Lions for Hope Sports Complex Update

Lions for Hope Sports Complex Update

We want to provide you an update as we have some exciting news to share as we continue the development of the Lions for Hope Complex. Construction on the West field has been coming along nicely despite the harsh Chicago winter and the rainy past few weeks.

We should have the field completed by the end of July and it will be named the J. Tyke Nollman Field.

We want to thank the First Fifteen, President’s XV and Captains VX  and other donors that have contributed to the Lions for Hope Sports complex that we will call home!

You can still join the team!


At the end of March, we hired Cogeo, a firm specializing in organizational management and development for capital build-outs and initiatives.

Cogeo is a trusted advisor that will guide us to build a better, more professional organization as we continue to take our project to the public.

Most importantly, they will help us develop an effective capital campaign for the remaining phases (the building and East field) and our immediate needs.

There are two short-term projects that Cogeo will help us with:

  1. As we identify potential donors, Cogeo will help us develop the strategy to approach and gauge their interest in becoming engaged with us. We need your help in building out our potential donor list.
  2. Building out our steering committee. The committee is a group of individuals expected to help drive campaign activity by connecting us with their network. Being on the steering committee is not a big time commitment. Rather, these individuals will be engaged to make connections and help fundraising efforts.

If you are interested in learning more about the steering committee or helping in any capacity, please contact us.

Tyke Nollman Inducted to Hall of fame

Tyke NollmanWe congratulate one of the great Lions, J Tyke Nollman, on his post-humous induction into the USA Rugby Hall of Fame.

Tyke would have been very honored and humbled to be recognized. He was a great leader and served as Lions President for six years in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He was the Lowry Lion recipient in 1973.

In one of his last roles, Tyke led the Chicago Lions capital campaign to acquire the land where our new facility will sit. We look forward to this summer to the opening the J Tyke Nollman Field in his honor.

Jay “Tyke” Nollman was a catalyst for the development of rugby in the United States for nearly forty years. Nollman played football for the Northwestern University Wildcats from 1962-1966, prior to beginning his long rugby career with the Chicago Lions Rugby Football Club in 1969. He changed the game of rugby in the United States by establishing the inaugural USA Rugby Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITTs) and developed rugby’s national presence through the incorporation of business sponsorships and marketing strategies. Nollman was an active administrator in the rugby world and championed many philanthropic endeavors, including youth rugby in the State of Illinois. [source]

Lions Awards Banquet 2019

Lions Awards Banquet 2019

The Lions celebrated our 55th Anniversary last Saturday night, February 23rd with over 120 players, alumni and supporters in attendance. We honored our past, celebrated our present and we look forward to our future. Tony Rio was awarded the prestigious Lowry Lion (see full recipient list).

Thank you Tony for your dedication to the Lions.

We would like to thank our team sponsors – Athletico and Mark Kaufman, Fresh Wave and CPH. We would like to thank So-G, which is Tony Rio and Bo Gray, for sponsoring the cocktail hour. Larry Zeno and Jim Kearney for each sponsoring half a players table and Pat Bolger for sponsoring some of the high school players.

We had five past presidents, six past captains, and eight Lowry Lions in attendance as well as numerous alumni who have donated to the Lions for Hope Complex and the Lions Den recurring donation program.

2019 banquet women

We celebrated our teams’ successes. Last spring, our men’s D1 team made it to the Elite 8, they won their division in the Midwest in the fall and participated in a tightly fought game in the first ever Elite Cup. Our second team moved up to D2 and we increased the size of our depth chart.

On the women’s side, our 7’s team made it to Nationals and we began our women’s 15’s team this past fall. The women were like the original Lions 55 years ago where they had a dream of building their own team. They took a leap of faith and joined us. 14 women played in our first game up in Minneapolis and won.

With the hiring of Andy Rose as Director of youth rugby almost a year ago, we began our youth program. We fielded our first sevens side and hosted our first youth 7’s tournament. In the fall, we fielded our first ever Lions high school team and Andy has made inroads in some of the local schools.

We recognized all our coaches, our Athletico staff, Dr. Levin, and all our volunteers who have all contributed to the success of the Chicago Lions. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

Lastly, we have begun construction on our first field which we project to be ready by June. We still need some funds to complete this phase. Once this field is built, we will begin the major capital campaign for the building and second field

Congratulations to the 2018 Chicago Lions Player award winners!

  • 15s Player of the Year: Men: Andy Rose / Women: Brittany O’Dell
  • 15s New Lion: Men: Joe Van Zyl / Women: Rachel Grecky
  • 15s Most Improved: Men: Jeffery Steele / Women: Jennifer Kelliher
  • 15s Coaches Award: Men: Frikkie DeBeer / Women: Kelley Hirt
  • Men’s 7s Player of the Year: Alex Dorrier
  • Women’s 7s Player of the Year: Meg Loomis
  • Lame Lions: Frikkie DeBeer and Susan Riggs
High School 7s Report

High School 7s Report

On Sunday, June 24th, we hosted the first ever Chicago Lions High School 7s Tournament and fielded a Chicago Lions High School 7s team; it was a great day in the history of the Club.

There were seven teams that played and we lost to the Naperville Warriors that had Steve Taft as the assistant coach. Three of the seven teams there were coached by current or former Lions players.

We would like to thank the Lions players that volunteered to help for the day. Andy Rose, our Director of Youth Rugby, deserves special thanks for organizing the successful event where we received numerous compliments from the Chicagoland rugby community. Andy will be getting married this weekend and we wish him the best of luck!

From Paul Bergman, Head Coach, Arlington Stallions Rugby Club and Lions Alum:

“Jeff, a huge THANK YOU to Andy and the entire Lions staff who put on yesterday’s tournament.  It was carried out with the high standards which the club has applied to all its endeavors.  It is the Stallions’ hope that this event will become a regular part of the High School Olympic Rugby schedule within Rugby Illinois.”

From Steve Taft, Assistant Coach, Naperville Warriors and Lions Alum:

“Jeff, I wanted to pass on what a great job that Andy Rose and his team did for setting up and hosting the high school sevens tournament on Sunday. I thought the pace with regards to getting as many matches in one day while making sure the kids had plenty of rest without too much delay was perfect. I think is was also great for the Lions to host since in years past, most of the high school sevens has been hosted by the Blaze. I can only see this tournament grow from here.”

From David Hall, VP Rugby Development, Rugby Illinois and Lions Alum/Past President:

“Jeff: Thank you for the Chicago Lions organizing the 7s tournament for the HS teams yesterday.  It was a quality event and well run.”


Interview with Patrick O’Reilly

Interview with Patrick O’Reilly

By Matt Wagner

Last week, as the Lions were preparing for a regular-season test against Metropolis in Minneapolis, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Patrick O’Reilly during the team’s training session. We talked about his time playing rugby and being a member of the club. I recall my first encounter with Patrick, early in my first season with the Lions. It was apparent to me from the start that this was a guy who cared very much about this club and the players. Over my tenure here (since 2012) Patrick has been involved in a huge way, and I believe he is one of the big reasons that we’ve earned the successes we have over that time, and before.

Prior to his departure, I wanted to pick his brain about some of the general aspects of the Chicago Lions. Joined during the interview by Lions club President Jeff Simon, the following is our discussion:

Wagner: When did you first start playing rugby?
O’Reilly: “Believe it or not, it was 1987. It was in Duluth, Minnesota… it was cold. I played wing and had no idea what I was doing. They threw me the ball and I went down the sideline and the snow was about knee deep so I had to high-step it the whole way. I scored and the worst part was they made me do a Zulu. And they let me keep my socks on.”
Patrick then went on to play at St. Cloud State, and after that for Metropolis in Minneapolis for three or four years. He then moved to South Bend, Indiana and played for South Bend (now called Michiana).

Wagner: How did you start playing rugby with the Chicago Lions?
O’Reilly: “(In South Bend) I got know a guy by the name of Adam Miller who moved here and… I knew I wanted to be in Chicago. And when I moved here for work he asked if I wanted to play. Everyone knew who the Lions were and I said I’d give it a go. That was in 2000, that was when I started running around with the Lions. I only played one Super League game the whole time, and I didn’t start. We were very desperate. We had three different teams. We practiced at that park off of Irving (Revere Park) and we’d have a million guys out there. I played scrumhalf.”

Wagner: What is your greatest Lions on-field playing moment?
O’Reilly: “Probably those two seconds I stepped on the field for Super League (laughs). I was pretty geeked. I remember the training before we went to Belmont (Shore) in 2007 (for the Super League Final), that was insane. I remember, pretty vividly, when we played Team USA before they played England ‘A’ or someone. And we did really, really well against them. I mean they beat us, but we held our own for a long time. My favorite part of the years is LVI (the Las Vegas 7s Invitational, which the Lions won in 2010 and 2017). My second favorite is going to (7s) Nationals, just because of the environment.

“One of the coolest things I think I was a part of was the loss to Belmont in the 7s Final in San Fran (in 2012). The crowd was big, we had a lot of Lions Alumni. We had just beaten Seattle and that was something, because they were favored. And not just against us, they were favored (to win the tournament). Just the passion that… I’ve never seen guys give as much as they did on the field in that game, it was amazing. And we lost to a better team. It was a good, good game.”

Wagner: What is your greatest Lions off-field memory?
O’Reilly: “Off-field, just, I don’t know. I like the (player/alumni) weddings, just because we all get together. When you do the weddings, or when you do the banquet-type stuff, it seems to transcend the generations. You’ve got rookies that are 18 year-olds hanging out with a 50 year-old guy they’ve never met, just because they’ve got a Lions pin on. It’s just that shared experience that, unless you do it, you just don’t get it.”

Wagner: One of the things I want to talk a little about is your relationship with Keith Brown and his time here with the club. He set some of the principles that we are really taking and running with now as a club.
“Keith’s biggest thing was his passion. And Lisa, too. Lisa was more than just support, she was involved. And she knew how much time Keith took to do this. He liked being around (the club) and his deal was organization. When the Super League took over, he tried to eliminate as much as he could of the burden of players to do anything but train and play. Keith Brown was in the hospital and he asked me (to fill the role as President). When Keith was President, I was playing, but it was more doing like I do now. I was always involved off the field. I just like doing this because it helps everything run more smoothly.”

Simon: What would you say would be the biggest change you’ve seen since you started?
O’Reilly: “The level of play. The seriousness (with which) guys take it. (People) don’t understand the amount of time that these guys put into it. They’ll train a minimum (of) six days a week when we get to this level. The 7s guys go seven days a week because there’s a workout that’s required, that’s checked. There’s fitness tests. And even on Sunday when you get back (from a tournament), there’s a recovery session, there’s yoga. From when I started, I mean, I saw guys smoking at half time! The level of coaching. I mean look, we’re sitting here at a lit turf field. Look at the difference just in this organization.

“When I started we were training at Revere Park. It was basically some guy, more or less, with a candle (referring to the poor lighting at the park). And the field was… it was softer to play out in the street. But you had a lot of guys, a lot of passion. But now, we have a lit turf field, there’s, I don’t know, five coaches here. We get a trainer here. There’s film beforehand. They get film clips emailed to them. You’ve got bibs, and top of the line equipment. The partnership with Hope (Academy)… and Bob (Muzikowski)’s done a good job expanding that. The unspoken hero at Hope is Kevin (Drewyer). He’s part of getting the rugby program going. (Pat) Bolger stepped up (to coach Hope)… and they won a state championship.”

Wagner: Where would you like to see the club continue to go?
O’Reilly: “National championship. Two. And in order for that to happen, there needs to be support. I think the field is a big deal but I think the more we win, the more we’ll have support from Lions Old Boys. Involving the community more. One of the things I’ve always tried to do is be nice to everybody. And it helps. Be it the Griffins, the Riot, Metro. When we were going up to (7s) Nationals (in Minneapolis), for example, this year. Once we made it, Metro called us and said ‘You guys can use our field for free to train on’. We can have a swagger, you know, (but) there’s a difference between confidence and cocky. It’s building a culture, not only of winning, but a club culture. It’s an attitude that Aaron (Manheimer) instilled in his people that I’d like to see back. And it was ‘in my head, I figure nobody is going to do it, so I have to do it’. If we had all these guys that thought like that, and it is changing. The club was here before me, and it will be here long after me, and that’s got to be the mentality. And if (the players) can see it from me, hopefully that carries over. And it seems to, a little bit.

Wagner: What would your advice be to a new guy coming in to the organization?
O’Reilly: “Keep an open mind. You’re not as good as you think you are, you’re here to get better. No matter how good you are, you’re not going to be fifteen (players). You’ve got to become part of the team, the team does not have to become part of you. Once you know your role and you can play it, you’re not going to find a better bunch. When these guys fit in, which it doesn’t take much, or long, they’ll have your back for anything. And it goes across generations. And that’s also what we’re trying to build more of.”

Ever the club-man, I cannot say I was surprised by his responses. After all, for the last half-decade, these are principles that I have witnessed him both preach and practice. His love and care for the players means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the scores of teammates I have been blessed to know, play, and train with. Patrick is the kind of guy that, if it was within his power, he would do absolutely anything for you if you needed it, and never think twice about it. He has been a shining example of what it means to be a Chicago Lion. To carry yourself with honor and integrity, to train and play as hard as possible, and to never put yourself before the club.

Patrick and his family (Lisa, young Callan, and the fourth O’Reilly on the way!) will be missed dearly in Chicago and by the club. His presence has been a massive one, and his boots will be very hard to fill by his successor.

Patrick, words cannot accurately express the gratitude I have for your service to this organization. As long as I am here, I know I will do my best to pick up the torch you’ve carried for almost a generation and continue moving forward. I know there are dozens of my teammates and current club members who, because of your example, and because of what the Lions mean to them, will do the same.

Thank you.

Youth Development Day 2017

Youth Development Day 2017

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One Saturday in September 2017 marked a historic day for the Chicago Lions.

We hosted our first Youth Development Day and live-streamed our home game against Cincinnati. You should be proud of your Chicago Lions for how we presented ourselves to the Chicago rugby community. There was a:

  • High school game
  • Youth clinics
  • A youth game

The high school game featured two teams—Arlington Stallions and Chicago Wapiti—who are coached or led by Lions (Paul Bergman, Vinnie LaPiana, Roy Hays, and Mike Palmer). We had over 100 kids at our field with numerous parents in attendance. For their participation the kids were fed hot dogs and chips, which was greatly appreciated.

Dave Clancy and Andrew Rose led and coordinated the Youth Development Day with Tristan Lewis leading the off-field duties. They put in a ton of work and the day ran like clockwork. We had several of our top players and many North Shore Women RFC assist with the drills and numerous other players helping with the set-up, take-down, concessions and parking. It was a total club effort and we had numerous alumni there all willing to step in and help.

We received compliments from many people and gave us confidence that this is just the beginning of future youth development days and we look forward to hosting one for the local community. The Lions continue to step up our game on and off the field and we really look forward to having the alumni more engaged and supporting their Chicago Lions.

Thank You

A special thanks to Dave Clancy, Andrew Rose, Tristan Lewis, Tony Rio, Patrick O’Reilly, Brittany O’Dell, Janet Kean (president of the Chiefs Youth Program), North Shore Women players and our Lions players for making the day a huge success.