Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stars Rugby 7s Seeking Sponsors for Las Vegas Invitational And Beyond

As Stars Rugby 7s prepares for the biggest tour to date we are seeking sponsors for the Las Vegas Invitational and beyond. The program thrives as a result of the support from our sponsors and donors whom allow our players to play and focus on solely rugby while on tour. Stars Rugby 7s has over 80 participants spanning five teams for the LVI including the players for 2 men's and 3 women's teams, an internationally proven coaching staff, athletic trainers, a massage therapist, photographers and videographers. To better serve our athletes and allow them to focus on rugby, we are staying in houses away from the distractions of The Strip, provide all meals, all ground transportation, kit, and coordinate the staff involved in preventing/treating/recovering from injuries and the demands play. We feel it is best to mimic the experience of a professional tour in controlling the environment; the team is about development and wants to limit the outside distractions of being in Sin City.

Stars Rugby 7s is building success with each tour. What started with two women's teams at the 2014 Las Vegas Invitational has drastically grown and developed over the course of the past year. Most recently Stars competed at the Tobago International Rugby 7s Tournament with a women's elite team, women's developmental team, and a men's elite team. The women's elite won the championship over established USA touring side Atlantis 7s, the women's developmental side made the Plate final against Heidi's Heroes from the UK while the men took 2nd in the tournament to Esher, also from the UK. Stars was the highest placing USA program across the tournament. This is no small accomplishment as Stars won with committed players paying out of pocket as compared to programs that cover expenses and select the most elite rosters.

Other notable accomplishments from 2014 include traveling to the Stampede Sevens tournament in Calgary, Canada with 1 men's and 2 women's teams in the Premier bracket. The men's and women's first sides each made the finals in an hotly contested international bracket. The men lost only to the Hakwa Cannibals with a roster with Fijian National 7s caps; the women lost the final to an Aptoella team where 10 of the 12 players Team Canada experience across the 7s and 15s programs. Stars also ventured to Central Coast 7s in Australia in October; the women's pool featured the Australian National Team, Sydney Fiji Ranadi and the New Zealand Wasps - a team that featured 6 Black Ferns on their roster. The team soundly defeated Sydney Fiji Ranadi 43-0 in game won, lost the matches to the national sides, and rebounded to make the Bowl Final. The men drew a difficult pool of New Zealand 7s champions Wellington, Fijian powerhouse Red Rock, and Te Whanau from Australia. The Stars gained valuable international test opportunities in the toughest pools of the tournament - Australia and the Wasps reached the women's Cup semifinals while Red Rock and Wellington advanced to the men's Cup semifinals. Both Australia and Wellington advanced to the finals eventually falling to Canada and Daveta respectively.
In building touring rosters the Stars draw from across the US with a focus on balancing experienced 7s athletes - some current/former Eagles have shared time with Australia, Tonga and Team Canada representatives - with those that play for teams in areas that lack as much development or access to high level coaching as other regions. Our players come largely from the lower divisions of USA Rugby with concentrations of players from Florida, Connecticut, Sacramento, Buffalo, Tennessee, Columbus, Milwaukee, Dallas, and Charlotte playing with athletes from Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis and New York. Stars also recruits players from numerous collegiate programs and travels to several high level 7s and 15s matches to scout talent. Despite the lack of rugby "pedigree" a culture of positivity, discipline & drive, and preparing to win has established us as champions and a true threat in the 2015 LVI.

There is a huge emphasis on growing the Stars rugby community, in continuing to work with rugby players over the course of several tournaments a year as well as domestic camps and development opportunities. Stars has partnered on high performance 7s camps with former USA Women's 7s National Team Coach Julie McCoy at the American Rugby Pro Training Center and has sent many players to the center for development. Stars is also running a USA Rugby Collegiate 7s Qualifier with Julie in April while assisting with additional collegiate 7s tournaments in April and May. Stars own developmental camps in the works with partner colleges; we aim to bring the same to the clubs our senior players call home.

As such we have also seen significant changes with our coaching staff to better serve our players' development. The program is lead by former iRB 7s Player of the Year and New Zealand All Blacks  standout Orene Ai'i, Liam Hutchinson of Rugby Alberta & Wildrose Academy, former USA Eagle Vaha 'Esikia of the Las Vegas Rugby Academy & Rugby12, Sam Robinson of Youngbloodz 7s in Minneapolis, Josh Sutcliffe from the Glendale Raptors & USA Rugby, Joel Bonnaud with Tiger Youth Rugby and W1823, and other guest/apprentice coaches such as Talia Rottier of Fort Miami, Peter Sio from Belmont Shore, and Charlie Baleirara from Minneapolis.

Tours are player funded and our program is growing; to continue such growth requires greater financial backing. Stars went from 22 athletes in Las Vegas 2014 to a pool of nearly 300 players at present. A fair amount of sponsorship work and networking lowers player fees, yet the financial obligations can be prohibitive. It is worth nothing that Stars tours have produced and/or included two women playing for USA Women's Eagles 7s at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista (Nana Fa'Avesi and Phaidra Knight), 2 more players that have trained and/or scrimmaged for the Eagles (Josie Ziluca, Nia Williams), a player in residency at the American Pro Rugby Training Center in Little Rock (Ashley Perry), and one player training in Australia with the New South Wales Elite Women's 7s Program (Deven Owsiany). Stars has men training with the Life National Development Academy (Amro Gouda, Chris Milledge, Matt Hughston, Zach Blalock), Tiger Academy (Matt Ryan), the Florida's HPP 7s program (Matt Coore, Jeff Herron, Jonathan Halter) those invited to the Olympic Training Center Selection Camp (Matt Hughston) and USA 7s Open Trials (Jojo Tikoisuva), to Fiji 7s Selection Camp (Jojo Tokoisuva) and the NRFL Combine (Joseph Senteno, Garrett Jones). Men also have representation at Elite City 7s and Serevi Rugbytown 7s (Eric Duechle, Marcus Satavu, Matt Hughston, Cody Weber, Joseph Senteno).

Sponsorship levels start at $200 for a logo space on tour t-shirts along with a social media package -, twitter @StarsRugby7s - mentions on the blog as well as links/posts on our email listserv and an eventual Stars Rugby 7s website. Sponsorships increase to $1500 for a logo on our tour shorts, $2000 for jersey sleeves, $3000 for the back of the jersey, or $5000 for the chest. We are open to far more - from naming rights, a commission/referral revenue stream, to having companies fund a scholarship for our players, donations of kit, equipment and more. Stars players have worked with one of our sponsor gyms to create a Stars Rugby 7s workout challenge to be undertaken with donations to the team; many of our players have hosted car washes, created Rugby 101 clinics for the parents and college/high school players they coach, created benefit dinners, sold Stars hats and t-shirts and more to fund their rugby development. Stars falls under the 501c3 of the United States Rugby Foundation - one can designate Stars Rugby 7s as a recipient for a tax deduction.

There are several blog posts with more information about the Stars program players at This Is American Rugby has chronicled our efforts and named Star Rugby 7s the Women's Club of the Year stating, ". . . we've decided to reward the club that has done the most to improve the women's game over the last year.  Even though the Stars have no regular roster, they are at the forefront of advancing the women's game in America by providing an opportunity to women who want to make the Olympics and opportunity to showcase their skills." Stars has been featured in Rugby Magazine and Rugby Today and Goff Rugby Report. There is raw footage of our games in Canada available here and here:  Central Coast 7s games are available through UR7s. Tobago 7s film is on Vimeo courtesy of Atlantis 7s.

Please contact Stars Rugby 7s Director Liz Entwhistle for additional details.

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