| We're confident that we at Rugby Imports are the perfect match for you and your team. We have been involved in every facet of the game - playing, coaching, and developing rugby as a popular club and team sport across the USA. As we near our 38th anniversary, we thought you might like to know our history - how we came about, and why we believe in the game and in our products.
Bob Hoder - The Founder of Rugby Imports
Like many American rugby players, Bob Hoder started off playing football. He was captain of the team at the University of Rhode Island in 1961, and he went on to play professional football for the Providence Steamroller in the early 1960s. One of his teammates on the Steamroller, Tom Haggerty, introduced Bob to the sport of rugby in 1966, and Bob began to play for the Old Blue Rugby Club, in New York. In 1967, Bob married Janet Huddlestone, of Yorkshire, England. Now that he had a family tie to England, Bob began to explore the idea of developing a rugby business in America. In 1971, on a trip to England, Bob met with Bert Moores, the man behind the Halbro brand of rugby jerseys. Bob - who had been running a successful business as a manufacturers' rep - decided to import Bert's Halbro jerseys to America, and Rugby Imports was born.
Rugby Imports - The Beginnings
At first, Rugby Imports was no more than a desk and telephone in the basement of Bob and Janet's Rhode Island home. But as orders for jerseys came flooding in, the Rugby Imports inventory filled the basement. Bob needed a proper office and warehouse for his growing business. By 1975 a new location was found and in 1984, he built an 8,000-square-foot building on a half-acre of land in East Providence. The building contains a retail and manufacturing facility, a warehouse, and the Rugby Imports sales office. Rugby Imports still makes its home there today.
Meanwhile, Bob had been working to develop a rugby culture in Rhode Island. He formed the Providence Rugby Club with a few former Brown University players, and in 1978 he provided the club with its first home: a clubhouse on the 2nd floor of an old Providence fire station that Bob had purchased. It was perfectly situated - above a pizza parlor and a Mexican restaurant! Unfortunately, the clubhouse was sold in 2005 because it could not meet the new Rhode Island fire-code and safety regulations.
The First American-made Jerseys
In the early 1980s, Bob, Bert Moores, and Bert's nephew Robert Moores joined forces to create Halbro America. Bob bought three of Halbro's 100-year-old Blackburn knitting machines, and he has been using those machines ever since to knit rugby jerseys to order in his East Providence facility. (A fourth machine was added in 2004.)
Though most of the Halbro America jerseys have been knitted with traditional cotton yarn, Rugby Imports has pioneered the development of a new fiber, Dri-release, that wicks away moisture and is light, strong, and comfortable. Over the past four years, more than 500 teams have selected Dri-release for their jerseys - a revolution on the playing field.
Developing Rugby in America
As a leading proponent of rugby in America, Bob believes in developing the game at all levels. He has been involved in coaching education since 1974, supporting the New England Rugby Union and working closely with Ken Armstrong and Ron Gilligan, from Dungannon, and with George Spotswood and Maurice Crabbe, from Belfast, Ireland. Spotswood introduced Bob to George Hook, an Irish coach, and Bob and George developed a lifelong friendship as well as a vision: a national coaching program for rugby, something that had never been accomplished in the USA.
George developed the vision into a proposal, and in 1995 the USARFU accepted his plan and appointed him as the National Technical Director, with the responsibility of setting up the USARFU Coaching Accreditation Program. With financial backing from Rugby Imports, George wrote the Level I program and got Eddie O'Sullivan to prepare the programs for Levels II and III. Today, these coaching programs are recognized as the most successful programs in the history of USA Rugby.
In 2001, in a collaboration that began at the USA-South Africa match in Houston, Bob began to work with two outstanding former internationals and world-renowned educators, Barry Honan and Nigel Horton, to design a new education program. Their program is focused on coaches - teaching them how to import the fundamentals of the game. Honan created a series of unrivaled coaching CDs, videos, and DVDs, and Horton developed his state-of-the-art Predator training machines, along with videos that show how to use the Predator for scrummaging, ruck, and maul training.
In 2002, Rugby Imports hired Richard Ashfield, an IRFU Development officer, to work at training camps around the nation and to help develop collegiate rugby in New England. His Providence College women's rugby team won the USA Collegiate Division II title in May 2005.
Rugby Imports and its Tournaments
In 1983, in order to raise money to help support the Providence Rugby Club, Rugby Imports staged its first collegiate rugby tournament. The tournament - which was eventually dubbed "The Beast of the East" - has grown into the largest collegiate tournament in the nation, drawing at least 72 teams each year to its site in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Rugby Imports Today
Bob's son, Mark Hoder, who played for the Providence Rugby Club and the University of Arizona, joined Rugby Imports as Bob's business partner in 1992. Together, they have made sure that the business continues to grow, but that it will never lose sight of its ideals: support for rugby, great products, and excellent customer service.
Today, Rugby Imports employs 15 people at its East Providence headquarters, and it supplies jerseys and equipment to hundreds of teams around the nation. In recent years, Rugby Imports has greatly expanded sales through its annual catalogue and through its Web site, www.rugbyimports.com
Through the Rugby Imports team-order brochure or online through the Rugby Imports Design Your Own Jersey/Design Your Rugby Ball Program, you can now design your team's rugby jersey and design a rugby ball with your own team name and logo to help you perform and look your best. We are certain, whatever your rugby needs or abilities, that we at Rugby Imports can help you perform at your best, on and off the pitch.