Development Projects

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Development Projects

Rugby Ontario and our member clubs continue to grow and develop the community game through ongoing development projects and initiatives. Whether it is through increased capacity for outreach by staff and volunteers, education and mentorship to upskill existing members, or the development and piloting of new programming we are always working to Grow the Game and ensure quality experiences for all current and future participants. 

2023 saw the execution of Rugby Ontario’s Build Belonging Project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The project sought to increase rugby participation amongst underrepresented groups in Ontario, enacted through a community-driven approach to enhancing inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility practices (IDEA) throughout the organization and rugby clubs across the province.  

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Bryan Heal (Co-Chair)Maple Leaf Sports and
Stephanie Buryk (Co-Chair)Toronto
Lauren WolmanRugby Canada Board
Amanda Neale-RobinsonIndependent Consultant
Scott DunhamBalmy Beach
Kristen LagerstromWestern University
Danielle SpiceOakville Crusaders
Amy BakerPeterborough Pagans
Mobolaji Adewale -
Jamie Lee WalkerOttawa Irish
David Cameron DonnachieRainbow Griffins
Katelyn McCrearyFergus Highland
Jocelyn Poirier (Staff Representative)Rugby Ontario

Let’s Play Rugby is a Rugby Canada initiative aimed at increasing non-contact program opportunities for girls ages 13-16. For 2024, Rugby Ontario received funding for 7 clubs to complete Let’s Play Rugby projects targeting the recruitment and registration of at least 20 new non-contact 13–16-year-old girls. The clubs have been provided a 10-week non-contact program resource guide to support their initiatives.  

Rookie Rugby is the nation-wide introductory rugby program for children of all ages with a focus on the Active Start, Fundamentals, and Learn to Train stages of the Sport for Life Long Term Development Framework. It is a game-based curriculum built on national guidelines for Health and Physical Education curriculums. 

The program provides open-access, easy-to-follow game modules for leading a variety of activities that build introductory, non-contact rugby skills in a safe, fun, and inclusive environment and provides teachers and coaches – including those that are unfamiliar with rugby – with new methods to promote physical literacy and practice Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS). 

Rookie Rugby Coach and Teacher Training

Rugby Canada has developed a four-hour NCCP Rookie Rugby coach course. Learn more.

As outlined in the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, Rugby Ontario is working hard to support the development of our club community and deliver on the key initiatives linked to this strategic priority. One way we are doing that is through the creation of a Rugby Development Officer (RDO) network to align with the broader RDO network being developed across the country. Our vision involves a vast, interconnected network across the province working directly with targeted clubs to develop rugby in their communities while reporting to Rugby Ontario and Rugby Canada.

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As outlined in the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, Rugby Ontario is dedicated to investing in the future of rugby in Ontario and one way we are doing that is by championing women in leadership to ensure that our leadership is representative and reflects our community. In the fall of 2023 four Rugby Ontario staff and board members participated in the Gender Equity Playbook Program by Canadian Women and Sport to conduct a systematic review and assessment of our policies, programs, and practices through a gender equity lens. The Rugby Ontario Women in Leadership Program is a first step toward more intentional and direct actions to improve gender equity in our sport.

Women In Leadership Fund

In 2024 Rugby Ontario announced for the first time our own Women in Leadership Fund to extend the reach of the Rugby Canada program by the same name. In addition to the two Ontario-based recipients of the Rugby Canada fundLeanne Stillman (Toronto Nomads) and Tracy Roberts (Middlesex-Huron) – Rugby Ontario is providing funding to support two more women to pursue leadership development opportunities that align with their personal goals. The Women in Leadership program provides a platform for participants to connect and learn from each other and mentors as they continue their personal development journeys. 

LeeAnn Napiorkowski
President – Unified Jax / VP Development – Lanark Highlanders

Kelly Zacny
President – Georgian Bay Titans

I would love to help women find their way in our sport. I have been blessed to work with so many strong women who have made a huge impact on my playing, coaching and administrative work. My goal is to help people from all walks of life, backgrounds, abilities and experience levels to get involved in rugby. 

The Women in Leadership program is important to gather women who share similar goals and aspirations in the sport of rugby. Recently I’ve taken on a role as President of the Georgian Bay Titans Rugby Club, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge and leadership skills to guide my team. I am hoping to grow the sport of rugby in our community but also grow as a community.” 

Check out our Women’s Month Interview!

Watch for the 2025 Women in Leadership Fund Applications coming Fall 2024!

Working towards three key strategic priorities of the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan – Support the Club Community, Build Belonging, and Invest in our Future – Rugby Ontario continues to emphasize the importance of Youth Development through our work.  

Youth Development Committee

Established in 2024, The Youth Development Committee is an operational committee of Rugby Ontario that is, by design, of youth for youth with members under the age of 30 working to develop and support opportunities to improve recruitment and retention of youth (ages 13-29) and foster the development of skills and opportunities related to non-player roles.

NameClub AffiliationEmail
Tiffany Floud (Chair)Peterborough
Luca LacovelliCaledon Cavaliers
Seema AbouchacraGuelph Goats
Nelson IvesRainbow Griffins
Isabella HutchinsonBelleville Bulldogs
Connor MillenorLanark Highlandrs
Jackson ChristensenMiddlesex Huron Youth
Erin SweetnamMississauga Blues
Katie McLeodAurora Barbarians
William KellyBrantford Harlequins
Jocelyn Poirier (Staff Representative)Rugby Ontario

Youth-Engage Project

In 2023, Rugby Ontario ran a pilot project targeting youth aged 14-18 to be introduced to non-player roles, titled the Youth-Engage Project. 28 youth from across the province participated in the free virtual program sessions from March to May, introducing them to the training and education platform as well as coach and match official pathways.

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Established in 2024, the Minor Rugby Working Group assists Rugby Ontario operations staff in fulfilling their responsibilities relating to the growth and development of Minor Rugby in Ontario in line with the Rugby Ontario Strategic Plan and Long-Term Development in Sport. Members review and analyze feedback from stakeholders and support the planning of the Minor Rugby season and related initiatives. 

NameClub AffiliationEmail
Patrick Gourley (Chair)Georgian Bay
Mike LacovelliCaledon Cavaliers
Melissa DuffOttawa Ospreys
Barb Di NardoToronto City Youth
Alex RossSarnia Saints
Chris SchryerBalmy Beach
David JesseBelleville Bulldogs
Sara ArmstrongBarrhaven Scottish
Geogre AshfieldGuelph Goats
Jennifer LukeBrantford Harlequins
Jocelyn Poirier (Staff Representative)Rugby Ontario
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