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New Boardmember Focuses on Youth

Friday Sep 25, 2009 in Off the Field USA Rugby

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There’s no set criterion for measuring success in the financial world. You might think there should be, but so often a company’s stock value rises and falls not so much on profitability than on expectations.

Make money, but below what analysts expect, and your stock goes down. Lose money, but less than people feared, and your stock goes up.

In the world of USA Rugby, some might say those running the game have used the law of lowered expectations to their benefit. But USA Rugby’s newest boardmember, Peter Seccia, understands the financial world, where expectations are everything, and the rugby world, where expectations are a rare commodity indeed.

Seccia was a standout rugby (center and wing) and football player at Xavier High School in New York City, helping them to a national championship in 1985. He went on to play with New York Athletic Club as well as clubs in Japan, Hong Kong and England as he worked all over the world.

Currently a partner at Goldman Sachs (a company that has endured some criticism because, horror of horrors, it is actually profitable), he is also bent on helping the game he still loves.

“I definitely think of myself as a rugby guy trying to get involved in the organization,” Seccia told ERugbyNews/RugbyMag.com. “Certainly my time overseas helped me stay involved in the game.”

Seccia spent four years in Asia and 13 in London. His wife is British and they have two young children, the oldest of which is already playing rugby when he can. He was a player, coach, youth coach, and youth administrator, a
nd is on the board of Play Rugby USA, a NY-based non profit focused on developing youth through Rugby. And it’s on the youth side of the game where Seccia wants to make his mark.

“I don’t think I would have joined the Board if I was supposed to focus on 7s, for example,” he said. “It’s not my game. What I’m really about is high school and college rugby. You look at the membership numbers and you wonder, if the membership grows 10 percent is USA Rugby doing anything to drive that, or is that 10 percent just happening on its own?”

Seccia said the game is growing at the youth level, and that is really the only place to grow it effectively.

“Quality youth teams are how to grow the game,” Seccia said. “When I look at Xavier, in 1982 it was a club sport, in 1983 it went varsity, and by 1985 we’d won a national championship. It can happen pretty quickly, and you want to talk about parents feeling really good about the sport …”

And that’s where the business side comes in. What Seccia wants to do is find parents, fans and Americans overseas who want to provide some measure of support.

“I think my connections in finance will probably be something I can call upon to either help credentialize USA Rugby or to find support for the High School All Americans or Collegiate All Americans. There are sponsors out there who might not write checks for USA Rugby, but would support a specific tour. I’d look at getting money from foundations and endowments and benefactors on a more targeted effort.”

Seccia said when he received his nomination to the USA Rugby Board, very few people he knew in the USA notices, but many internationally did. He thinks that there are people overseas – Americans and not – who aren’t interested in giving money to a national sporting body, and aren’t even necessarily interested in seeing the Eagles cross the Atlantic and beat Scotland, “but everybody’s a player, right? They respond to other players. They might remember the USA when they toured in high school or college, and perhaps want to help kids have that same sort of experience.”

So Seccia is looking at what he can do from two sides. He’s a former player, and a former coach, and a soon-to-be involved rugby parent. He wants to see rugby for young people improve and be supported. And he’s a businessman, one who knows a thing or two about how people with money want to see their money put to use.

“There are some pretty interesting ideas going around,” said Seccia. “Going forward, someone’s going to need to get a head around that budget. But I think there is an opportunity to raise money, and get the right people with the right intentions involved.”

- Alex Goff

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