Rugby in high schools the next step in the United States

USA Eagles coach Mike Friday says young American athletes can realise their sporting dreams by turning to rugby sevens rather than through traditional American sports such as football and basketball.

Friday says that while making the NFL or NBA is the dream of many young Americans, sevens gives young athletes the next best chance of achieving their dreams by going to an Olympics.

Friday believes the best way to expand rugby in the US is to add the sport to high school sports programs as a way to complement the American super sports of football and basketball, and to potentially create crossover athletes, such as Eagles players Carlin Isles and Perry Baker.

"What we need to do is position rugby at high schools to complement these super sports. If we do that and we become that credible alternative [for that] multi-sport athlete then we see the 99 per cent that don't make it in the NFL or the NBA can come to rugby and be an Olympian and taste that dream," Friday said.

"The golden ages of rugby EQ are between ages 12-18; that's when you learn the game so we need it to be positioned in the high schools, so that ... it will assist them to taste their American dreams in the NFL, NBA, and if they don't make it they can come back, have a game and maybe become an Olympian."

Friday says the best example of a crossover athlete is New England Patriots player Nate Ebner, who went to Rio in 2016 to play sevens, and backed it up with winning the Super Bowl in 2017.

Friday was initially sceptical of Ebner's chances but described him as a special kind of athlete that you look to have in your squad.

"The perfect blueprint is Nate Ebner," Friday said. "He won the Super Bowl with the Patriots, but he learnt the game [rugby] from the ages of 12-17, was a college walk-on and then got picked up by the Patriots, then he came back to us for six months. He was able to compete and hold down and be probably with Perry in the Olympics as our best player."

US star player Perry Baker agrees with Friday and thinks injecting the sport into the high school system will help produce quality crossover athletes such as Ebner.

"If we can get it in high schools and stuff, then the sky's the limit for athletes to transfer from other sports," Baker said.

With the Rugby Sevens World Cup being hosted in San Francisco this year, Baker said this is the game's best chance to make its mark in the United States and attract potential athletes.

"It's a fun game everyone loves it," Baker said. "There's not a person I have met that's gone to a tournament and hasn't fallen in love with the game."

This story Rugby in high schools the next step in the United States first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.