GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

US Rugby Foundation New Program Grant is a Game-Changer

irish rugby tours

US Rugby Foundation New Program Grant is a Game-Changer

Ascend Leadership Academy players with their game face on.

Just a few days remain for applications for the US Rugby Foundation's New Program Grant.

New Youth and HS programs can apply for startup costs.

"This grant was really important for us," said Ramond Samaniego, who helped jump-start the Loyola HS Los Angeles team last year. "You have to start from scratch and it just really helped us with all the things you need—you need pads, balls, and we didn't really know how many players we would get but it not only allowed us to get equipment, it also showed the school that we were serious. We were able to go to the school and show we already had funding from a respected organization, and they responded with more support as a result."

"To say the grant was a game changer is an understatement," added Michael Markofski, who runs the Ascend Leadership Academy program in North Carolina. "With the grant, we were able to financially support our Spring 15s season and Fall 7s, as well as our current Winter 15s season."

Ascend fielded a spring boys Tier 2 team last season and three full seven-a-side rosters in the fall (Sandhills Sharks Girls Tier 2, Boys Tier 1, and Boys Tier 2). Now they are fielding their Ascend Leadership Academy team in the NCYRU Tier 2 Boys league.

With the funds Ascend purchased balls, tackle bags, cones, and other practice equipment, and cover their initial season and club participation fees. 

To learn more or apply, go here>>

"The funds helped us found our Girls program which started as a 7s team in the Fall, and will branch out to a 10s team coming up in the Spring season," added Markofski. "The grant also funded our marketing and promotional efforts. We purchased team shirts for coaches and players, business cards, and used some of the funds towards social media marketing. We even had a new logo professionally designed. The funds also contributed towards incorporating our team officially as a business entity, a nonprofit 501(c3)."

Like with Loyola HS in Los Angeles, the grant also served to strengthen legitimacy with the Ascend Leadership Academy. 

"The exposure and reception of the grant led to conversations with parents, administration, and teachers to bolster support," said Markofski. "When you visit the ALA website (, you will now see 'Rugby' has its own section under 'Student Life.' Our numbers grew substantially after receiving the grant, shown by the three 7s teams that we fielded in Fall 2023 — and the growing number of both boys and girls players that we continue to have. To say the grant was a game changer is an understatement." 

Because the grant helped support year-round competition, players were able to get better faster and several played for the North Carolina All-Star program that played against Young Glory and the Ohio Aviators, helping Ascend improve dramatically from Year One to now.

At St. John's College HS in Washington, DC, the girls team was just getting started when two girls who wanted to play discovered that math teacher Liz Eways had played the game before. They persuaded Eways to run the team and help lead the campaign for the school to add girls rugby. They succeeded, and the US Rugby Foundation New Program grant was hugely important in helping the team get started.

"The grant has been beneficial in a handful of ways," said Eways. "Most of what we have used so far has gone to registration fees for tournaments this season. We entered two 7s tournaments in the fall, which helped us get brand new players some experience before our competitive season starts this spring. What has been most beneficial, however, is that because of the grant, we do not have to charge new players dues for joining the team. This has had a significant impact on our recruiting potential because cost is not a barrier to participation. Trying rugby for the first time is more appealing to girls at our school when there is no financial commitment right off the bat. Additionally, we have the opportunity, if needed, to help supply gear like cleats and mouthguards to any players who are not able to purchase them on their own. The grant has been extremely helpful getting the team started and carrying us into our second year."

To learn more or apply, go here>>