Musing on a rugby future..... A Christmas Read
“Q & A” WITH CAPTAIN CANADA – SOPHIE DE GOEDE.
We had hoped to catch up with Sophie prior to RWC however, we could not have conceived the obligations that were on her shoulders at that time. We have reached out again, for some reflections. We need to preface our questions with the fact that Sophie was recently selected as a Runner-Up in Rugby’s, “World Player-of-the-Year” Award.
Sophie, it has been many years since you first touched a rugby ball at Windsor Park, on your path to reaching the pinnacle of Captaining our NSWT at a Rugby World Cup! We commence by congratulating you, along with the aforementioned recognition, on these wonderful achievements.
CW: Throughout your years, athletics has been an integral part of your life. How do you manage to balance your love of sport with your studies and other pursuits?
Sophie: I’ve definitely learned a lot about the importance of scheduling, time management and prioritization over the years. I find it really helpful to look ahead at what one's major goals are and work backwards from there to decipher what is needed on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to achieve them. That way when you have a lot on the go, you can eliminate any ‘fluff’ that’s not central to hitting your future targets. I’d also say that having a genuine enjoyment for all the endeavours I put my efforts towards makes motivating myself to get things done much easier. I love sport and I love learning, so while some days were certainly tougher than others in my past five years at Queen’s. Overall, I was truly happy to be doing all that I had on my plate.
CW: In the past two years your rugby career has escalated rapidly – dual athletic Awards and prominence at Queens University; professional rugby with Sarries and now, Captain Canada. How do you feel about all that has happened?
Sophie: I’m quite "future-focused" so I don’t often take the time to look back and reflect on all the amazing experiences I’ve been lucky to have to date. In hindsight, the past couple of years have grown me immensely as a rugby player, but also helped to shape me more as a person. Balancing the demands of a student-athlete away from home, moving overseas for professionalism during a pandemic, and having the privilege of captaining our national team have all impacted me in different ways and helped me to learn more about myself and my ambitions. Not to mention all the incredible people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way!
CW: To this pundit, Canada had a strong team going into RWC. Your fourth-place finish was an amazing achievement. We loved your objective interviews during the contest. One specific mention was related to your hopes of Rugby Canada putting in more efforts to foster Women’s Rugby. It has recently been announced that Soccer Canada is seeking to commence a Women’s Premier Pro Soccer League. If you had a magic wand, what would you do to implement your hopes?
Sophie: There are certainly plenty of challenges and opportunities in Canadian rugby. I think we probably need to take a multi-pronged approach that addresses grassroots, domestic leagues and our high- performance programs. I know there is some superb work being done by organizations like CW to grow women’s rugby at the youth levels which is amazing to see. Regarding our domestic leagues, I believe it would be a failure on our part to suggest any young woman graduating from USPORTS with hopes of playing at a higher level has to go overseas. We must maintain efforts to improve the strength of our club leagues in Canada and to keep women involved in the sport domestically to continue both their development and enjoyment. Finally, our high-performance programs are looking to get more games, and more time together in the coming years to move towards a more professional model. The issue with all these initiatives is that they require funding. The source that funding comes from is probably where I would wave my magic wand and ask for money to appear and be allocated appropriately with the right people in place to manage it. Increased funding for women’s rugby in Canada likely has to come from either government, World Rugby, or private sponsorships. I would love to see a large corporation jump on board to support our sport in this country, much like CIBC and Air Canada have done in backing the new women’s soccer pro league.
CW: Being someone who is a high achiever and obviously has needs to plan your life, you must have thoughts about your future. We congratulate you on the completion of your degree at Queen’s University. If you were to investigate the looking glass, how do you see the immediate future for Sophie and what might be some of your aspirations?
Sophie: In the most immediate future, I have an Achilles tendonitis issue that has been bothering for the last year about, so I finally have some time to rest and rehab it back into shape which I plan on taking advantage of. Concurrently with that, I’m looking into finding some potential job opportunities that I can take on to help advance my off-field career and aspirations. I really want to be able to put my degree to use and develop in the business world while I continue to chase my rugby dreams. Rugby-wise, we have some fixtures with the national team that will hopefully be confirmed soon, and I will likely look to go back overseas for the coming two seasons leading into the 2025 RWC.
CW: Finally, we would be remiss if we did not add our joy of being a big part of your early rugby development and we thank you for often recognising that fact by accrediting “CW” as your club. You have been a classic example of the success of the Long-Term Athletic Development Pathway. On reflection, how do you recall those early days?
Sophie: I believe I started playing at CW around the age of 5 or 6 and continued on until I was 16 or so. Over that time, I have so many fond memories of teammates, coaches, and club members – countless people that helped teach me not only the skills and laws of rugby, but the values and culture of the game. While growing up in a James Bay AA family meant I wasn’t always allowed to wear my CW jersey around the house, I’m very proud to have represented the club and to be part of the CW rugby community!
CW: Sophie, we thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. You were recognised to lead an experienced group of women and we were thrilled for you. We wish you all the very best going forward. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
Sophie: I just want to thank CW for all their support over the years and their influence in growing my love of the game. I hope more girls coming through the minis and youth programs can enjoy similar experiences to mine at the club and I look forward to watching how each of them takes off from there!