Finding Your Useful Place Beyond Playing

Alan Sharpley, former chair of the USA Rugby Club Strategic Committee, advocates that individuals can remain valuable members of the rugby community after their time on the pitch.

Within the rugby community, it’s known that there is a position on the pitch for everyone. But what about after you play? Alan Sharpley, former chair of the USA Rugby Club Strategic Committee (CSC) expresses that the answer lies in finding a place where you can be most useful – for Sharpley, that place became the national club sphere.

“You know, I have been in the game for 47 years, and I have given back a lot, but not as much as I have gotten,” said Sharpley.

Over the past 47 years, Sharpley has demonstrated an unparallel commitment to the development of rugby. He played rugby for 22 years before he moved into more administrative roles not only at his local and state level but also at the national level.

Locally, Sharpley took on such roles as Competitions Director in the Texas Rugby Union and President of the Austin Blacks. It was in 2000 when Sharpley started volunteering in positions on the national level.

“In 2000, Ann Barry, who was the president of USA Rugby at the time, invited me to put together a committee of the movers and shakers of D1 Rugby to set up minimum standards for eligibility to play. At that time there were no standards,” Sharpley said.

“So I assembled a group of 6 or 7 people to hammer out an agreement on the standards. We then created the proposal and presented it to the Board of Directors for approval.”

*Sharpley in blue shorts and shirt

“That was the first time I really have ever been involved in anything on the national level. At this same meeting, Ann asked if I would serve on the National Competitions Committee – which at the time ran competitions for all of USA Rugby youth, high school, college, and club.”

Sharpley continued to serve on the National Competitions Committee until it underwent restructuring. This restructure led to the creation of the Club Strategic Committee (CSC).

“The most significant moment for me,” Sharpley said recounting his service on the national level, “was when Nigel Melville, CEO of USA Rugby at the time, asked me to chair the CSC because I knew that was something I could do that would significantly give back to the game.”

“The CSC, from my perspective, is a committee of experts. You get appointed to this committee because your expertise,” he said crediting the other members who served on the committee. Sharpley continued to serve on this committee until stepping down this past February. He pays a lot of tribute to what rugby has given him over the years but says the best lesson he learned was that it is never too late.

“I have learned from the game that it is never too late. Fortunately, I never played in a game where we got totally blown out, but there were numerous times where we were down significantly. During those times, I found that you cannot give up because there is that chance that you can come back.”

“That certainly is a life lesson,” he added. “And it certainly helped me throughout my life to remember not to give up.” Sharpley specifically noted how this lesson circles back to being involved in the game after playing.

“If you enjoy the game, don’t give it up just because you quit playing. So many people quit playing and find a place in the game somewhere else. There are plenty of opportunities. Find the one that fits your desires and your personality.”

“That includes coaching, youth, and high school rugby. It includes administration and refereeing. You can also get involved in promotions, fundraising, recruiting, and others.”

“At the time I chose to get involved, rugby was a fledgling sport – and I simply saw a place that I felt I could be useful. Now, looking back, it proved to be one of the biggest parts of my life,” he concluded.

It is unquestionable that Sharpley’s continued service in the game was beneficial to the development of the sport, especially at the national club level. Sharply and his club, the Austin Blacks, will be at the 2019 Club Championship in Ohio. Fittingly, Sharpley will be one of the presenters of the MVP awards during the weekend.

Watch Club National Championships in conjunction with the Rugby Ohio State Championships in Obetz, Ohio starting 5 pm ET Saturday, June 1. Get tickets to the match or watch it live on FloRugby.