Congratulations to three SYA members who were recognized at the Champions of Character Awards Ceremony on October 16, 2017. The Fairfax County Champions of Character Awards program honors youth, coaches and parents for extraordinary service in pursuing victory with honor in various athletics programs throughout Fairfax County. The three SYA award winners were: Nicole Mueller, Rugby, Female Athlete; Tom Phipps, Rugby, Parent; and Charles Illari, Volleyball, Coach.

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From L to R:
School Board members:
Karen Keys-Gamarra
Ryan McElveen
Illryong Moon

Nicole Mueller – SYA Rugby- female athlete of the year
Tom Phipps – SYA Rugby – parent of the year
Charles Illari – SYA Volleyball – coach of the year
Mrs. Davis – parent of Ryan Davis, male athlete of the year from Oakson
Chris Leonard – NCS Director
Sharon Bulova – Board of Supervisor Chairman
Gary Flather- SYA President


SYA Rugby would like to nominate Nicole Mueller [2nd grade] for the Champion of Character Award. While Nicole has been playing rugby for a few years, she really came out of her shell as a leader this year. One of the older kids in her age group, she demonstrated her leadership both on and off the field, patiently taking new players under her wing as well as bonding with her teammates. Nicole was respectful not only to the coaches, but also to other players on her team and on opposing teams. While she is a fierce competitor, she showed a willingness to try new things, always taking instructions from the coaches with a positive attitude, and she would also help to lift up her teammates when they were down. Nicole was inclusive of all players on the field, both at practices and at games. Nicole is truly a team player, inspirational leader, and a great role model for youth sports participants – and as such, SYA Rugby is proud to nominate her for the Champions of Character award.


Tom Phipps has been nominated as a Champion of Character due to his efforts as a volunteer and an exceptional coach for the SYA Youth Rugby program. Many outstanding volunteers sacrifice a significant amount of personal time to ensure of the success of a program but what sets Tom apart is his positive attitude and willingness to assist with a gleeful spirt.

Tom’s demeanor with children is inspirational. Demonstrating kindness and instructing fair play are important attributes for youth coaches as each attribute can be easily lost in the sea of competitive athletics. Not only does Tom exhibit this positive behavior, but his friendly persona is taken on by the children under his care as they show respect for each other regardless of ability, gender, or ethnicity. The best supporting evidence of these claims are revealed in Tom’s children. His two middle-school sons are volunteer coaches and share their father’s patient demeanor with younger children, an eagerness to help, and serve as tremendous role models.

Tom Phipps is an excellent representative of everything organizations should seek in their volunteers and SYA Rugby has been blessed to have him being a part of ours.


Charles Ilari is a coach in our elementary level volleyball program who wears many hats within our organization. As the elementary level director, he builds the teams and schedules, keeps track of the results, sends out communication to the other coaches and handles all of the problems that come up during the season–all in addition to coaching a team. Charles has always treated his players and parents with the utmost respect. He works with beginning level players and by the end of the season they always improve athletically because he teaches all the skills and plays all of the players in every game. He puts emphasis on the players growing both as athletes and as people.