2021-22 Kevin Higgins College Scholarship Recipient: Philip Tracey
Growing up in a rugby family, Philip Tracey spent most of his early years around the pitch and at other rugby related events. Once he began playing, he had a host of mentors ready to help him develop his skills and understanding of the game. What he didn’t realize at the time was that he would also be developing a new outlook on life. “I’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities become available through hard work and dedication. I have been blessed to travel all over the States and even to other countries to play on high level select teams. This has given me the ability to see rugby as more than just a game, to me it’s a way of life. Throughout these experiences, I have made friendships with people from all walks of life, and it has given me a new perspective on the amazing gift I have been given to be able to play this game,” said Tracey.
Tracey played for several clubs in the Dayton, Ohio region, including the Dayton Area Rugby Club, Northern Force High School Rugby Club, and the Dayton High School Rugby Club Fall 7s. With Northern Force, Phil helped his team win the Rugby Ohio President’s Cup Championship in 2019 and earned MVP honors in 2018, 2019, and 2021. In that same season, he was the Rugby Ohio leading scorer. He also helped the Dayton High School Rugby Club Fall 7s team win the Rugby Ohio 7s State Championship title in 2019. Most notability, Phil was involved in the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy from 2017 to 2021. He appeared at three winter camps, was an Ireland and Canada tour invitee on numerous occasions, and competed in regional cup tournaments in Denver, Colorado and St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to his skills on the field, Tracey is referee L1-C3 certified and has received his level 1 coaching certificate. “I have known Phil for 8 years through our local Dayton rugby program. He has consistently impressed me during this time for his awesome athletic ability, his tireless pursuit of rugby skills and experience, but mostly for his excellent character, tenacity, and dedication evident in all his activities. Finally, as a coach I see Phil’s proactive attitude towards achieving his rugby goals and unhesitating in asking for help, assistance, or clarification,” said Tom Fitzgerald, Dayton Area Rugby Club Men’s Head Coach. He graduated from Northmont High School in the spring of 2021.
While at Northmont, he competed in football and wrestling. On the wrestling mat, he earned his varsity letter in 2019 and was a sectional and district qualifier for three consecutive seasons. In the 2021 season, he was a state qualifier. His excellence in the classroom and in athletics earned him scholar athlete honors from 2018 to 2021. He was an avid volunteer in his community, lending his time at the annual Dayton Vectren Air Show, serving as a facilities improvement volunteer for the Dayton Rugby grounds and coaching the Northern Force Middle School Rugby Club. “Phil did more than help his teammates though, he was involved helping younger players in the Dayton area and always took the time to mentor the young Dayton players following in his footsteps with EIRA Midwest. His ability to be a role model to the younger players who looked up to him was a burden many teenagers refuse, but Phil relished it, and it unquestionably helped our program find and develop players who wanted to follow in Phil’s footsteps by playing on EIRA Midwest teams in domestic championships and on EIRA national teams in Ireland. The effect he had on those players will also help our program after he is gone, which is the kind of impact coaches usually only see from guys who are equally great players and people,” said Eddie Abel, Midwest Thunderbirds Head Coach.
Tracey will play collegiate rugby at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. He will major in secondary education and plans to teach and coach. “I have always felt that if you have the ability to help others you should. Whether that be through rugby as a coach and teacher or as a professional rugby player for part of my post college career, I plan on becoming a mentor and role model for generations to come,” said Tracey. If given the opportunity, he would love to pursue a long-term career in professional rugby. For the time being, he is committed to earning a starting spot at Lindenwood and helping his team win a national championship.