Grant program expands as rugby grows nationwide

Grant program expands as rugby grows nationwide

Since 2010, USA Rugby’s HR grant program has provided state organizations with the funds to help expand youth rugby from coast to coast. The program’s main focus is to grow membership in both youth and high school organizations in each state and to develop a lifelong relationship between the players and the sport of rugby. Over the years the program has seen great success, with 86,000 kids reached in 2013 alone.

Within four years, the number of recipients of this grant in the U.S has increased from three in 2010 to 19 in 2014. State organizations can apply for up to $20,000 through this program to introduce new staff focused entirely on youth development and to keep growing the sport in their respective states. Each organization is also required to match the funds granted by USA Rugby in order to give the new member a full-time position at the organization. Being able to have officers promoting rugby full time and engaging with kids, parents, and volunteers has been the core to this program’s success.

Thanks to the increasing effectiveness of the program, USA Rugby has expanded the program’s budget to $250,000 in 2014, nearly $100,000 more than last year. Recipients of the grant in 2014 new to the program include the state rugby organizations of Northern and Southern California, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. With more than 480 new locations visited and almost 1,300 newly-trained instructors as a result of last year’s efforts by grant recipients, the increased budget leaves something to look forward to for youth rugby across the country.

If you or anyone you know is interested in helping expand youth rugby in your area, make sure to check out the SRO contact page at With your help and the support of everyone involved in youth rugby, USA Rugby can continue to expand the sport in every corner of the nation.

Northern California YDO: Mark Carney
While living in England at an early age, Carney was introduced to rugby through the Sedbergh School. Once he moved to the United States, Carney’s playing career continued through high school in Arizona to undergraduate in Massachusetts. He conducted research on High Performance Practices in the U.S that eventually earned him an opportunity to be an intern with USA Rugby’s High Performance department. After getting his MBA through Florida Atlantic University and working with many professional sports teams, Carney moved to northern California where he serves as the Executive Director for the Northern California Youth Rugby Association.

Colorado YDO: Jon Mooney
Mooney coached the Humboldt State University Women’s Rugby team and played for the Humboldt Old Growth RFC before joining Rugby Colorado. His passion for rugby led him to choose a college based only on the presence of a rugby program and has served him well in his career, growing the Humboldt County high school rugby teams by providing coaching support. Mooney has also coached U6 and U8 youth soccer.

Connecticut YDO: Andrew Marullo
Marullo was introduced to rugby as a member of the Greenwich High School rugby club in London. From that moment on he would make a colossal impact through the sport in the state of Connecticut. Playing for Southern Connecticut State University, he managed to move the team from Division IV all the way to Division I. He also went on to coach both the men’s and women’s teams at SCSU and founded the youth development organization DRIVE 2 Succeed, which provides after-school rugby and academic programs for inner city kids. Marullo then started the Elm City Rugby Cup, which is the only youth rugby tournament in the state at the moment.

Florida YDO: Evan Haigh
Raised in Canberra, Australia, Haigh graduated from the University of Canberra with a Bachelors in Sports Management. His professional experience comes from all over the rugby world. He began as a Rugby Development Officer with Australian Super Rugby’s ACT Brumbies. Over the next two years Evan traveled to England, Scotland, and the U.S.A. taking on professional contracts as a player. This led him to being hired as a player/coach for English club Darlington. In 2008 he was recruited to Seattle, Washington, to become the Director of Rugby for the Super League team Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB). He took OPSB from cellar dwellers to National Champions in his final year in charge of the program. Along with running OPSB, he helped start and grow Serevi Rugby, where he held the position of Director of Programming. With this role he was able to build rugby development programs such as the Serevi Rugby Academy, International Coaching Consulting, and Youth Summer Camps. The untapped potential of Florida’s rugby players is what excites Haigh the most. Along with the FYRU, he has set a lofty goal of 10,000 registered rugby players by 2019.

Idaho YDO: Mandy Genetti
Genetti was first introduced to rugby on a trip to France. After meeting her husband, who was a college and men’s Division II rugger, her involvement with the sport grew more and more each year. Since taking on the title of Executive Director and Youth Development Officer for Rugby Idaho, Genetti has helped expand the number of PE teachers and schools that offer rugby in the classroom. She has also been greatly involved with Rugby Idaho’s efforts to expand their youth programs (from K-6th grade).

Illinois YDO: Drew Parker
After playing rugby at Ohio University, where he received a degree in Sport Management, Parker has been constantly pushing to install a Rookie Rugby program into the PE curriculum in over 200 schools. Parker joined the Illinois Youth Rugby Association in April 2014 and is highly involved in developing an after-school program to support student interest in the sport. According to Parker, many of the targeted schools will serve as a feeder system for local rugby clubs while the others service areas that previously were not introduced to youth rugby.

Iowa YDO: Brandi Preul
Preul joined the Iowa Youth Rugby Association as a volunteer in 2012 and launched the first girls school-based sevens league in the United States. Since her appointment as YDO in January 2013, the number of boys high school teams has doubled from 2012, girls teams are predicted to quadruple from 2012, and the first Iowa Rookie Rugby league will begin play in the summer of 2013.

Louisiana YDO: Nick Conte
Conte began playing while attending Wake Forest University. He has since played in Italy, Austria, Trinidad & Tobago, and now calls New Orleans home. After being introduced to USA Rugby’s youth development campaign and seeing the value rugby could bring to isolated communities like his West Virginia hometown, he began pursuing a rugby career. Conte has focused on introducing rugby as a movement for community-wide development, starting with southeastern Louisiana.

Massachusetts YDO: Jessee Nocon
Nocon grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where his father, a collegiate rugby coach, introduced him to the game. His playing career includes high school rugby and being captain for the University of Southern California during his senior season. After college, Nocon interned with the membership department of USA Football and the operations department of the Indianapolis Colts. His goal is to promote boys and girls rugby in Massachusetts with the help of Rookie Rugby and Try on Rugby programs. He also looks forward to growing the game with MYRO’s own “Play and Read Rugby” program, an initiative that connects young athletes to their local libraries.

Minnesota YDO: Libby Berg
Berg captained both the Saint Benedict’s and Minnesota Valkyries rugby teams and represented her state, territory, and country with the Minnesota U23 team, Midwest Senior 15s team, and the USA Rugby Women’s Eagles. Berg received her Doctorate of Chiropractic in 2010 from Northwestern Health Sciences University. Minnesota has seen tremendous growth in the development of youth rugby leagues and programs throughout Minnesota since Berg’s hiring in 2012.

New York YDO: Patrick Laczkowski
A lifelong member of the rugby community, Laczkowski has gone from playing to coaching and eventually refereeing the sport in his area. His love for the sport has led him to create Project 2020, with the purpose of identifying and introducing young talent in the New York area to rugby so that at least one of them goes on to represent the U.S in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games. This year he has focused on creating more middle school teams so that there can be a middle school division in next year’s state championships.

Ohio YDO: Samantha Brancatelli
Brancatelli first became involved with rugby when she was a freshman in high school. As her high school rugby career grew more opportunities to play arose and she was able to play for the first Ohio elite team. After her college playing days she was asked to coach a local girls team and was the head coach for three years. During her time as a coach she realized how much she loved sharing and watching kids have the same passion for rugby that she has. Now as the youth development coordinator for Rugby Ohio Brancatelli is working diligently to help rugby grow even more by expanding middle school programs and creating more opportunities for Ohio’s youth to play.

Oregon YDO: Troy Hall
A Men’s Eagle, Hall began his career at Rugby Oregon in 2012. He has visited more than 30 new school sites in the Portland area, has introduced rugby to 15,000 boys and girls in P.E. classes, and helped start a 10-week youth spring league for more than 180 kids. Rugby Oregon has offered a full summer and fall schedule of camps and clinics, as well as a successful boys and girls High School Sevens league.

Pennsylvania YDO: James English
Native to London, English has been involved with rugby his entire life. He played and graduated with a degree in Sport Science from Northampton, England. Later on he worked at a Sports College in London with Long Term Athlete Development and Junior Athlete Education programs while still in his playing days. His highly-decorated coaching career involves years at the famous Blackrock College in Ireland and at Saracens RFC’s school of rugby before moving to Philadelphia. In March, English was appointed Executive Director of RugbyPA.

Pennsylvania YDO: Seth Erwin
Erwin’s introduction to rugby at the University of Pennsylvania was marked by being selected to represent the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union in a select side while playing in only his second year of rugby in 2005. Shortly after graduating, he coached Burrell High School for five years, from which he collected one Pennsylvania State Championship. In 2012, Erwin founded his own high school club and since then has been striving to grow rugby from K-8th grade while hoping to add more teams (both girls and boys) in the high school division and establishing a Pittsburgh Flag League.

Texas YDO: Kelly Madonna
Madonna began her involvement with youth rugby during her son’s early years playing the sport back in 2009. A former soccer and basketball coach, she brings her love of youth sports together with her extensive development and business background to help foster the growth of the sport at the youngest levels in Texas. Although her focus will be on initiating Rookie Rugby and Try On Rugby programs, Kelly will be supporting the efforts of existing Texas youth and high school teams and clubs.

Utah YDO: Eric Swapp
Swapp began his rugby career as a sophomore at BYU. After life took over and he was kept away from the sport for about 10 years, he came back to rugby as a referee. He also took the early Rookie Rugby model to his kids’ school in order for them to be active in PE class and introduced the sport to nearly 5,000 middle school kids. Swapp loves how inclusive the game is and how it has a position for just about every body size and shape. He hopes his contributions will play a big factor in developing world-class rugby players in the U.S.

Washington YDO: Tyler Siceloff
Siceloff first came in contact with the sport at boarding school on Vancouver Island in 8th grade. After five years at Brentwood College School and captaining their First XV, while also on touring duty for the U19 national team, he moved on to the University of Bristol in the U.K. Playing in the B.U.C.S. Premier League, along with the 2008 U20 IRB World Junior Championship in Wales, he came back to North America much more seasoned. Before starting youth development with Serevi Rugby he also played a season with Castaway Wanderers RFC in Oak Bay on Vancouver Island. Eventually he moved back home and to Seattle OPSB until a knee injury put the career on hold. Siceloff is very committed to growing and advancing rugby in Washington State and his hometown of Seattle.

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