At this year’s AIG NYC Rugby Cup we tried out the Green Card with great success!

Referees can award a yellow or a red card during a flag rugby game for foul play or for poor sportsmanship. Now referees have a new card to hand out…

At this year’s NYC Rugby Cup our referees and volunteers were on the look out to award Green Cards to players showing exceptional sportsmanship during a match or on the sidelines. A player must go above and beyond the minimum standard of fair play, discipline and sportsmanship in order to receive a green card. Just as yellow and red cards are a deterrent for bad behavior, green cards are used to reinforce positive play.

As an extra incentive to continually uphold fair play, honesty and sportsmanship,green cards also act as a tiebreaker – at the end of a game resulting in a draw the team with the most green cards is declared the winner!

[Tweet “Red cards are a deterrent for bad behavior, green cards are used to reinforce positive play.”]


Mark asks a participant how she earned her Green Card.

Green cards are an example of Sports System ReDesign (SSrD).

SSrD involves looking at the entirety of the sport experience and purposefully altering some element of that experience with the goal in mind of getting a specific desired outcome. It is the tinkering with or changing some part of the game itself to positively impact the outcome. Play Rugby USA has already used some re-Design tactics in its tournament structure:

To address the issue of lower-skilled teams not playing as many games in the end of season tournaments due to being knocked out by higher-skilled teams PRUSA tournaments begin with pool play for ranking; teams with the most wins play each other and the fewest (or none at all) play each other in different playoff brackets: Cup, Plate, Bowl, Shield, Sword, Spoon, Teaspoon…it could go on forever as needed! This creates greater parity of competition and fewer blowouts as most games are won within 1 or 2 points, and every team is given the opportunity to play 5-6 games.

  • Here are just handful of Green Card worthy things our staff and volunteers saw at the NYC Rugby Cup! 

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    Referee Ben awards a Green Card to a player.


I handed a green card to a girl playing in the playoff game for a team that was down. She stayed positive and encouraged her team to keep going forward until the last minute and exuded good sportsmanship even when they didn’t get the win.


Two kids IS223 agreed to play with St. Albans (a different team) for the entire day. They played well for the team and bought in for the day despite the fact that they were playing for strangers. They each received a green card.


I gave my green card to two kids on the Fordham team who were cheering their faces off for their teammates while they were on de sidelines.


As a defending girl was flagging an attacking player, the attacking girl tripped and fell–purely accidental, mind you.  After the attacking player passed the ball from the ground and play continued, the defending girl bent down and asked if she was all right before carrying on with play. I gave that defender a green card after the game.


A kid stormed away from his team crying and really upset, his teammate came after him calmed him down and brought him back to the team after cheering him up.

For more information about Sports System ReDesign visit our friends over at Change the Game!

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