Bob Hoder was a visionary and fierce advocate for the promotion of rugby in the United States. His grassroots approach helped shape what the game has become today at the youth, collegiate, club, and professional levels.
Hoder, a Rhode Island native, attended the University of Rhode Island (1958-1962) where he was a walk-on freshman for the football team. His tenacity on the football field earned him election to senior captain and ultimately the URI Athletic Hall of Fame. Following his collegiate football career, Bob discovered rugby and began his career with Old Blue Rugby Football Club in New York City. He would carry on to co-found the Providence Rugby Club and play for the club for over 15 years. Hoder was a force on the pitch at the hooker and flanker positions and helped lead Providence to championships at the Saranac Lake and New England Rugby Tournaments.
Bob’s passion for rugby was not for fame, but rather for enacting a vision of advancing the sport across New England, the United States, and beyond. He turned his passion for rugby into a business by founding Rugby Imports in 1971. After noticing a lack in the availability of rugby kits in America, he began importing Halbro rugby jerseys into the United States and that started the ball rolling. Rugby Imports would grow to become a powerhouse rugby supplier and a leader in coaching education and resources. Bob used his business as a platform to give back to the game that he loved so dearly.
“He truly believed that if Rugby was going to become a popular sport in this country, that you needed to start the kids out playing and the more people that were exposed to the sport would make it grow. He did not care about select side and being recognized by his peers in the rugby community, he believed in growing the game by starting, nurturing, and expanding at the grassroots level. Bob Hoder loved the game of Rugby Football and gave back to the game every single day,” said former teammate and friend, Pete Thorpe.
Bob served as a coach for Barrington High School, Providence Rugby Club, and the University of Rhode Island and also refereed at various levels throughout New England.
Not only did Hoder and Rugby Imports lay the groundwork for rugby apparel and product in America, but more importantly sponsored USA Rugby’s first Coach Education Program. Because of Hoder’s advocacy, hundreds of coaches were educated and certified across the United States.
“Few have given greater service to the game than the late Bob Hoder of Rugby Imports. His commitment to our sport was immense, his generosity unbounded and his energy unparalleled,” said former USA Rugby National Technical Director, George Hook.