Youth Development Officers growing the game of rugby across the country

Youth Development Officers growing the game of rugby across the country

In 2010, USA Rugby initiated a matching grant program to assist state organizations to help grow the youth rugby game across the country. The Youth Development Officer program is a way for USA Rugby to give back to its membership base by furthering its commitment to increase the number of youth programs, including Rookie Rugby, by appointing 11 new YDOs since the program’s inception.

The grant opportunity is available to any established State Rugby Organization (SRO) and provides support of up to $20,000 per state to bring in a Youth Development Officer (YDO). The purpose of the YDO position is to support the growth of youth and high school membership in each state. The state organization is required to match the funds given by USA Rugby to support a full-time position.

The program started in 2010 with only three YDO positions. This year the program has seen huge success with 14 positions placed across the nation and over $152,000 given in funding. Recipients of the grant in 2013 are the states of Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah, with Massachusetts and New York following soon.

Although the HR grant and YDO program have seen great success, these achievements would not be possible without the support of kids, parents, and volunteers. If you are interested in helping with youth rugby development in your area check out our SRO contact page at and reach out to your local state organization today!

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.

Idaho YDO: Ashley Pulver
Pulver’s rugby career began at an early age, attending her brother’s college rugby matches. She took the Idaho YDO position to help the sport of rugby become more popular in the state of Idaho. Pulver’s focus so far has been to get the high school and U14 seasons underway, along with prospecting and getting as many of Idaho’s youngest fans and players involved in Rookie Rugby.

Illinois YDO: T.R. Sparenberg
Sparenberg helped grow his own high school rugby team with local middle school students before taking the YDO position. His statewide expansion program is focused on bringing youth rugby to the schools and towns of Illinois regardless of age, location, financial restrictions in a school’s budget and physical limitations within a student population.

Indiana YDO: Brad Kornmann
Kornmann started playing rugby at the age of 12 and has worked to grow the game ever since. He began working for Rugby Indiana in 2012 and, with the help of his organization and the rugby community of Indiana, has started Rookie Rugby programs at each of the Indianapolis public schools.

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.

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.

Nebraska YDO: Aaron Mosby
Mosby interned with Rugby Nebraska to complete his Sports Management degree and applied to Rugby Nebraska for a full-time position. He has worked to get a new Rookie Rugby program and tournament set up by the end of summer 2013 and to raise the number of high school rugby players by 50% by the end of the spring.

Ohio YDO: Ron Bowers
Since his hiring as Ohio YDO in 2012, Bowers has focused on growing the game at the K-8 levels and community outreach programs to introduce young boys and girls to the game. Rugby Ohio has partnered with Jump Start Sports to initiate a K-5 program in its 95 Parks and Recreation centers across the state. He began his playing career at Ohio State University and the Columbus men’s team Scioto Valley. Bowers has played in to collegiate final fours with the Buckeyes and multiple sevens and 15s National Championships with Scioto Valley.

Oregon YDO: Troy Hall
A former 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.

Utah YDO: Matt Wunderli
Wunderli played high school rugby in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was a two-time Collegiate All-American at the University of Utah. He coached rugby at the high school level after completing graduate school and was appointed YDO for the Utah Youth Rugby union to continue strong growth and development in the state. Wunderli is currently focused on starting a strong middle school-age pipeline to fill a high demand for new high school teams around the state of Utah.

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Comments (2)

  • Guest - Joseph Ekpo

    Can we take the next step to getting a YDO out here in California?

  • Guest - Janine Smith

    Rookie Rugby is up and going in Prescott, AZ. Last year I was coaching snow college and this year rugby has taken off in Prescott. I started with teaching at the local high school and they loved it. I am now teaching a rookie rugby clinic at the YMCA this June, all ages, shapes and sizes. It is so much fun and bring back my child memories of playing as a kid in New Zealand. My only problem is that I cannot seem to get a hold of anyone in USA rugby to move forward so if you know of who I am supposed to contact please email me urgent. I am a registered coach but it has been a nightmare going through this system. please help, we will continue to play and have fun but I would really like for a teams and tournaments to be started here soon! or 9284426183