Legacy and Passion Drive United States Rugby Foundation Success
September 12, 2019
The United States Rugby Foundation has helped support the growth of grassroots rugby in the United States. Through the support of hundreds of passionate individuals from across the country, the foundation has helped build and sustain rugby’s legacy.
The origins of the USRF are rooted in New England. In 1963, several individuals led by Ed Riseborough, Bob Lemire and the late Fritz Grunebaum started the Bay State Rugby Foundation to benefit rugby in the northeast. By 1981, there was an interest to provide support for grassroots rugby at the national level and the organization changed the name to the United States Rugby Football Foundation.
“The focus of the foundation is developing rugby by providing support to the youth and amateur rugby particularly at the high school level,” said Foundation President Brian Vizard. “We are not a part of USA Rugby but our efforts are complementary to what USA Rugby is doing.”
The USRF has helped develop American rugby through grants and scholarships. Through its “A Ball for All” program, the USRF has provided grants for over 15,000 balls to more than 1,400 youth and high school rugby programs across the United States. The foundation has also given over 110 college scholarships to kids who have played age-grade rugby and gone on to play collegiate rugby. The USRF also has provided grants to rugby programs in underserved communities.
“If somebody is in need and we have the funds, we try to do our part to grow the game,” said Vizard.
In addition to these efforts, the foundation has provided dozens of scholarships for youth players to travel abroad and attend elite camps that help them further develop their skills. A number of these players — including Ben Pinkelman, Kevin Swiryn and Cam Dolan — have gone on to play for the United States national teams.
The USRF provides all of these resources in large part due to the passion and commitment of members of the United States rugby community. To date, the organization has provided over $2 million dollars in grants and scholarships.
“The game has played such an important role in all of our lives. We want to just help it grow and provide others with the opportunities we had and make a difference in the game,” said Vizard. “Our people give back to the game because we love the game. We want other people to experience the values inherent in the game that made us fall in love with the sport.”
The USRF is currently undergoing of a multiyear fundraising campaign impacting four key areas: youth rugby; health, safety and wellness; pathway to excellence; and coaching and refereeing. With the goal of reaching $3 million over a three- or four-year period, the “With You Campaign” expresses the importance of teamwork and support in rugby — and has already raised over $700,000.
“Through donations and gifts left behind, our supporters are committed to leaving a legacy within the sport. As part of our efforts we have partnered with Penn Mutual to help our members leave a lasting legacy,” Vizard added.
Legacy has played an important role for those in the organization. In 2011, the USRF initiated the United States Rugby Hall of Fame, honoring those that have distinguished themselves in the rugby community.
“Remembering those that paved the way for the rest of us and remembering individuals that have had an impact on the game is incredibly important,” Vizard claimed.
Providing pathways for development, honoring those who left their mark on the game and recognizing those that continue to give back to the game encompass everything that the USRF embodies. Thanks to a dedicated group of supporters who are committed to sustaining the legacy and building a strong future, rugby continues to rise in the United States.