When Rugby World Cup Sevens comes to San Francisco’s AT&T Park this July, expect to see a blaze of rugby fever everywhere, from hardcore (and emotional) fans to those watching their first-ever professional match. Here are six reasons why you should tune in.
1. You Can Play Dress Up
For sports fans who enjoy dressing to impress — this is the ultimate event for you. The crazy and inventive costumes donned by rugby fans will make Bay to Breakers look like a church picnic.
2. Place Your Bets
With March Madness soon over and Fantasy Football Leagues not starting until fall, Rugby World Cup Sevens is an opportunity to create your next big pool and place friendly wagers.
The San Francisco event marks the first time that “knockout-style play” will be seen in a Rugby World Cup. Similar to March Madness, that means each participating country has only one chance to advance to the next round — if they don’t win their match, then their World Cup dreams are over.
3. The Players are Fearless, Fierce and Fast
Rugby involves blocking, tackling and scrums, and that’s for both the ladies and the gents. The tournament features 40 teams from 28 countries, including both men’s and women’s teams. Look for Team USA Men’s Eagles and Team USA Women’s Eagles.
4. Discover a New Crop of Sports Stars to Love
Never heard of lightning-fast Perry Baker, the all-time Rugby Sevens score leader for the USA and the player of the year? Watching this “Michael Jordan of rugby” will make you wonder how anyone can move that fast on the field. Also in the quick-moving department is Carlin Isles from the USA team, who has a very inspiring off-field story. And, be sure to keep an eye out for Danny Barrett and Folau Niua, both originally from the Bay Area and on the USA men’s sevens team.
From the USA women’s team, there’s Alev Kelter, who played both hockey and soccer at the University of Wisconsin before turning to rugby, and Natalie Kosko, a former champion gymnast who discovered rugby while training to be a part of Cirque du Soleil.
5. Learn Why the Rest of the World Loves Rugby
While rugby is extremely popular in other parts of the world, it is still an emerging sport in the U.S. For the uninitiated, rugby might be misconstrued merely as football’s rough-and-tumble cousin from overseas, but the sport is really about speed and smarts, especially the rugby sevens version with its short and sharp 15-minute matches. Indeed, the organizers of the Rugby World Cup Sevens hope to use this nationally televised event to expose more people, especially youngsters, to the thrills of the game, as well as to introduce the “values” of the sport: integrity, respect, solidarity, discipline and passion.
The organizers selected San Francisco to host this global event (the first time on American soil) because the Bay Area boasts the largest rugby community in the country.
6. Get Involved: USA Rugby’s Youth Programs
Check out USA Rugby’s Impact Beyond initiative available to schools, nonprofits and after-school programs across the Bay Area for free. The program includes lesson plans, free equipment, and a series of events and tournaments, plus local rugby players will host clinics to show young people the basics of the sport.
For existing rugby super fans, the Try Makers contest (a try is like a touchdown) gives Bay Area youth and adults who champion the sport of rugby a chance to win a VIP experience to the July tournament.
Apply now. Nominations due April 7.
Stephanie Martin is the co-founder and managing director of BrandForward, which helps current and retired athletes build strong personal brands. She is also the author of Big Game Bigger Impact, a chronicle of how San Francisco not only hosted Super Bowl 50 but redefined the big game experience in the process. An active member of Women in Sports and Events, she loves to help people discover their strengths and passions through mentorship. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.