By WRCRA Staff
For our second installment of Women's Rugby Through the Generations, we're excited to feature Amy Rusert and her son Joe, and Mary Money and her son Matthew. We sat down with all of them to learn more about their rugby experience and shared love of this game.
We intend for this to be a regular series, featuring mothers and sons as well as fathers and daughters with the goal of showcasing how women's rugby spans generations. WRCRA members, if you would like to share your own stories, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not a member? Learn more here.
Amy Rusert and Joe Rusert-Cuddy
Name: Amy Rusert
Where do you live? Colorado Springs, CO
Occupation: Integrated marketing contractor and NIRA Commissioner
Rugby History: I found rugby immediately after college. I had been a DI field hockey athlete and was doing an internship in Minneapolis where I was playing in-line hockey against a team full of women who played for the Amazons. They approached me after a game and said, have you ever thought about playing rugby? To which I said no, but I told them I would think about it and I did. My uncle had played for Lincoln Park and my aunt had been one of the founding members of the Chicago Women. I had a fantastic coach in Roger Bruggemeyer with the Amazons and enjoyed the opportunity to play in the old Territorial Union select side system with the Midwest and the West.
I moved to Colorado Springs in the late 1990’s to serve as USA Rugby's first collegiate programs staffer(many thanks to Anne Barry). That position led me to launch women’s rugby into the NCAA Emerging Sports space. At the time, I was commuting to Denver to play with the Olde Girls but soon built a team in the Springs with co-founder Lisa Rosen. After hanging up my cleats, I've served in a host of coaching and admin capacities; GU vice president and president, regional collegiate commissioner, coach for Colorado College men's and women's rugby. Currently, I'm the coach/director for the Colorado Springs Junior Tigers, coach for Palmer HS Boys and Girls Rugby and coach for the Air Force Academy Women's Rugby. I am also Commissioner of NIRA (National Intercollegiate Rugby Association) serving current and emerging NCAA programs.
When did your son start playing? Officially, Joe began playing rugby on his 13th birthday. Unofficially, he was a part of every team on which I played. On his 13th birthday, Joe had a backyard sleepover and invited both his lacrosse and football teams. We took the boys to a neighboring school field and said you guys can play anything but football or lacrosse. We had a bunch of random sports equipment with us, the kids grabbed the rugby ball and the rest is history. A couple of hours later the boys were asking if they could start a team, so in 2012 we started our first youth rugby program. After wildly successful seasons in 2012 and 2013, Joe and his buddies petitioned their high school to launch the first school and district sponsored rugby program in Colorado Springs. In 2014, they joined forces with a rival team, Monarch HS, to create a new RCT program called 5785. Joe and his team would go on to win a state title in one division and be a perennial top four team in the premier division.
What's it like to watch him play? During all the years I was one of his rugby coaches, I didn't get to be a spectator in the same way I was for his lacrosse, football or other sports but I relished every minute I had on the sidelines at trainings, during his games or more recently in the stands. It has been special watching him grow within the game and in his leadership. Joe has a work ethic and a work rate you simply can't teach and it's that combo as well as the commitment he has to being a student of the game that is a joy to watch. I think it’s also afforded him opportunities to play internationally through HSAA and age grade 15s, as well as high performance 7s. I've gotten to be a ‘spectator-mom’ at those events and now I attend his college games. Every minute I get to watch him play is a blessing. I've gotten to coach so many amazing kids, but Joe is my best success story.
Name: Joe Rusert-Cuddy, age 21, Junior at CSU
Where do you live?: I am originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Currently, I reside in Fort Collins, Colorado at CSU
I was a two-time High School All-American, played for the U19 MJAA in 2017, twice played EIRA 7s, and finally traveled to Dubai for the U19 7s invitational with the North American Barbarians. At Colorado State University, I was a three-year starter and two-time captain, as well as attended the 2019 Collegiate All-American Camp.
What’s it like knowing your mom was a rugby goddess? I think my mom would kill me if I ever referred to her as a rugby goddess! But in all seriousness, I couldn't be more proud of her. My mom has given selflessly to the game of rugby for quite a while and her impact can be seen everywhere. Aside from being one of the top coaches in the country (and that's from U8 co-ed touch to winning national championships at the United States Air Force Academy), she’s also served as the commissioner of the trailblazing NIRA movement. She's even more inspiring when she does not have a whistle in her hand. My mom is so well versed in so many things, and every day I admire her wit and intelligence. She is not only a gift to the rugby world with her unmatched vigor and know how, but a gift as a mother too.
Mary Money and Matthew Leonard
Name: Mary Money
Where do you live? Fairfield, CT
Occupation: Food Scientist/Chemical Engineer, Director of R&D for Newman’s Own
Rugby History: I was the Founder of Tufts University Women’s Rugby in 1977. After graduating, I went on to play for Beantown from 1980 to 1987. I consider Beantown my “home team.” From 1987 to 1990, I coached and captained the Atlanta Harlequins. Finally, I have played for the Olde Girls from 1996 to the present. In my time playing, I was part of several select-sides, including New England, Eastern Ruby Union, Southeast and Wivern. I also played on the very first U.S. national team, during a time when we were not allowed to use the name “Eagles.” I was part of the Eagles until the World-Cup of 1991 as I was pregnant with Matthew and decided to retire form international competition.
When did your son start playing?
Matthew has been attending rugby games since infancy. His very first trip at just three weeks old (fresh out of intensive care, against doctor’s advice), was to travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the 1991 National Rugby Championships. Over the years, my husband and I never missed a Saranac Can-Am tournament, so Matthew was enrolled in the half time kid’s touch rugby game in “The Bowl” beginning at the age of four. What’s it like to watch him play?
Seeing Mathew play is one of the very greatest joys of my life! As Matthew’s mom, I am always proud of him and his very many talents and accomplishments. But, watching him play rugby is certainly pure magical excitement. As a scrum half and fly half, he is able to combine his athletic and intellectual prowess with innate intuitive power and leadership to command the back line. It is so very heartwarming to know that my son’s path has been enhanced and supported in so many ways by our rugby family, and that he now has the chance to build solid friendships and connections through his own rugby community.
Name: Matthew Leonard
Where do you live? Fairfield, CT - less than a mile down the road from my mom! School: Brown University
Occupation: Sales at SHI International
Rugby history: I grew up playing touch at the Saranac Can-Am tournament with my parents. From there, I played four years at Fairfield Prep High School, including captaining the team; four years at Brown University, captaining the team and earning “All Ivy” honors; five and half years (and counting!) with Fairfield Yankees Rugby, formerly serving as team captain and currently serving as club president. I played in the D3 National Champions in 2016.
Position: Scrumhalf and Flyhalf What's it like knowing your mom was a rugby goddess?
Growing up around my mom and the rest of the women's rugby legends that she played with was a privilege. Throughout my life, I have been lucky to travel with my parents to numerous rugby events from a young age, watching them play and getting to know the amazing rugby communities that they are a part of (read: The Old Girls!!). We still take two annual rugby trips every year, and there are many ruggers in that circle that I now consider part of our family. Kevin O'Brien, who coached my mom and her teammates on the Eagles in the 90's even officiated my wedding!
My mom is an inspiration to me. She is the model from which I built my opinion of a great person and a great rugger. She is tenacious in reaching her goals, on and off the pitch, she is skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate about the game, and most importantly she has a familial bond with each of her teammates that is unmatched. My current teammates and friends look at her with reverence whenever I bring up her storied rugby accomplishments. When we were on our National Championship run, a big part of our tradition before games was passing around my mom's Eagles cap before each match.
Being an amazing rugby goddess is only one small part of why I admire my mom so much, but I think that that aspect of her is a great encapsulation of how amazing she is in other aspects of her life. She lives with a passion and a vitality that I have rarely seen anywhere else. She is resilient and faces hardship with grace. And she builds strong, loving relationships with everyone around her, touching so many lives with her loving way. When I think of the virtues of the rugby legends that I have known or heard of, she checks every box. I myself strive to shape my rugby career and attributes in her image!