Joe Kelly has spent a lifetime playing, supporting, promoting and educating rugby and its players in Texas at all levels and in all capacities.
Joe’s rugby career started in 10th grade, at St. John’s College High School in Washington DC., where he eventually captained the squad. He was the youngest, and smallest, kid to make the Washington DC High School Select Side. During his senior year, he played for Montgomery Rugby of Montgomery County, Maryland. Upon graduation, he continued with Montgomery and coached his former high school. Upon moving to Texas in 1980, Joe played in Ft. Worth with all of the former 7s championship greats from the 70’s.
In 1982, along with Eddie Farmer, Joe founded the UTA Maverick Rugby Club, where he spent all of his remaining player years, including select side representation. Throughout his tenure and amidst the changes of the Mavericks in Texas Rugby, Joe has held every possible role a club member could fill. From founder to player, to captain to coach, from manager to president and finally a Maverick Hall of Fame inductee.
During his long Maverick tenure, Joe has represented the Northern Counties Select Side, the Texas Select Side, the Texas 7s Selects, USA Western 7s Select Side, for many years as player, captain and even coach. He’s most proud of playing on the Western 7s Side for 10 years straight, an effort unmatched by anyone.
Joe continued his coaching and administrative career with the Dallas Rugby Club, with the invitation from Doug Neubauer, Jeff Kolberg and Chris Chefchis. With the Reds, Joe coached various levels of men’s and women’s sides. Here, he held the position of vice president for 3 years as well as pulling duties in most other administrative and managerial roles, including Youth Development Director. Upon the resurgence of the great regional men’s select program, with the support of the Reds, Joe jumped in as Director of the Northern Counties Selects, organizing the coaching, the trials and selection processes.
Joe is most proud of his efforts with youth rugby in Texas. His first foray into the youth arena started with the Maverick High School squad which provided opportunities to young men throughout the mid-cities, Northwest Dallas and far Southern DFW cities. The Mavericks would partner with Allen HS to double their matches and ensure full sides for every young man who wanted to play. His passion for leading and coaching motivated young men to higher levels lead Joe to volunteer for the Rugby Texas High Performance, the program that finds the best young rugby players in Texas and provides them with the opportunity to represent their state at a national level. As with all things rugby related, Joe was involved in giving to HP in every way he could. As manager, coordinator, coach he and his cohorts found great joy in providing the chance for high school men to fulfill their dreams and play at the highest ability they could. His accomplishments with HP include player management, and sometimes more importantly parental management, along with travel and expense coordination and coaching. He created and populated the first High Performance web site and software to manage the organization. HP improved their national ranking each successive year Joe was involved.
Leading players up to HP, Joe organized and led various training camps in North Texas, inviting experienced and new coaches to assist, learn, and help each other teach young men. These camps identified potential candidates for HP and raised the rugby IQ of Texas players, which in turn was shared with their clubs.
The U20s made a brief comeback, and under Joe’s leadership, bringing North Texas area college men under another mix of local coaches. Though the other regions did not fare well, the North Texas endeavor proved fruitful as the boys played a few games versus other college clubs.
With the Reds, Joe found opportunities to coach grade school kids. He ran a camp for the YMCA, lead a daily rugby classes for Farmers Branch Rec Center’s summer camps, and participated in every possible North Texas youth camp, whether sponsored by TRU, Rugby Texas or USA, in whatever manner he could.
Cherishing the relationships he’s made with the former proteges, teammates and opponents, co-coaches and administrators throughout his lengthy career, Joe continues to step forward and offer his skills, knowledge and abilities to Texas rugby in any way they can be utilized.