Watch: USA sevens team ‘living below the poverty line’ as they battle to put rugby on the map in America
Catch a glimpse of a documentary designed to grow the sport as San Francisco prepares to host the World Cup
The USA sevens team are flashy, freakishly athletic and ... living below the poverty line.
According to coach Mike Friday, a side that can match it with the best teams on the World Rugby Sevens Series are doing so on “very little finance”.
With the Rugby World Cup Sevens taking place in San Francisco in July, Friday knows the time is now to put rugby on the map in America.
“Compared to the other nations around that world that have what you would call tier one economies, our boys are basically doing this and living below the poverty line. That’s how poorly financed we are as a rugby nation because we are a start-up rugby nation still,” he said.
“Our boys have struggled to take their girlfriends or wives out for a nice meal once a month or even buy their kids ice cream – it is as dramatic as that.
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“We have to educate and inspire by, not necessarily always winning, but by being box office in the way we play the game so the nation becomes proud of us.”
In a country that is mad about sport, rugby is still finding a foothold. It is hoped a documentary to be released in the build-up to the World Cup will help the team connect with the American public, with the trailer released on the opening day of this weekend’s Las Vegas Sevens.
“HSBC is partnering with us to allow us to illustrate our story and illustrate what these boys are doing, have been through, where they come from and where they are going to try to reposition the sport within the sporting landscape in America now it’s an Olympic sport,” Friday said.
“Rugby appeals to the American sporting public, there is no doubt, but they have not been exposed to it so they are ignorant to the game itself in terms of what it could be and how it could help develop and compliment the existing super sports.
“The big thing about the American sporting public, if they can’t be in the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball they all want to be Olympians.
“That’s where rugby as a team sport gives that credible alternative to those athletes that don’t quite make it. There is a huge number that don’t, but if they’re not exposed to the game of rugby in the golden years of 12-18 then it’s very hard to pick the game up because of the nuances.”
That’s where the World Cup – and the documentary – come in.
“We need to find a way to showcase to the American public. The Rugby World Cup is that fantastic opportunity where they have got a team they can be proud of and get behind,” Friday said.
With the likes of Perry Baker and Carlin Isles in the team, there are genuine superstars for the public to support and Friday knows he has the right calibre of player to promote the game.
“They realise the challenge, they want to rise to the challenge and they recognise they have a responsibility to try to drive the game.”