Changes To Ontario Youth Rugby

Rugby Ontario Community Rugby Age Banding Change

From Rugby Ontario:

Since the mandated age banding change in 2018 from even age banding (U8, U10, 16, U18) to odd age banding (U7, U9, U17, U19), Rugby Ontario has taken a deep look at and engaged in consultation with stakeholders regarding the impact on the game over the two years since the odd age bands were implemented.

At the end of the 2018 season Rugby Ontario reviewed the state of the game. The review took into account growth or regression in a number of areas including; registration numbers in individual age bands, registration numbers in birth years, regional registration numbers, registration numbers in girls and boys and the number of teams entering in competitions. The review highlighted many positive areas of our game and outlined some areas that require attention moving forward. We also identified the need to research further into our game to truly understand the landscape of rugby in Ontario. As a result, Rugby Ontario made the decision to remain with the odd age banding for 2019.

Throughout 2019, Rugby Ontario conducted a deeper review of the age banding and the impact on the community. After numerous encounters with stakeholders sharing their views of the age bands throughout the 2019 season, we decided to put together a formal review process. This process would provide Rugby Ontario with evidence-based solutions for the 2020 season.

In August 2019, Rugby Ontario struck an Age Banding Review Committee composed of six minor and junior representatives from six regions across the province. The Rugby Ontario Age Grade Banding Review Committee was responsible for reviewing the minor and junior age bands across Ontario to provide a recommendation regarding age banding moving forward. The committee was tasked with gathering information from players, coaches and parents in their region to help the decision-making process. The focus of the committee was to set effective age bands that will help to assist in keeping players in the game and attract new players to the game for years to come.

In addition to the committee work, Rugby Ontario reviewed the registration data over the last four years, the number of teams in competitions, how many games were played in each competition and surveyed coaches and administrators, of which 208 responded. As a result of the review process, Rugby Ontario will be implementing the following changes to the age banding structure, effective January 2020:

U6 – Minor Flag

U8 – Minor Flag

U10 – Minor Flag

U10 – Minor Introduction to Tackle Option (single age band)

U12 – Minor Introduction to Contact

U14 – Junior Introduction to Contact

U16 – Junior Contact

U18 – Junior Contact (eligible U19 players will be permitted to play in the U18 age grade)

Rugby Ontario has determined it is important to continue to introduce the game with flag rugby at U8 and U10 age bands to allow athletes aged 6-10 years the opportunity to learn how to play the game without the pressures of contact. The decision to offer contact to the  U10 age group provides the opportunity for athletes aged 9 years turning 10 to learn how to tackle at the same age they were introduced to the game in 2018 and 2019, which was well received in the community and largely successful in 2019. It will also help to prepare those U10 players in a single age category for U12 rugby.

The age grade change will allow rugby in Ontario to match the high school system which should allow clubs to target their recruitment efforts in schools more effectively: U16 includes grade 9 and grade 10 athletes, U18 includes grade 11 and grade 12 athletes. Eligible U19 players will also be able to participate in U18 rugby to ensure players who aren’t ready for senior rugby have a place to play. It is also felt this change will alleviate the pressures of fielding adequate numbers of U19 teams across the province to facilitate a meaningful competition for athletes in the U18 age band.

This change to the Rugby Ontario age banding will help to provide security and structure to junior rugby across the province. We believe there will be a positive immediate impact as players will be moving up into the age categories together (i.e. U16 & U17 players from 2019 will move into the U17 & U18 category in 2020). It will also continue to provide the opportunity for younger age groups to play variations of the game that are age and stage appropriate that effectively prepare players for junior rugby, and in keeping with the directives set by World Rugby and Rugby Canada.

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