The Rugby Summit is on all cylinders in Wisconsin

The Rugby Summit in Oshkosh, Wisconsin from January 21-23 was a huge success, exceeding expectations for the first-ever event.

The Summit was the brainchild of the Wisconsin Youth Rugby leadership group, which in itself is a relatively new organization – for many years, youth and high school rugby in the Badger State was run by the general union, with several conferences running their own competitions.

The Rugby Summit brought together coaches and experts from across the country to present on aspects of play, umpires, media, college prospects and professional rugby. About 200 players, coaches, parents, umpires and administrators attended the two-day session, with 40 different presentations.

(Full disclosure: GRR editor Alex Goff was a presenter.)

What the event demonstrated was a strong desire among all members of the youth and high school rugby community in Wisconsin and nearby states to learn and develop the game. Coming on the heels of this event after a massive slowdown in the sport due to COVID certainly helped the enthusiasm, but the event, led by Richard Bergemann, Todd Prochniak and Matthew Goetsch, with strong support from a host of others, surpassed the expectatitons .

USA 7s and 15s Eagle Brett Thompson delivered the keynote speech at Saturday night dinner, experiencing the ups and downs of his career, including some major triumphs and a string of heartbreaking injuries. The story was one of resilience and love for the game. That dinner also served as an awards ceremony for Wisconsin Youth Rugby, handing out several awards, including Coach of the Year for JJ Rose at Green Bay.

Goetsch received the presidential award for his tireless work in youth rugby. And in fact, the Green Bay program as a whole was repeatedly recognized for the way it had grown into a state boys’ HS champion, starting with flag rugby and building from the ground up.

The third day of the event was a combination and clinic for youth, HS Boys, HS Girls and adult players on UW-Oshkosh’s excellent indoor athletic field. over 100 players attended, with high school and youth players receiving free Next Phase Rugby T-shirts to jump-start their school rugby quest.

Other organizations were there, including college programs such as Aquinas, Drury, Iowa Central CC, University of Health Science and Pharmacy out of Missouri, Rio Grande, Illinois, Wisconsin, Trine, Wheeling, Marian, Castleton, Purdue, UW-Stevens Points, UW- Platteville, Palmer College, Minnesota, Indiana and Davenport. In addition, Karen Fong Donoghue of The Rugger’s Edge presented and provided personalized college advice that complements the more general approach of the Next Phase Rugby app.

Enthusiasm within the event fueled the frigid temperatures and marked the start of the year for Wisconsin.

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