President and Founder
Mark is a pioneer in the field of sports-themed youth development with a specific passion for using rugby as a vehicle for social change. He is a former USA Eagles Player and Director of National Youth and High School for USA Rugby- the National Governing Body for Rugby in America. Mark founded Play Rugby USA in June 2003 as a wellness and prevention resource for America’s urban youth with a philosophy of “developing youth through rugby.”
He has combined his passion for youth development and entrepreneurship with an intrinsic ability to establish buy-in with key stakeholders at multiple levels. The creation of strategic and sustainable partnerships has thus become a core component of Play Rugby USA’s success, which combined with a winning team of outstanding professionals, passionate coaching staff and dedicated volunteers this has placed the program at the forefront of youth development in its key markets served. Mark’s achievements with Play Rugby USA were recognized in 2007 by the National Council of Youth Sports who awarded Mark the Hershey’s STRIVE award as National Administrator of the Year for pioneering such an innovative and replicable youth development program. Having been in charge full time of Play Rugby USA for over 7 years now, Mark’s passion and drive for youth development through sports and rugby has meant the organization has had another great year going from strength to strength.
Kip O’Rourke Brown
Kip O’Rourke Brown
Senior Program Director
Kip was Born in Queens and grew up in upstate New York, upon moving to New York City in 2007, he began managing and directing afterschool programs in public schools in all 5 boroughs, which provided him with a range of experience in the dynamism of urban public education. Kip is deeply passionate about using sport to promote youth’s development academically, physically, socially and emotionally in order to be empowered within schools and society. Kip is also committed to empowering school communities to explore a commitment to viewing the whole child’s development as an imperative.
Kip played baseball and basketball growing up and the community around these sports had a tremendous influence on his development. Joining the UCSB Gaucho Rugby Football Club in 2001 Kip continued his organized athletic career at the collegiate level. Kip’s experiences in organized sports at multiple levels provided a great foundation for learning about the emerging field of Sports Based Youth Development at Play Rugby USA (PRUSA). Kip began volunteering with Play Rugby USA in the autumn of 2010, and then joined the leadership team as the Sports Leadership Academy Community Director in the spring of 2011. Most recently, Kip has been promoted to Senior Program Director, responsible for all programing across PRUSA. In 2005, Kip received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2014, Kip received his M.A. from NYU in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy.
Culture Keeper and Youth Development Director
From Northampton, England, Dominic joined Play Rugby USA in 2007 to help grow the sport in New York by working with after school programs in the city and develop relationships with new program partners. Now responsible for sourcing and training new youth development mentors on how to deliver our curriculum and to keep Play Rugby USA at the forefront of SBYD.
Prior to coming to the States, Dominic represented the Northampton Saints RFC as player and strength and conditioning coach. He is currently assistant coach of New York Old Blue RFC, Director of coaching of Northeast Rugby Development Academy as well as maintaining his work with the youth in our program to deliver flag rugby programming.
Director of Donor Development
Shortly after resettling in New York from Australia Leo was introduced to Play Rugby USA in 2010 and initial involvement was as a volunteer assisting with tournaments as well as in coaching a Queens High School girls team’s introduction to rugby. His history of playing and coaching rugby and seeing at first hand the impact that the game has had here in NYC, Leo joined in a part time capacity to support the growth of Play Rugby USA.
As the organization has developed and grown, he now supports the development of Play Rugby’s funding resources. Drawing on his past business management skills from successfully running his own management consulting business over a number of years, the role focusses on building the relationships with individuals and organizations necessary to provide the funding needed to support and sustain our program.
Program Development Director
Diana joined Play Rugby USA as a Youth Development Mentor and a Coach Across America AmeriCorps intern in 2013. As Program Manager, she was heavily involved in the delivery of Rugby For Good programming with after school program partners. With a few years of that management experience under her belt, she was recently promoted to Program Development Director in NY. Supported by a dedicated and passionate team, she is ready to constantly improve and develop PRUSA’s programming and delivery.
As a proud Jersey girl, Diana left the tri-state area to begin her lifelong love for rugby at Northeastern University in Boston where she received her B.A. in Communication Studies. During her first couple of years playing rugby, her team went on to finish third in the nation for Division II in 2006. She then capped off her college rugby career as captain of the Lady Maddogs. After graduating, she spent a year in New Zealand working and playing rugby, but found her way back to her home state. Diana currently plays for and captains the Monmouth Women’s Rugby Club based in Red Bank, NJ.
Program Development Manager – Borough Community Clubs
Ben started playing rugby in Argentina (Vamos Los Pumas!) during an exchange year in High School. He continued to play at the Colorado College (Go Tigers!), then later in Brazil (Vai Tupis!).
Coach Ben joined the Play Rugby team in 2010 as a member of the Americorps and Up2Us sponsored ‘Coach Across America’ program, since then he has become one of our most senior and go to YDM’s while taking a role in coach development as a YDM facilitator and trainer. From 2012 through 2016, he managed the Junior Sports Leadership Academy at PS 75. Ben now manages program development for the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens while overseeing the growth of the new Brooklyn Community Club that launched in the fall of 2016. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Florangel and daughter Abigail.
Rugby Development Manager
Ryszard or ‘Rys’ is a forward thinking, high energy, and positive professional with solid transferable organizational and interpersonal skills with international experience in the coaching environment.
As the Rugby Development Manager he is given the task of developing rugby from ‘Intro to tackle’ to ‘high performance CODP Rugby’. He is responsible for the design and delivery of rugby programs & player pathway and also the development and education of coaches and players alike, providing the players who want to pursue their destiny, and reach their full potential on the rugby field, the best opportunity to do so. The main areas that Rys heads up in PRUSA are the Community Olympic Development Program, The Academy & Coach Education /Development.
Having coached for over a decade Rys has many other experiences, roles & qualifications that give him a sound knowledge and understanding of coach & player development. Having coached in four different countries he has achieved top of his class in his MSc in Coaching Science & also achieved his BSc (HONS) Sports Coaching. He is a World Rugby Coach Educator & published author in the coaching field.
Rys is also Director of High Performance at the Northeast Academy, Backs & Skills coach with New York Rugby Club Women’s Premier league side & also the Founder of the Rugby Advantage & most recently part of USA Rugbys Emerging Elite Coach Development Program.
Jasmine started out in Play Rugby as a YDM dance coach for the JSLA after-school programs, where she taught dance for 2 years. Jasmine is now the M&E coordinator through our long-standing partnership with Up2Us Sports and Coach Across America Program. Jasmine keeps all of the monitoring and evaluation information up to date and on file. She works closely with Ski obtaining important information to improve the program.
Jasmine is a senior at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY, where she majors in Business Administration and Management. She is passionate about the positive development of the youth in inner city communities similar to the one she grew up in. Jasmine is a full time mom of a vibrant 6-year-old, named Tyler. She is also apart of a dance company name Fully Focused Dance Company LLC, where she teaches dance to younger kids in her community.
Jesse joined Play Rugby USA in the fall of 2016 where he is part of a 2-year fellowship program through Adelphi University. He is enrolled in Adelphi University to earn his M.S in Sports Management with a specialization in Sports Based Youth Development. Jesse is currently the curriculum coordinator where he helps align and update our curriculum. Jesse is also working with the Youth Development Mentor Facilitators to keep an open communication with the YDMs in order to give and receive any necessary feedback.
Jesse graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2015 where he earned his B.S. in Physical Education. He began playing rugby at Cortland and continues to play for the Suffolk Bull Moose RFC on Long Island.
Heather’s passion for rugby started in 2003 when she watched her first 6-Nations Rugby Championships whilst living in the UK and it solidified when she watched her first live match, Ireland versus France, in Paris in 2005, on Valentines Day. Her passion for accounting started a little bit earlier than that, and she donates most of her accounting time to the organization!
Greg Sigrist, Chairman
Greg is a senior finance executive with nearly 30 years of financial services experience and an 11 year veteran of Morgan Stanley where he is currently CFO for the Morgan Stanley Bank, N.A. Greg began his career with Ernst & Young in Chicago after graduating with University Honors from Illinois State University. He began playing rugby as an undergrad at Illinois State, and went on to play for nearly 15 years. Given the powerful impact that the culture and values of rugby have had on his life, Greg is a passionate supporter of Play Rugby and their mission of developing youth through rugby.
Scott Adams, Vice Chairman
A graduate of Brown University with a degree in Economics, Scott Adams was an All-Ivy flanker on Brown’s 1990 New England Championship team. Scott also played for the Randwick Rugby Club, where he was a member of the Grade V Grand Final championship team while studying at the University of New South Wales. For 22 years, Scott was an independent options trader on the floors of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Coffee Sugar Cocoa Exchange, first as an employee of the Hanley Group and then as a Principal, employing a team of traders at KG Capital. In his capacity as an independent marker – making trader, he also served on numerous oversight committees including the Floor Conduct and Settlement Committees. The commodities trading floor is the closet work experience to being in a scrum. Scott became acquainted with Play Rugby when his two sons, William and John, joined Play Rugby’s Manhattan Rugby Football Club team in 2010. Scott credits his experience on the Brown rugby team as the key to opening the door to new experiences for him, and comes to the Board with furthering the mission of Play Rugby to provide similar horizon – expanding experiences for youth through rugby.
Peter O’Brien, Treasurer
Peter is Director of Institutional Accounts and Director of Business Development for Addepar. Addepar is a Silicon Valley based investment management technology company empowering investors particularly Single Family and Multi Family Offices to navigate the increasingly complex world of finance. Addepar brings a new level of integrity, transparency, and impact to investment management by giving families a complete, accurate, and investor-centric picture across every portfolio.
Prior to Addepar, Peter worked at Citi’s Investment Banking Group advising businesses on strategic and financial analyses relating to the execution of mergers and acquisitions, raising capital, leveraged buyouts, initial public offerings and debt and equity financing.
Peter is on the Board of Cordaid’s US Leaders Council . Cordaid is one of the biggest international development organizations, with a network of over a thousand partner organizations in 36 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Cordaid is focused on some of the most complex issues facing the poorest families across the globe dealing with such issues as structural health, relief organizations, microcredit and children in slums.
Peter earned his Master of Science from the University College Dublin Michael Smurfit School of Business in 2006 and his Bachelor of Business Honors degree from Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland) in 2005. Peter completed a course in Business Analysis and Valuation from Harvard University in 2010. He is FINRA registered and holds Series 63 and Series 79 licenses.
Peter has represented his home country Ireland in two Rugby World Cups at U19 and U21 level. As well as representing Munster at schools, U20, U21 & A level. Peter won a National Championship with NYAC in 2010
Andrew Britt, Secretary
Andrew has been involved with rugby for over 30 years as a players, referee and in a business capacity. In his most recent position with Clear Channel Radio in New Zealand, Andrew was both an official broadcast partner and sponsor of the ITM Cup and Super 15 rugby competitions, the All Blacks and 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament. Prior to this Andrew was the founder and CEO of a company that helped major brands including Coca-Cola, Heineken, Guinness and Vodafone leverage their sponsorship of rugby across national and international teams and the Rugby World Cup. Currently he is a Division 1 Referee in the North Eastern Region of USA Rugby and has played over one hundred Division 1 men’s matches in his home province of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Rev. William John (B.J.) Weber has lived and served in New York City since 1979. Upon first coming to Manhattan, B.J. started a street ministry, where for five years he served in rescue and recovery efforts with addicts, prostitutes, teenage runaways and the homeless, while co-pastoring a mission church in Times Square. In 1984, B.J. founded the New York Fellowship, an interdenominational ministry, which provides spiritual direction, counseling and pastoral care to leaders in the business and professional communities of the New York City area. For more than a dozen years, B.J. served as Chaplain for the World Series Champion New York Yankees. He is the co-founder of more than 25 inner-city ministries, including the East Harlem Little League, Youth Impact, Pregnancy Help, Brooklyn Little League, and Kids to Camp Program. He also was co-founder of the Amistad Mission Clinic and Orphanage in Bolivia, and has been the catalyst for launching other endeavors that reflect Christ’s love for those in need. B.J. Weber is an ordained minister, received a Masters of Divinity from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated with a B.S. in psychology at Iowa State University. During seminary, he lived for six years as a non- vowed monk, attached to the New Melleray Trappist Monastery in Iowa, where upon a casual visit to buy their homemade bread, he first came to faith in Christ. He worked and lived for those seminary years in relationship with their sister Trappistine convent, Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, whose chaplain, as well as the abbess, provided spiritual direction and mentoring during B.J.’s early years in faith. Since 1980, B.J. has been married to his wife, Sheila, a journalist and public relations consultant, who has also been vitally instrumental in the founding and managing of the New York Fellowship. They run a hospitality house in midtown Manhattan, which serves visitors from all over the world and hosts ongoing dinners and outreach events. They have a grown son and married daughter.
B.J. Weber has been honored with the following awards:
The Herbert E. Manning, Jr. Distinctive Service Award, 2010, from University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
Athletes and Business For Kids Award, for exceptional leadership to rally men to action in an anti-pornography campaign
Bread Winners Foundation Award, for B.J.’s efforts to spearhead financial assistance to widows and their children who were unexpectedly and tragically left financially devasted upon the untimely loss of a husband/father.
Triple Crown Sports Chaplain: In one year alone, was the chaplain for Super Bowl XX, NCAA National Football Championships, the National Baseball League All Star Game. Later, B.J. served for more than a decade as the chaplain to the NY Yankees during their most World Series winning years. Also, as chaplain for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the third largest international sporting event in the world.
Charles P. Stetson, Jr. Leadership Award from the King’s College, NYC.
The Bowery Mission Leadership Award for helping to launch the Avenue D Men’s Transitional Center, the first faith-based government funded homeless men’s shelter in the nation.
Isaiah 40:31 Statue and Citation from West Point cadets and officers at the NCS Annual Retreat 2008
Founding advisory board member of the Dove Award, given to films for excellence in family values
Colin Adams is a Managing Director in Morgan Stanley’s Distressed and Special Situations Group in New York. Before joining Morgan Stanley, Colin was a Managing Director with Citadel Securities, where he acted as a financial advisor to companies and groups of creditors in both in and out of court restructurings. Prior to that, Colin was a Partner in the Restructuring Group of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Colin holds a J.D. with a Certificate in Business Law from the University of California Los Angeles, and an A.B. in History and Economics from Duke University. Colin played rugby for the Duke University Rugby Football Club, the UCLA Rugby Football Club and the Santa Monica Dolphins. Colin presently resides in Manhassett, NY with his wife Sarah and their four children Sofia, Pierce, Oliver, and Henry.
Emily is currently the president of Edgework Consulting, a small consulting group focused on developing great teams. Having worked in entrepreneurial and growing organizations for more than 20 years, Emily’s talents lie in leveraging the diverse skills and expertise of team members toward deeper impact, greater productivity and authentic growth. From 2004-2012, Emily led an urban sports-based youth development organization in Boston, MA, first as managing director and then as president & CEO. Emily’s prior professional experience includes working at a web-based start-up company in a variety of roles ranging from product development to sales and account management. In her early career, Emily worked at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art, and was also a college career counselor and lacrosse coach.
Emily earned an undergraduate degree in American Studies at Hamilton College, where she was a four-year varsity soccer and lacrosse player and team captain of both sports, earning All-American honors in lacrosse. She received a Master of Education degree from The University of Vermont, and is also a graduate of the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, as well as the Advanced Executive Program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Emily has lived in the Boston area for most of her life, is a tried and true New England sports fan, and looks forward to adding “rugby fan” to her list of favorite experiences.
Jack is a vice president in the Alternative Investments & Manager Selection (AIMS) Group for Goldman Sachs Asset Management, based in New York, where he is a member of the hedge fund investment team. Previously, he worked in the Advisory team in HSBC’s Alternative FundInvest Group in Geneva, Switzerland.
Jack received an MA in Social and Political Sciences from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University. He is a CFA charterholder.
Jack represented Cambridge University at Rugby and also enjoyed playing for teams in Canada (Vancouver Rowing Club), London (Rosslyn Park RUFC) and Switzerland (Hermance RRC).
Jonah is a financial services executive with 19 years of global equities experience. He started his career at Merrill Lynch in 1996, eventually managing high touch sales trading teams and key institutional client relationships with hedge funds, mutual funds and money managers. After the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch merger in 2009, Jonah managed New York and then Americas cash product sales trading for the combined firm. In 2012, he joined UBS first as Americas Head of Cash Equities Distribution, and ultimately as Americas Head of Client Trading and Execution, a cross-division execution and sales team servicing institutional trading desks. Having left UBS in 2015, he has joined the Play Rugby USA board of directors and enjoying spending time with his family. Jonah played rugby at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a three-time Collegiate National Champion and varsity letterman. Jonah was co-Captain at Cal in 1995, an All Pacific Coast and All American selection in 1994 and 1995, captaining both teams in competition in 1995. Jonah graduated from Berkeley with a BA double majoring in Economics and Geography. Jonah is a former board member at Student Sponsor Partners, and an active supporter of several local and national non-profit organizations.
Gareth is an entrepreneur and business leader who has worked in emerging and high-growth FinTech for the last fifteen years. He has helped build and sell two category-leading companies and co-founded another. In the mid 1990’s Gareth spent 3 years ‘double handing’ a 36ft sailing boat 33,000 nautical miles from the UK to the Antarctic circle. Gareth was introduced to PlayRugby USA by John Simpson and through his support at Serverside for PS 208 in the NYC Cup in 2012 and 2013. Gareth attended the University of the West of England and Columbia Business School and as a Welshman grew up playing rugby at London Welsh.
Michael Harrison is an accomplished professional with over fourteen years of diverse experience in design, development and oversight of real estate projects. Michael is currently managing the design, construction and day-to-day operations of an ultra luxurious residential development in West Chelsea. Michael’s career began after high school when he enlisted in the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. Following his Naval Service, Michael accepted a position in Grand Rapids, Michigan, designing large-scale material handling systems for the USPS and Royal Mail. To achieve his goal of being the first person in his family to receive a college degree, Michael left Michigan to pursue his engineering degree. Following graduation, Michael moved to New York City to begin a career in real estate development on the design consulting side before moving to the construction management of large-scale projects for financial institutions and private equity clients. After earning his MBA, Michael accepted a management position with his current real estate development firm, SkyBox/Chelsea, LLC. Michael, growing up playing American Football, discovered rugby later in life, while living in Europe and was immediately drawn to the sport. Through one of his closest friends and teammates, Michael was introduced to Bill Middleton, Leo Purtill and the Play Rugby USA organization. As Michael and Leo met throughout the year, Michael realized he could add value to the amazing program through his skills and experience. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with a minor in Biomedical Engineering, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA and an International MBA from IE Business School located in Madrid, Spain.
Vito Sperduto is a Managing Director and Head of the U.S. Mergers and Acquisitions Group at RBC Capital Markets. He is responsible for generating new business and supporting the overall M&A effort across various industry sectors. Vito’s deal experience spans a wide range of transactions, including go-private, negotiated, auction processes, hostile, defense, LBOs, minority squeeze-outs, and mergers of equals. Vito has over 24 years of investment banking experience and, for the past 20 years, has been exclusively focused on the M&A product. He has previously worked for CIBC World Markets, SoundView Technology Group, Smith Barney and Kidder, Peabody. Vito earned his B.A. from Harvard University in Computer Science / Engineering Sciences. While at Harvard, Vito was a member and President of the Harvard Rugby Football Club; and he has been actively involved with the HRFC alumni network, including fundraising, strategic planning and as a member of the HRFC Alumni Board.
Dr. Gregory S. DiFelice
Dr. Gregory S. DiFelice is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon specializing in Sports Traumatology and Joint Reconstruction Surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He also holds an appointment at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University as an Assistant Professor. Regional interests include the knee, shoulder and hip. He has particular interests in ligament reconstruction of the knee with extensive experience in multi-ligament reconstructions, cartilage and meniscal repair of the knee, arthroscopic shoulder surgery including labral and rotator cuff repairs, and arthroplasty of the knee, shoulder and hip. He frequently lectures on these interests both domestically and internationally.
Dr. DiFelice was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton University while simultaneously earning 3 Varsity letters playing football. He then continued on to New Jersey Medical School, where he graduated as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He did his residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. He then completed a fellowship in Sports Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis in 2000. While there, he worked as an assistant to the team physicians for the St. Louis Rams, the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Since finishing his training, Dr. DiFelice has been the creator and Director for the division of Sports Medicine and Joint Reconstruction Surgery for the North Bronx Healthcare Network, as well as an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Prior to his recent return to the Hospital for Special Surgery, he worked in conjunction with the Ranawat Orthopaedic Center at Lenox Hill Hospital since 2005.
Among his many accolades, Dr. DiFelice is also a member of numerous state and national medical societies. His athletic accomplishments are also numerous and range from Division I collegiate football to the US Rugby Super League and international Rugby competitions. As such, patients of his can take comfort in knowing that they are not only being treated by an esteemed physician, but a fellow athlete as well.
Marc S. Kowalsky, MD
Dr. Kowalsky is a member of the Lenox Hill Hospital Orthopaedic Surgery faculty practice. He completed residency training at Columbia University Medical Center / New York Orthopaedic Hospital. He then completed two subspecialty fellowships, first in sports medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital / Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, followed by advanced training in shoulder and elbow surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.
Dr. Kowalsky has experience in the care of athletes at every level of competition, including students of Columbia University, City College of New York, Hunter College, and Hofstra University. He has also served as assistant team physician for the New York Jets and the New York Islanders Hockey Club. He currently serves as team physician for the White Plains Rugby Football Club and the New York Knights Rugby League Football Club.
As a student at Dartmouth College, Dr. Kowalsky was a member of the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club first XV, which won the Ivy League, New England Rugby Football Union and Northeast Rugby Union Championships, and was one of sixteen teams to compete in the National Collegiate Rugby Football Championship.
Toby Butterfield is a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz in the firm’s Litigation and Intellectual Property Groups. Mr. Butterfield has 20 years of experience litigating and counseling on copyright, trademark, defamation, digital media, and commercial matters. He has been listed as a New York area “Super Lawyer” for Intellectual Property Litigation by Super Lawyers magazine since 2007. Mr. Butterfield’s clients include media and entertainment companies, and designers and manufacturers of luxury goods. Mr. Butterfield writes and speaks frequently for bar associations and industry organizations. He teaches a regular class on Media & Entertainment Law at Cardozo Law School, and has been co-chair of CMJ’s Entertainment Business Law Seminar and a regular presenter there since 2011. He is admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.