Eagle Alumni Network Spotlight: Brian Barnard

First taking the pitch in 2001 at California Polytechnic State in San Luis Obispo, Brian Barnard fell in love with rugby and continues to play today as a member of the Classic Eagles. Learn more about his rugby journey.

USA Rugby Trust:When and where did you play rugby?
Brian Barnard: I started playing in 2001 as a junior in college at Cal Poly SLO and from there I played for the All-Americans, in New Zealand, San Francisco Golden Gate, Frankfurt, Germany, Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC), Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Olympic Club and Classic Eagles. Also did North America 4 (NA4) and played for multiple territory all-star teams.

USART: When did you play with the Eagles?
BB: I played with XVs primarily in 2006 and in the lead up to the 2007 World Cup. With Sevens, I was in the pool off and on until 2011.

USART: What is your favorite rugby memory?
BB: Getting selected for the Eagles is up there, but on the field I’d say it has to be the huge second-half comeback win against Air Force in the Final Four.

USART: Where are you now?
BB: I live in San Francisco with my wife Sara and work in tech sales.

USART: What do you believe is the most important factor in growing the sport of rugby in the US?
BB: Obviously grassroots is critical because more people playing sooner will yield dividends. We have some really great educators developing successful youth/age-grade leagues and academies. That said, I’d say that we need to improve the high performance/professional path domestically. The latter has proven time and again to be extremely challenging, but I think we are close and I like [USA Rugby CEO] Dan Payne as a leader.

Looking Back on 2016

USA Rugby Trust donors made a TREMENDOUS impact on the game in 2016! Thank you to each and every one of our supporters for your generous contributions – it was certainly an incredible year for rugby.

Through your generosity, USA Rugby Trust was able to give back to the rugby community in many different ways. Here are just a few highlights from 2016 that were made possible by you, our donors.

  • Donors gave more than $1 million to support, promote, develop and grow the game of rugby at all levels in the United States.
    • More than half of the funds raised were designated for the area of greatest need – these gifts are the most impactful for USA Rugby because they can be distributed to the teams and programs that need it most!
  • 1,853 rugby fans became first-time donors to USA Rugby Trust.
  • More than $41,000 was given to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund, providing an opportunity for three up-and-coming referees to to attend the South African Referee Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for two months. The balance will be used toward establishing an endowment for the program.
  • Nearly 100 USA Rugby items were donated to local organizations to be used as auction items to support their fundraising efforts:
    • 10 jerseys
    • 54 USA Rugby swag bags
    • 33 track pants
    • 1 jacket

A full impact report for 2016 will be made available later this year. If you would like to help make 2017 an even bigger year for USA Rugby Trust, click here.

Eagle Alumni Spotlight: Tracey Davies

First introduced to rugby at Northeast Missouri State University, Tracey Davies has been long involved with the game in multiple different roles, from Collegiate All-American to coach. Tracey spoke with USA Rugby Trust to share her rugby story and discuss how we can continue to grow and develop rugby in the United States.

USA Rugby Trust: When and where did you play rugby?
Tracey Davies:

  • 1994-1998 – Started playing rugby at Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University with Bullets Rugby
  • 1997-2003 – Western Territorial All Star Team
  • 1997 – Collegiate All American
  • 1999 – Became a member of the Kansas City Jazz Rugby Club (played for the Jazz through 2003 and then intermittently until my last game in April 2015)

USART: When did you play with the Eagles?

  • 1998 – USA Rugby National Under-23 Team – Undefeated Tour to England, December 1998
  • 1999-2001, 2003 – USA Rugby National Developmental Team/Senior Side

USART: What is your favorite rugby memory?
TD: There are far too many memories to name for the 23 years since I first picked up a rugby ball. I will never forget what it was like to stand on foreign soil and listen to our National Anthem being played before a match; however, most of my favorite rugby memories come from watching the high school rugby players that I coach and now my sons with a rugby ball in hand and falling in love with the game. Introducing people to rugby and watching their confidence soar and watching them realize just what rugby can offer them is inspiring. It is why I have coached high school rugby for the last 18 years.

I also remember what it was like as a 155-pound freshman in college, trying to make my first tackle. It was my first or second practice and I hadn’t been taught to tackle at all but the coaches asked for anyone who wanted to hit and I quickly raised my hand. One of the experienced players, who was probably about 70 pounds bigger than me, ran at me and I tackled her but pulled her right on my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I learned two things in that moment: that I wished I had been taught to tackle properly and holy cow, I loved this game.

USART: Where are you now?
TD: I first became certified to coach in 1997 as a player coach of my college team, Truman State University Bullets. When I graduated in December 1998, I moved to Kansas City to play for the KC Jazz. I was approached by some girls at the high school where I was working as a Campus Supervisor about starting a high school girls team. From there, I continued to recruit like-minded coaches who bought into what we were trying to accomplish and we continued to build more rugby teams. I moved from Kansas City to Liberty, Missouri in 2009 and currently live in Liberty.

  • 1999-2009 – Head Coach and Founder of the Park Hill High School Girls Rugby Football Club, now the Park Hill Lady Dragons Rugby Football Club
  • 2008-2011 – Head Coach and Founder of the Kansas City Titans Rugby Football Club, now the Park Hill Titans Rugby Football Club
  • 2009-Current – Head Coach and Founder of the Liberty Jays Rugby Football Club (also Liberty United RFC), recognized by the high school as a club
  • 2011-2012 – Head Coach of the Kansas City Jazz Rugby Club
  • 2012-Current – Head Coach of the Liberty United Girls Rugby Football Club, now Liberty Lady Jays Rugby Football Club, recognized by the high school as a club.

USART: What do you believe is the most important factor in growing the sport of rugby in the US?
TD: The most important factor in growing the game in the US is inspiring people to give back to the game and to get involved after playing. At the end of each season, I give my seniors a whistle. I encourage them to give back to the game, either as a referee or a coach. It is a small reminder to them as they graduate that the only way this game grows is for those who love it to give back.

I was criticized by some for hanging up my boots too soon, but I know it was the right thing to do for the growth of the game. My love of the game grows exponentially through the players my coaches and I introduce to the game. Coaching is not a sacrifice, it is not a burden, it is a gift. It is a gift to grow the traditions of rugby and share our passion for it. The camaraderie, the respect, the sportsmanship, the honor, the character building and dedication to family is what this game should be about and that is what we continue to build in our programs.

Regarding what USA Rugby can do, in my opinion, it is important that they realize that there are many geographical areas in various stages of development across this great country. Remembering that not all areas are at the same stages of development is important. Sometimes growing pains and change are necessary but I encourage USA Rugby to be more attentive to whether those policy changes are actually detrimental to the morale of the volunteers at that start up level. Remembering that a majority of coaches involved with rugby in the US are volunteers is crucial to understanding how to respect and help them grow the game in their individual areas.

USA Rugby Trust is the Official Philanthropic Partner of the Rugby Business Network

Pictured: USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne and General Manager, National Teams & Performance Alex Magleby address attendees at a Boston Rugby Business Network event in October 2016.

USA Rugby Trust is pleased to announce our philanthropic partnership with the Rugby Business Network, the world’s biggest and most influential network for senior business people with a passion for rugby.

As of January 1, 2017, USA Rugby Trust will serve as the Rugby Business Network’s official national philanthropic partner in the United States – an opportunity that will bring together the elite rugby community in an effort to grow and develop the game domestically. “This a great opportunity for the Trust to help reconnect RBN members with opportunities to give back at both the local and international level. We look forward to bolstering this relationship to create an even bigger impact for rugby programs in America,” said USA Rugby Trust Executive Director, Nikki Wiederaenders.

Established by digital entrepreneur and ex-professional rugby player Colm Hannon in 2010, the Rugby Business Network is a not-for-profit organization designed to provide networking opportunities for professionals who have a connection to rugby. With a vast community around the world, the Rugby Business Network hosts rugby-centric networking events and seminars geared toward high-level businessmen and women around the globe.

USA Rugby Trust is the philanthropic arm of USA Rugby. A 501(c)3 organization headquartered in Lafayette, Colorado, USA Rugby Trust’s fundraising activities support rugby youth initiatives, provide opportunities for coaching and referee development, and build world-class athletes through the USA National Teams. The mission of USA Rugby Trust is to support, promote, develop and growth the sport of rugby at all levels in the United States by providing financial support to USA Rugby.

To stay up-to-date on the happenings of this partnership, be sure to follow USA Rugby Trust and the Rugby Business Network on social media. Updates will also be posted on USARugbyTrust.org as they become available.

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Eagle Alumni Spotlight: Jamie Burke

First introduced to rugby at an activities fair on the University of Virginia campus, Jamie Burke has taken the pitch as a member of the D.C. Furies, Berkeley All Blues, Beantown RFC, Raleigh Venom and Glendale Raptors. After earning her first cap in 2004, she continued to be a well-known face on the Eagles for a decade. Learn more about Jamie in her interview with USA Rugby Trust.

USA Rugby Trust: When and where did you play rugby?

Jamie Burke: I started playing rugby in college at the University of Virginia. Played there from 1998-2003. After graduating, I went on to play for the DC Furies from 2003-2005; Berkeley All-Blues from 2006-2008; Beantown from 2008-2011; Raleigh Venom 2011-2012; Glendale Raptors 2013-2014. I retired from playing after the 2014 World Cup and now stay engaged with the game coaching Glendale and refereeing.

USART: When did you play/participate with the Eagles?

JB: I got my first cap in 2004 against New Zealand at Churchill Cup in Canada. I then continued to play for the next decade, playing in 51 matches and 3 World Cups.

USART: What is your favorite rugby memory?

JB: There are honestly way too many to name! Most of my favorites are in the small moments shared with my teammates on tours from ridiculous skits to card games to touring other countries. The community that rugby builds is what I fell in love with and so it also holds those most precious memories!

USART: Where are you now?

JB: I am living in Denver, CO, working for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and coaching the Glendale Raptors. I retired from the Eagles after the 2014 World Cup so I could spend more time with my family (and start a family). Now I am a proud mom to a fiery future prop daughter!

USART: What do you believe is the most important factor in growing the sport of rugby in the US?

JB: Developing youth rugby really is going to be the biggest step in growing rugby in the US both from a numbers perspective and a skill perspective. Having kids starting to develop the skills early on will lead to longer term participation. In addition, making rugby the complete family experience.

John "Bradshaw" Layfield, USOC's Snyder to headline Rugby NDS Dinner

Each year, the entire rugby community is invited to the National Development Summit Dinner of Champions. This year’s dinner, held at the Renaissance Baltimore Inner Harbor, will feature WWE’s John Layfield, the United States Olympic Committee’s Chris Snyder, new USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Dan Payne, and the USA Rugby Coach of the Year awards.

Layfield, known to WWE fans as “JBL” (John “Bradshaw” Layfield), will deliver USA Rugby’s 2017 NDS keynote address Jan. 14. After a long and successful career as a professional wrestler, Layfield currently serves as a television commentator for the WWE and for Fox’s Bulls and Bears.

Aside from his broadcasting and entertaining career, Layfield is well-versed in the social benefits and power of youth rugby. He founded the award-winning Beyond Rugby Bermuda, a youth program that combines academic and family resources alongside rugby through both the Bermuda Rugby Football Union and the Family Centre Bermuda.

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Layfield’s background in sport includes All-American honors at Abilene Christian University, three years of professional football, and a WWE Championship–where he holds the record for longest-reigning champion in the history of Smackdown.

Snyder serves as the director of coaching education at the USOC. He oversees a department that includes coaching education, coach development, and coach recognition, working with all 47 Olympic and more than 20 Paralympic sports and organizations. Snyder previously worked as the manager of coaching education at U.S. Lacrosse and has a 14-year history of coaching at all levels.

The Dinner of Champions caps off the first day of sessions at the Summit featuring a wide range of presentations, including baseline concussion testing, an in-depth look at a state-of-the-art referee development facility, club fundraising at all levels, and hands-on practical sessions. See the full agenda on the NDS website.

Register today at www.rugbysummit.com and secure a spot at the premier rugby conference of the year.

Donors Like You Introduce Thousands of Kids to Rugby

Rugby fans and supporters like you have the power to make a difference and grow the game. Individuals like you are introducing kids like Emma to the game every day, giving them the opportunity to learn about teamwork, develop their skills and have fun with their teammates! This is why USA Rugby Trust was created – as an avenue to get rugby balls into kids’ hands sooner, to foster the Olympic dream and to develop the talent of America’s future rugby stars.

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Thanks to a generous grant created by supporters of USA Rugby Trust, thousands of children will be exposed to rugby at a young age in the New York area. Earlier this year, $3,330 was raised at a USA Rugby Trust event with the intent of granting Rookie Rugby in a Box kits to physical education programs and youth rugby clubs in the United States. Each box contains all of the tools needed to play flag rugby: two Rookie Rugby balls, boundary cones, flag belts, game play and skills cards, and a comprehensive education manual. After explaining to USA Rugby the many ways these boxes could be used to make an impact in their area, Rugby NY was selected to receive 20 of these boxes.

Director of Rugby NY Evan Tabachnick has been instrumental in ensuring these kits are put to good use. This fall, Tabachnick and others from the organization visited SHAPE America conferences in the northeast to demonstrate how rugby can be taught in physical education classes. At these conferences, Rugby NY puts on a presentation wherein physical education teachers are encouraged to participate in a Rookie Rugby lesson plan from start to finish. Rugby NY also raffles kits off to conference attendees to garner more interest for youth rugby. “It really gets programs started,” explains Tabachnick. “We have a lot of teams in the area pop up because a teach won a raffle.”

When asked what kind of impact these boxes can make on rugby in the area, Tabachnick’s estimate was astonishing. He explains, “We had 102 teachers sign up at the state-wide conference, and I anticipate the other three zone conferences will bring another 100 total. If you try to come up with an average number of students who will engage in the program, you can estimate maybe 50 students per school. This means 10,000 students or more could be reached this year as a result. And this is a conservative estimate.”

Rookie Rugby in a Box is popular with physical education teachers and students alike. By nature, the game is a change of pace for many American students – the idea of throwing the ball backward rather than forward is a new concept to add to their athletic skillset. More importantly, though, Tabachnick stressed the value of inclusivity in the game: “You can look at a comparison to flag football. A lot of times you’ll have kids who aren’t moving or touching the ball. But in flag rugby, everyone needs to learn the same skills and be involved. Everyone needs to run and throw and catch. It gets everyone moving, and that’s what makes the kids love it,” explains Tabachnick.

Clearly, there is vast potential to grow the next generation of rugby players through programs such as Rookie Rugby in a Box. “We’re definitely getting the interest, initial stages of education and exposure of the game to the youngest age groups,” says Tabachnick. “This has been Rugby NY’s primary focus. It lays a solid foundation; it helps establish a feeder system into high school teams to foster talent in players who will be active in the game for years.” He adds, “This is something all the other successful sports in the United States do – start off players as young as possible with modified rules. Rookie Rugby is co-educational and inclusive, so it’s yielding great results.”

Youth rugby programs can not only build the talent of players who will soon participate in high school rugby, but it can have a lasting and long-term effect on our national teams as well. Ultimately, as we begin to teach rugby to athletes at a younger age, they will develop their skills and knowledge of the game earlier, providing a larger and more developed talent pool for our age-grade All-American and National teams in the future.

By making a tax-deductible contribution to USA Rugby Trust, you are investing in the future of rugby in the United States. USA Rugby Trust thanks our generous donors who have dedicated themselves to growing and developing the game, including the following individuals who made donations to make this grant possible:

  • Keith Barr
  • Jessica Bogdan
  • Werner Camacho
  • Joseph Cavatoni
  • Keith Dawson
  • David Dignam
  • David Drinkwater
  • Chris Evans
  • Ty Francis
  • Bruce Gibson
  • Christopher Reed
  • Patrick Ryan
  • Paul Shepherd
  • Jonathan Short
  • Andrew Suckling
  • Matt Thompson
  • Jim Tolfree
  • Anastasia Tonello
  • Danny Waldron
  • John Greenland
  • Matt Hawksworth
  • Scott Herling
  • Andrew Johnman
  • David Lee
  • Gene Lennon
  • Michelle Marwood
  • Dan Morris
  • Peter O’Brien
  • Jock Percy

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Save the Date: Meet the Eagles BBQ Dinner

Join USA Rugby Trust, the Young Professionals Advisory Board and Rugby Texas for a Texas-sized BBQ on Thursday, February 9, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Meet the Men’s Eagles before they take on Brazil at round 2 of the Americas Rugby Championship!

Check back in early January for more information and to RSVP.

Meet Vice President of the Young Professionals Advisory Board Erin Sinclair

Erin Sinclair is one of the founding members of the Young Professionals Advisory Board (YPAB). Her passion and enthusiasm for the game is evidenced not only by her volunteerism in the rugby community, but also through her professional career as a financial representative where she uses her rugby knowledge to help illustrate the often complex components of financial management. USA Rugby Trust spoke with Erin to learn more about her commitment to the game and her connection with YPAB.

USA Rugby Trust: First, please tell me a little about yourself.

Erin Sinclair: I am a financial representative for The Heartland Group, the Chicago office of Penn Mutual. I teach people about money through a platform I call the Financial Fitness Game Plan.

USART: What is your connection to rugby?

ES: I started playing my freshman year of college in 2002 and have played the last 15 years. I’m currently playing social Sevens. I recently started refereeing, which I absolutely love. I am also the vice president of the Chicago Area Rugby Business Network, which brings together like-minded individuals for business and career aspirations.

USART: What is your role with YPAB?

ES: I am the vice president of YPAB and my role is to organize events that bring rugby to neighborhoods – these can be neighborhoods that are either new to the game or well-versed with it. These events grow awareness for the game and raise funds for USA Rugby Trust.

USART: Tell me more about the group. Why was it formed?

ES: YPAB was formed for two main reasons. First, we bring rugby to communities to grow the love of the game. Second, this group increases involvement for individuals between the ages of 21 to 39 years who want to stay involved and give back to the rugby community.

USART: What kinds of events have you planned for YPAB?

ES: The events I have planned include international match viewing parties, educational events and youth Sevens clinics. For 2017, we will be rolling out a new national fundraiser that will be held in the cities where YPAB members exist. 

USART: What are your main goals as a member of YPAB?

ES: I’d like to work to bring Try on Rugby clinics to schools and communities that do not have it. Another goal is to raise funds for USA Rugby Trust to support the national Sevens and XVs players. 

USART: Why do you think YPAB is important?

ES: It allows people to turn their insane rugby love and passion into something that benefits many people and generations, including themselves.

USART: In your own words, tell me why you think someone should apply to join YPAB.

ES: YPAB is looking for members between the ages of 21-39 who want to be more active in their rugby community and are willing to take on the responsibility of planning and hosting events to raise rugby awareness and funds for USA Rugby Trust. This in turn benefits rugby as a whole and players nationally. Experience isn’t entirely necessary, but the drive and passion to grow the game is. 

Rugby is a universal language that has come alive in America, now more than ever. The opportunity to make an effective and historical footprint is here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Young Professionals Advisory Board or would like to apply, please visit USARugbyTrust.org/ShowYourSupport and select the YPAB tab.

"We Loved Every Second of It – Living and Breathing Rugby"

Pictured left to right: Former Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund scholarship recipients Emily Hsieh, Kahlil Harrison, Amelia Luciano and Gavin McCandless.

In the spring of 2014, the two of us, Kahlil Harrison and Emily Hsieh, had the opportunity to travel abroad to Stellenbosch, South Africa, on the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund scholarship and be full-time referee students at the South Africa Rugby Union Academy (formerly known as Maties Referee Academy) for nine weeks. The experience was amazing to say the least. It was challenging yet inspiring, simplistic and surreal yet immersive, and incredibly demanding yet rewarding. Living and breathing rugby 24/7, but more specifically the life of a referee, provided us with a rich experience that undoubtedly accelerated our growth and development as rugby referees. There are quite a few aspects of the South Africa Rugby Union Academy and its surrounding environment that benefited and allowed us to improve as rugby officials at an accelerated pace. These include the youthful referee team atmosphere, quantity and quality of rugby on the Western Cape, full-time student athlete lifestyle, coaches who were more than “just” coaches, surrounding facilities, and our own and others’ attitude and mindset about rugby. Through this and much more, both of us gained invaluable experience that bettered us not only as referees and active members of the international rugby community but also as human beings.

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Team Atmosphere
Living with four strangers introduced some challenges ranging from navigating clashing personalities to deciding whose turn it was to buy bread for the house. However, it also came with some distinct and unique advantages particularly because all five people in the house were there for the same reason – for rugby. We constantly pushed each other to be better referees on and off the pitch, discussed various aspects of rugby, and encouraged each other. Even though there was only one ref on the pitch during a match, there was always a team in the background providing support for each other. The importance and benefit of always having peers and friends to turn to, struggle with, and experience the academy with cannot be understated!

Practice, Practice, Practice
On any given day we refereed three or four games. Compared to the one or two games per week in the US, we had the chance to grow faster due to the sheer volume of games. In two months each of us had reffed about 20 “first-class” matches and nearly 50 more “casual” games at various trials, practices, and scrimmages. This situation enabled us to experiment with rapid and fluid goal-setting as well since we could choose one or two aspects of our game to focus on for one match and then choose entirely different aspects to focus on for the next match without worrying about the scarcity of reffing opportunities. We were always trying to improve, and daily practice helped immensely.

Student Athlete Lifestyle
Every day of the week was dedicated to rugby in some way. We spent full days, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., training like elite referees so that we could perform like elite referees. A typical weekday was packed with various activities including aerobic fitness, weight training, on/off-field vision training, mental toughness, postgame feedback, law sessions, film sessions, and of course, refereeing rugby. We also had a few hours during the day with no rugby-specific activities going on and we used that time to relax our bodies and minds and prepare for the next item on the agenda. Saturday mornings were spent  
refereeing one or two high school matches and afternoons were spent with senior-level competition. Again, these were long days that saw us out the door at 7 a.m. and not back home until 6 p.m. There was no training or rugby on Sundays so we used that day for rest and relaxation. Sundays were also used for reviewing the previous day’s matches, discussing questionable calls and law application with roommates, and looking forward to the week ahead. Even on our day of rest rugby was always on our mind.

You have the power to make this opportunity a reality for an aspiring referee in 2017.Click hereto make a gift to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund today.

Hendrik and Marius, our coaches, provided feedback and advice for us every step of the way. On the pitch they were honest about what did well or needed to improve on, facilitated debates between the referees, and when necessary gave the final word on what calls should or shouldn’t be. Off the pitch they acted as academy directors, appointment selectors, drivers, braai planners, and more. The two of them made it so that all we needed to worry about was performing when our name was called.

Facilities, Attitude and Mindset about Rugby
Rugby in South Africa is a living and breathing creature of its own. It rises with excitement, quiets with disappointment, and celebrates with electric energy. The sport is part of the country’s and its people’s national identity, and they surely treat it with respect and integrity. If you can imagine the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS all combined into one union whose athletes all play the same sport, that is what rugby felt like in Stellenbosch. Rugby showed its face everywhere – from TVs in supermarkets to teams in prisons. The land was scattered with pitches with a frequency as high as all the baseball diamonds and soccer/football fields here in America combined. Most pitches were equipped with stadiums, and if not stadiums at least an area with stadium-like seating for fans in the community. Rugby was the language spoken by rivaling ethnic groups in some areas and it was sometimes treated as a matter of war. Since so much is invested into its infrastructure, people’s livelihood, money, and careers, there was a constant pressure to perform, but the immersion also provided constant positive feedback and motivated us to succeed. We each went to South Africa with big dreams and left with even more ambitious goals and the tools to accomplish them. We loved every second of it – living and breathing rugby.

Khalil and Emily were only able to partake in this immersive experience because of donors like you! The Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund covers all costs including travel, lodging, tuition and living expenses for scholarship recipients and is funded by donations from rugby fans and supporters. By making a gift to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund, you can change a young referee’s life. Make a gift today. Be sure to select Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund from the program dropdown menu.

Are you interested in applying for the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund scholarship? Click here to learn more and apply before December 23, 2016.