Hannah Lockwood leads IOR athletes through the Rugger’s Edge’s College Playbook. /// Photo courtesy Institute of Rugby
The Institute of Rugby (IOR) joins the ranks of high-performance opportunities for the country’s rugby youth. CEO Matt Hawkins and COO Hannah Lockwood are driving the San Diego-based organization, which is placing a premium on athletes’ educational aspirations.
IOR is similar to existing academies in that it exposes part- and full-time athletes to expert coaching, data tracking, strength and conditioning – and many more benefits that aid the developing rugby player. Kids might arrive with dreams of becoming an Eagle, but the staff is eager to educate attendees on the many opportunities along the way.
“Some athletes have national team aspirations, but the bigger focus is college. We have the Rugger’s Edge for that,” Lockwood said of its college-planning partner. “It’s helpful because everyone is at a different level developmentally. Someone who’s just started playing a year or two ago might want to go to a different college than the kid who’s been playing for seven years and wants to go to Cal.”
The year is segmented into three different blocks, and the educational programming differs depending on the time of year and age of athletes. Therefore, while year-round attendance isn’t required, the training and educational resources differ depending on the season as it relates to rugby and school.
“We’re missing something nationally right now,” Lockwood continued. “Look at the Boys High School All Americans. There’s maybe 25 players who make that final team, and that’s a tiny margin of kids across the entire country who want to become better at rugby. Yes, we’re looking at how to get to the national team, but there is a lot of important stuff in between – getting kids into college and the academic piece, and there are so many playing opportunities now for that age group.”
IOR is in the middle of its first session and is training 90 athletes. Ten of those are girls ranging from 14-18. Next session expands to 100 athletes, divided into four groups, and one group of 25 will be all-female. The majority of attendees currently hail from two local clubs, but going forward, the sessions will be open to the general public.
“There is somewhat of an ID process,” Lockwood said. “We allow players who want to enroll but we also physically targeted those we thought could benefit from this. The process will become more selective as time goes on.”
At present, the older athletes train twice per week, while the younger players train once per week to allow for participation in multiple sports. All of the session blocks ensure that attendees won’t have to choose between the IOR and home clubs’ seasons, or conflict with the PRO League, with which many coaches are involved. IOR plans to expand as more time slots are made available at its facility partner, and is currently evaluating the need for fielding teams and competitions in the future. Lockwood did indicate, however, that an international element – whether touring or exchange program – is high on the list of considerations.
“We want to nurture our little piece of the country and create something that maximizes an athlete’s potential to grow,” Lockwood summarized.
For more information, visit www.instituteofrugby.com.