According to IRB published statistics the age demographics of the top ranked rugby playing countries in the world ( NZ, SA, Australia, England, France, Wales) have 51% of their rugby players in the pre- teen category while Canada sits at 5.3%.
We however do great job of bringing people into our game at the teenage/high school age group as 75% of Canada's total rugby playing population of 73,664 are in that category while another 20% play senior rugby. This compares to 30% teens and 19% senior players in the above 7 mentioned countries. Our geographic rivals the USA on the other hand has 72% of their rugby players in the pre-reen category, 15% teens and 13% senior ruggers.
Bringing people to our game in their teens creates two challenges. These days kids have already have made up their minds on what their primary sport(s) will be by the time they enter high school. That results in us not geting our fair share of "A" athletes that can develop into high level international players. Bluntly said - "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear !!" Secondly, especially 15's rugby beng highly skilled game that has a lengthy fermentation period the high school age entry level is often too late to develop high level international players.
The successful countries rugby's demographics looks like a proper triangle - 51% pre- teen, 30% teens and 19% senior players. Our's resembles a bit of a maple leaf - small stem on the bottom (5% pre-teen), 2 big leaves attached to the stem (75 % - teens) which are attached to a smaller leaf on top ( 20% senior)
Canada's national union, provincial unions and clubs appear to dedicate a high percentage their resources to the their elite teams (which has not led for the most part to improved international rankings ) rather than to expanding their grass roots base which will in time help us change our global stature. It's time to have another look at this "business plan".The clubs, sub unions led by our national union need to get on the same and come up with one seamless plan to turn our rugby demographic's picture form a maple leaf to a triangle !!
Karl Fix - president of the Dog River Howlers Rugby Club where "it's more than a game, it's a way of life" -www.dogriverhowlers.com and Facebook -http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dog-River-Howlers-Rugby-Club/