The divisions of the USQRA are currently set up as D1 D2 and D3 but what do they really mean? As my understanding D1 consists of the top 8 teams that qualify for nationals. D2 consists of the remaining teams that haven’t declared themselves as developmental. D3 consists of team that have declared themselves as developmental teams. So at the beginning of the season and throughout the question remains in the air of where teams really stand. This makes it very hard to have evenly competitive tournaments.
I’ve been playing wheelchair rugby for eight years now on two different low end D2 or D3 teams. Almost every tournament I have been involved in my team has been seeded at the bottom meaning the first game of every tournament we get to play the big dogs first with basically no chance to even get warmed up. In a six team tournament it’s really not a big deal because we end up playing every team once so you get a few chances at getting a decent game or two. At an eight team or ten team tournament the probability of playing teams at your same level are greatly diminished. The low seeded teams play the high seeded teams for the first two days and then you get to battle it out for last place on the final day for more than likely the first really evenly matched game of the tournament. It’s kind of rough for the developing teams to get a good feel for competitive rugby.
So how do we as a league go about setting up a consistent division structure that remains consistent over the course of the season? Some ideas to throw out there are as follows. Teams that finish in the top 8 at nationals that consist of the majority of players from the previous year remain at the D1 level. Teams that collaborate strong players from weaker teams in the form of transfers must declare D1 status. Teams that bring in an international player must declare D1 status. The middle of the road teams remain D2. Any new team consisting of less than 2 veteran players can declare D3 status but would not be required to based on skill level. Once a valid structure can be implemented then we can start advertising our tournaments correctly so we have the appropriate teams at tournaments. If proximity for travel becomes a concern maybe a floor point handicap can be applied to teams that are above the division rank for the tournament. Say a D2 tournament is within driving distance for a D1 team and thy want to participate they would only be allowed to play a maximum of 6.5 floor points.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is the recruiting from developmental teams. My team found a very athletic young quad amputee over the off season in 2013. We spent a lot of time recruiting this player to our team and sport. It was a lot of work just getting this kid to get in a wheelchair to try our sport. Bt the moment he did he was hooked. Then it took quite a long time to bring him up to speed. We were very excited to take him to his first tournament only to have him get heavily recruited by several teams that were at the tournament. Needles to say this player was swooned away from us by a more competitive team leaving us back to square one in a small town with very few prospects to fill his high pointer position. In my opinion the league needs to help the developing teams when this kind of situation arises. I know we really can’t impose some kind of trade system like they have in pro sports. But maybe we can impose some kind of development grant or import free agent system. So if a team loses a dominant player to another team the team that takes the player has to replace that player with an import or some funding to send developing players to a training camp.
We could also develop some kind of way to evenly distribute import players. The USQRA could put out an invite for players to the international teams around the world. When the list is full we could have a draft system to ensure that the best teams don’t get stacked with even more powerful players. Using a similar system that the NFL uses with new college players and the draft. The low end teams get the better players and the league becomes more competitive. I’m just really tired of seeing the same teams on top and seeing them bring in even better players every year from the outside. We are struggling enough in the international seen right now. I don’t think it is to the team USA’s advantage having top international players coming in and playing side by side with our top USA players and having them pick up their game skills and knowledge. Just a few things to think about for the future of our league. Its our sport lets make it the best it can be and keep it competitive for all.