To promote safety awareness and prevention of unsafe play, AYR has built on our past achievements (trainers at every contact scrimmage, increasing the use of certified referees, baseline concussion testing, etc.) to create a SafePlay approach that all our sides will follow. A key component is the ‘Law of the Week’, taken from World Rugby and adapted to our curriculum. All GRU teams will be encouraged to focus on training the top ‘Laws’ properly, and referees told to enforce them.
Created with input from AYR coach Samantha Ellmore, Colton Cariaga and others from Life University, as well as input from Kurt Weaver, Youth and High School Director at USA Rugby, and International Rugby Board (IRB) certified referee Russ Wofford, we hope the AYR SafePlay approach will serve as a model for the GRU and beyond.
USA Rugby men’s national team athletic trainer Brian Finn coordinates Atlanta Youth Rugby’s SafePlay program, a groundbreaking 360-degree approach to maximizing player safety.
Brian, who has recently relocated to Atlanta from the Denver, CO area, has served for eight years as Assistant Athletic Trainer for the USA Rugby Men’s program. He has worked with the 15’s National Team (the Eagles), U20s National side, and All-American programs. In addition to USA Rugby’s Olympic 7s program, Brian has toured with the national developmental sides, the Falcons and the Hawks. As a Level 200-certified coach, his other rugby experience includes a year as Athletic Trainer for the North America PRO Rugby Denver Stampede and as Medical Coordinator for Rugby Colorado. Brian has also worked with elite athletes in the National Football League, Major League Soccer, US Tennis Association, Major League Baseball, USA Volleyball and the World Surf League. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine from the University of New Hampshire and certifications as an Athletic Trainer, Level 2 World Rugby Immediate Care medical practitioner and Wilderness Medicine Rescue & Emergency Medical Technician. Brian works for AYR’s partner Northside Hospital Sports Medicine Network as the Lead Athletic Trainer for the department.
- USA Rugby 100 Course: All coaches are required to be USA Rugby 100-Level certified coaches, which includes a World Rugby concussion education course.
- Parent Concussion Awareness: All parents are given a fact sheet about prevention, identification, treatment, and proper return to play protocols for their children.
- Law of the Week Program: Each team participates in AYR's "Law of the Week", which helps educate players on the sometimes complex rules of the game. Smarter players are safer players!
- Baseline Concussion Testing: All players are required to complete the online baseline concussion testing before season registration.
- Progressive Contact Training: All players and teams work through age-appropriate contact progressions and drills during practices.
- Trainers and USA Rugby Referees: All matches have a certified athletic trainer and registered USA rugby referee in attendance. This ensures the game is kept safe, and players with suspected head injuries are removed and evaluated from the pitch as quickly as possible.
- Preseason Conditioning and Skills: Players that have better fitness have more control of their body and can continue safe contact when fatigued. November and December pre-season practice focuses on building this fitness incrementally.
- SafePlay Rules: All coaches, players, and referees are required to watch the SafePlay law videos before participating with a contact AYR team. This ensures all participants are on the same page of what is expected in safe contact.
- Mandatory Practice Standards: Safe contact skills and standards are discussed and shared by coaches. All coaches are responsible for incorporating high standards of tackling and elements of safe contact during practices.