Donor Spotlight: Meet Paul Sheehy

What is your rugby background?

I played four years of rugby at Fairfield University, eight years with Washington Rugby club and one season with Manley rugby club in Sydney, Australia. I had to stop in 1993 to pay for those years of chasing my passion and start a family. I started coaching in 2006 at Gonzaga High School and summer 7s with the youth Md Exiles.

When and how were you introduced to the sport?

I started playing rugby my freshman year at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Fairfield had a dedicated regulation rugby pitch, which was unheard of in 1982. We had a lot of talent, but no real coaching. I then joined the Washington Rugby Club in 1985, a phenomenal club loaded with talent. We won three East Coast Championships, finished second in the nation in 1991 after a heartbreaking loss to OMBAC in San Diego 12-9, and won eight straight Potomac Union Championships.

Why do you continue to love the sport?

Well, I met my wife in San Francisco at a rugby match, and interviewed for my first job prior to rugby practice. All four of my kids play. Rugby has been pretty good to me. Someone once asked "Does rugby attract the type of people I want to be around or do the rigors of the game develop people into those types?"

I think it is a combination of both. I also think the sport is positioned very well in the US.

What rugby event or memory has been the most influential/monumental to you?

I would say the current state of USA Rugby has me really excited about the future. The All Blacks game at Soldiers Field was a game changer. Then there is the annual Collegiate Rugby Championship Series 7s in Philly and the Las Vegas Invitational. It is amazing these all are taking place in the US.

The energy and excitement created around those events feels like an event overseas. It's a great atmosphere. I was in the crowd at the LVIs and a couple South Africans sitting behind me asked, "when did you guys get so good at 7s?!"

I think the US is getting the recognition it deserves.

Why do you give back?

Rugby is the gift that keeps giving. It has enriched my life in so many ways, the competition, the friendships, the love and the heartbreak. I could not imagine a life without it. I am just thrilled that someone took a chance on me back in 1982 at Fairfield University, because it changed the trajectory of my life.

Why is rugby in the US important and how can we support and help grow the sport in the future?

Americans love to do two things in sports -- run with a ball and tackle. No sport gives every player an opportunity to do that like rugby. It is also very social, which is important to the human condition. Many kids say that to me all the time, "I love rugby but also want to play sport X." I tell them don't choose now play both, because I always know the sport of Rugby will draw them in in the end. They all like other sports, but love rugby! It is an easy game to sell.