Little did Tom Selfridge know that a trip to the hardware store to buy paint in the summer of 1969 would alter the rest of his life. It was there that Tom met George Stephenson, who was a member of the Cleveland Blues Rugby Club. Tom accepted George’s offer to come try out for the Blues, and over the course of the next 35 years, Tom became an integral part of rugby in America.
Tom was always athletic. He was a three-sport star at the Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio, excelling in football, basketball and track and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. He graduated in 1968 from the University of Cincinnati where he also played fullback for the Bearcats football team.
Tom moved between wing and center on the very strong Cleveland Blues team of the late 1960s and early 70s, winning 95% of all their games. In 1971, Tom was elected president of the Blues, his first in a long line of administrative positions.
In 1973 Tom moved to Schenectady, New York, and played for the Schenectady Reds. With higher levels of competition from the Upstate New York, New England and Met New York Clubs, Tom’s game continued to improve. The Reds moved him to the #8 position and named him captain of a side that could compete with the best in the Northeast. Under Tom, the Reds went on a 24-game winning streak, capturing several tournament titles along the way.
With the formation of the Eastern Rugby Union in 1975, Tom not only soon found his way into the Colonials side but he was also elected to the ERU Board of Directors, helping organize the rapidly growing sport of rugby in Upstate New York. In 1980, he was elected president of the ERU and would oversee a continued growth of rugby in the East, with budgets going from under $20,000 for each of the 12 sub-unions of the ERU to over $200,000 annually. While president of the ERU, and amid much controversy, Tom also oversaw and organized the South Africa Springboks matches against the ERU and United States in 1981.
The United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) was also formed in 1975 and along with it, the National Rugby Team, known as the Eagles, was also created. The following year, the first Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITT) was held, matching the best players from the four USARFU territories to compete for selections to the Eagles.
After a week of evaluations, the first USA team of the modern era was named and Tom was not only on the list but was named as the starting #8 against Australia. Tom was one of only three ERU players, the others being Rob Bordley and Gary Brackett, to break into the side dominated by the exceptional players from the Pacific Coast.
Tom would play in a total of five test matches for the Eagles, including the first three games the Eagles ever played, against Australia, France and Canada. He also won caps against Wales XV and a second against Canada.
He captained the Albany Knicks in 1979 before Founding the Windhover RFC in 1982, where he was also captain and coach. Tom created Windhover Park in Rexford, NY, developing 110 acres with 10 full-size rugby fields that played host to a number of major U.S. rugby events, including the U.S. National Club Championships, the ITTs, and ERU and Upstate Rugby Union Tournaments.
Tom was part of several U.S. Eagles, U.S. Cougars and ERU touring sides. When his distinguished and long playing career came to an end, his last match playing for the Albany Knicks vs Boston in an Over 40s match, he had played in 732 matches in 19 states and 10 countries.