand than 15s rugby, and easier to fall in love with. USA Rugby has invested heavily in 7s rugby and it has paid off. Both the men’s and women’s teams are ranked in the top 10 globally and both made it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Going forward, the sport’s officials are focusing on getting young people more involved in the sport. For years, college offered the first taste of rugby for thousands of Americans. The sport’s officials are now keen on growing a solid base in high schools and among youth athletes aged 5-12.