SBD/December 1, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Catching Up With USA Rugby CEO & President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville

Melville started playing
rugby at age five
USA Rugby CEO & President of Rugby Operations NIGEL MELVILLE is using his years of playing and coaching experience to spread passion for the sport to people of all ages. Born into a rugby family in Yorkshire, England, Melville grew up with the game. He started playing the sport at the age of five and later captained England's national team in '84. After his playing days, Melville went on to coach teams in the English Premiership before moving to the States to join USA Rugby. He recently took time to talk about his plans to grow the sport in this country.

Favorite…
News source: I will watch any current affairs news program on TV, and get my global news from the BBC online. I read Newsweek, business magazines and the Economist when traveling.
Person to follow on Twitter: Mark Cuban -- a passion for sport and business (and a former college rugby player!)
Non-rugby team: I live in Colorado so it’s the Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche and Rapids.
App: I played Flick-Kick Rugby with my son on his phone last night.
Vacation Spot: The south of France

Tell us about…
Your Management style:
I like people to be responsible and accountable for what they do. I don’t like to micro-manage, but I want everyone heading in the same direction together -- one team, one dream!
How you hire: Resumes are useful but no replacement for spending time together and getting to really know someone.
Quality you look for in new hires: Of course, staff need to be experts in their field, but they have to be passionate and care about what they do.
Executive you most admire: Our return to the Olympic family coincided with the appointment of a new CEO, SCOTT BLACKMUN at the USOC. He’s doing a great job pulling everyone together at the USOC and building momentum and focus ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.

Q: Your organization's motto is “Inspiring America to fall in love with Rugby.” How are you doing that? What have been the two most successful activations you are doing to grow the sport among young people in America?
Melville: In 2008, we introduced Rookie Rugby, a non-contact version of rugby for boys and girls aged 6-12. The uptake has been tremendous. In 2011, we will have over a half million kids playing rugby for the first time. ... We’ve partnered with Sports Authority to help provide free Rookie Rugby balls to educators along with free resources for teachers, parents and coaches to support to enable them to continue teaching the game. Check them out at usarugby.org. We’ve also built a very good relationship with the United States Olympic Committee, giving our international athletes an opportunity to become Olympians. Their support and guidance with our high-performance programs has helped our men’s and women’s sevens raise in prominence, and that success transfers to all of our programs.

Q: You are an avid blogger and active on Twitter, have you seen a positive response from your social media efforts?
Melville: I enjoy interacting with the rugby community, not just in America but around the world. I like people to know what’s happening at USA Rugby. Being on Twitter and regular blogging has been well received and a lot of fun, being accessible, listening to others' opinions is extremely important as we grow the game of rugby in America. I think all CEOs should have a social media presence.

Q: USA Rugby is currently sponsored by companies such as Emirates Airline, Canterbury of New Zealand and Bank of America. Do you have plans to include more U.S.-based companies?
Melville: We have fantastic support from sponsors like Emirates. They are a global brand associated with the premier sporting teams and events in the world, and they are helping us to grow the game in America. Sponsoring USA Rugby is not just about sticking a logo on the website, it’s about connecting with our community and being engaged in our programs. We are now one of the fastest growing sports in America, and through positive partnerships with corporate sponsors we are seeing explosive growth across all areas of the game. I believe USA Rugby is in a unique position to partner with American sponsors wanting international reach (our national teams play in domestically and internationally broadcast matches tournaments) and also international sponsors that want to get a foothold in the American market. We are now an Olympic sport (rugby sevens will return to the Olympics in Rio 2016) and part of the Olympic movement. That’s an exciting development for our players and the sport in America. It’s a great opportunity for new sponsors to join our team.

Q: What regions of the country seem to be the most popular for rugby? Do you have a target region you would like to spread to next?
Melville: Traditionally rugby has been strong on the Pacific Coast and in the Northeast, those areas are still very strong. But programs in states like Alaska, Idaho and Montana are getting more established. The South has also developed outstanding college programs. It’s very exciting to see the talent coming through; the game is truly growing everywhere. We have nearly 100,000 members and almost 1,800 high school and college programs. We, as a governing body and the American rugby community, are developing a strong national presence for the game.
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