BOULDER, Colo. - Mark Griffin is absolutely crazy about rugby. As a former Eagle, the Director of Youth and High School at USA Rugby, and founder and CEO of Play Rugby USA, he has a lot of rugby balls in the air. That’s why he is stepping down from his post at USA Rugby: he doesn’t want to let any of the rugby balls drop.
Griffin is leaving USA Rugby to focus on his role as CEO of Play Rugby USA. While his two jobs are complimentary, at the end of the day they are two full-time jobs. With the surge in youth participation, both USAR and Play Rugby are busier than ever before.
“Play Rugby has gotten to be a legitimately-sized non-profit with four offices around the country. It certainly justifies a full-time job for me. Play Rugby and USA Rugby have the same goals and have a good working relationship.”
EMPOWERING STATE-BASED RUGBY
In a way, Griffin is a victim of his own and youth rugby’s success. He was a major catalyst in mobilizing State-Based Rugby Organizations (SBROs), decentralizing much of the country’s youth rugby development and empowering SBROs to create dynamic grassroots organizations to guide the growth of rugby in their respective states.
“I’ve really enjoyed creating a framework for legitimate state-based organizations. There are great people doing great things independently, so I wanted to create a way to bring them in and start working together,” said Griffin.
There are now 26 SBROs in 26 states (California has two, and New Hampshire and Maine created a combined organization) and youth participation has never been higher. There are an estimated 300,000 American children who have been exposed to rugby in the last two years. Guiding the development and growth of the game and balancing his responsibilities at two rapidly expanding organizations is a lot for anyone to handle, even for a personality as energetic and visionary as Griffin’s.
YOUTH RUGBY IN GOOD SHAPE
Griffin and the youth department have worked tirelessly promoting and creating momentum for Rookie Rugby. According to Griffin, Rookie Rugby has grown to be a powerful brand.
“Rookie Rugby is a great way to get people involved in rugby. It’s wonderful to see American kids having fun with a rugby ball.
“Rookie Rugby really creates a broad foundation for American rugby if we can create a pathway to clubs and competitions,” Griffin said.
Since its inception, Rookie Rugby has had around 300,000 kids participate and coaches and parents are becoming increasingly involved.
HOPES FOR HIS SUCCESSOR
Griffin’s success in business and rugby enable him to understand exactly what makes successful programs and initiatives work. The most common thread is relationships. As such, he will continue to work with USA Rugby and ensure that the transition for the new Director goes smoothly and will be available to his replacement.
“Being the Director is a rewarding experience as you have impact on a national level and you work with great people.
“Someone with experience in sports management and business development will be well-suited for the job, but someone who can also manage relationships well,” Griffin said.
Griffin left his career in finance and banking to create Play Rugby USA, an organization that provides rugby-based afterschool wellness and prevention programs to inner-city youth. His company has grown from four people to over ten salaried staff and additional part-time coaches. It’s now established programs in more than 140 schools throughout the country.
“I’ll always be involved in youth and high school rugby,” Griffin said.
YOUTH RUGBY IN GOOD HANDS
Griffin not only made a national impact on youth rugby, he also hired a well-qualified and passionate advocate for youth in Erin Kennedy. Kennedy will continue her role as Youth Development Manager and will be the liaison between USA Rugby and SBROs.
Entrepreneurial and energetic, Kennedy will provide continuity to the youth department and continue to build great relationships with the leaders of youth rugby across the country.
“Erin has great ideas and is a great resource for SBROs. She is part of a staff that is full of lots of good people doing good stuff with limited resources,” said Griffin.
Kennedy will continue as Youth Development Manager, working alongside Griffin’s successor and the Youth Development Administrator to make sure USA Rugby’s efforts to grow the game at the grassroots level remain a focus of the organization.
DIRECTOR OF YOUTH RUGBY
Effective immediately, USA Rugby and Griffin will work cooperatively to find a new Director. Griffin will continue working with USA Rugby through January and help with the transition of youth leadership.
To apply for the position, visit usarugby.org.