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5 Things to Ask Before Joining an Academy or All-Star Team

In this blog post, we will discuss what to look for in an academy (these also apply to all-stars and representative sides) so you can maximize your development and experience.

Academies and all-star teams have made a big comeback post-pandemic. Like most things in the world, there are good and bad ones. It is not our place to label in any organization but we would like to provide clarity to those looking to progress and take their game to the next level. We will highlight 5 areas that players and parents should ask about leading to getting involved with any organization.

By being involved in one of these organizations you are out-sourcing your development. There is also likely a fee involved so make sure you are maximizing your money to the experience you want. You are in control of your development and you should feel empowered to ask hard questions to find the right place for you to play.

1. Player Development Plan

We would encourage you to ask the direct question "What is your player development plan/philosophy?" If there is hesitation, rambling, or other indicators the person might be making up the answer you should probably keep looking for an organization. Here is an example of a player development plan. It has been edited to remove the organization's name:

2. Coach Development Plan

You should be critical of who is coaching you as it is an important part of your development. Similarly to the player development question you should ask what their coach development plan is and who will be coaching you.

As it relates to the coach development plan, here is the World Association of Basketball Coaches (WABC) coach development plan and structure as a reference point. Again, the organization should be able to articulate what their plan is to help progress the coaches involved in their set-up.

We would also encourage you to get to know the coach who will be working with you. This should be done by direct conversation and through research to understand your coach's pedigree. Here are some questions to ask your coach:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?

  • What areas do I need to improve in?

  • Why are you involved in this organization?

  • How can you help me achieve my goals as a player?

These are only a few of the questions you should ask. What other questions should be on this list? Please put them in the comment sections to help other readers.

3. Fees, Tuitions, and Hidden Fees

When participating in these teams you need to be mindful that you could end up in a regrettable position of not getting what you paid for. Rugby is still at a point where the cost of operations is pushed down onto the participants. So pay to play is standard in the community. Like most organizations, there are good and bad ones to invest in. So as long as there is pay to play make sure you are getting the experience you are paying for.

Before committing to an organization make sure you understand where your money is being spent. Ask for a line item breakdown for the per-player charge. If this isn't being provided this should be a red flag.

Why is it a red flag? Because there are certain organizations that charge sliding scale fees.

A sliding scale fee is when academies or all-star teams charge newer/less developed players more in their fees than experienced/more developed players. For example, an organization might charge Newbie Ned, who is on his first tour, $4,000 for the trip so Established Erik can travel for free while Middle-of-the-pack Mike is paying $2,000.

If this is concerning to you, good. I hope it empowers you to ask the question to the organizer and talk to other players and/or players about what they are being charged.

Also, acknowledge that most organizers are making some kind of money off these trips. So, if you don't feel they are someone you can learn from or will progress your career be mindful that your money is going to them and you might want to reconsider your decision.

4. Competition Quality and Schedule

If you are joining one of these set-ups take time to assess their schedule and competition quality.

A good way to do this is to see if players who are ranked on our site (high school boys & high school girls) are playing, look for MLR academy teams, and do some research about the teams who are participating in the competition.

A word of caution, don't be fooled by high-performance, elite, or national championships. These words have become buzzwords in our community and sometimes do not reflect the true nature of the event or the teams participating in the event.

There are two premier events in America currently, Tropical 7s and the North American Invitational 7s (a.k.a. NAI 7s) tournament. These events provide the most bang for your buck with the highest quality of competition.

5. What Promotional Tools do They Have

One of the main appeals for playing for an academy or all-star team is the exposure it should provide you.

However, the world has shrunk and information is easier to share than ever before in history with sites like YouTube, X, and other social media sharing platforms. This means college coaches, pro academy coaches, and international age-grade coaches are traveling to fewer events than ever before.

So, does the organization you're involved with have the necessary tools to promote you to those parties? Some things to look for:

- Film: Are they filming the games and trainings? Some quality footage can come from drones and raised sideline cameras.

- Data: Do they have the ability to capture and how do they use data? This can be GPS systems, coded games, stats, etc.

- Marketing: How can they help you get the exposure you need? Do they have video editing software, can they help you create highlight reels, do they release their rosters on social media etc.

Academies and all-star teams are here to stay and can be an incredible asset to your development and recruitment. We just encourage you to make the best decision for you and not the organization. We hope by highlighting these 5 key areas we have provided you with some resources to find the best fit for you to maximize your development and exposure.

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