For many years, Riverside Secondary has had a girl’s rugby team. In the past, it has been difficult to have a full roster due to the low exposure to the sport itself for female athletes, but Riverside has always found a way to make this team-based sport a reality at the school. In previous years, Riverside teamed up with athletes from Terry Fox Secondary to make a larger team and have a better chance of winning in important games and tournaments. Taking the initiative to play at Terry Fox displays their passion and dedication to rugby since it is quite uncommon for Coquitlam schools to have a team for girls.

At the first meeting of the season, the team saw a promising roster with a big turnout of athletes. The 2019 season will start in March, with practices starting in February.

The school team includes girls of all grades, both new and experienced. This inclusion of all Riverside girls promotes friendships and connections that wouldn’t have happened without the sport being offered.

The girl’s rugby coaches for the 2019 season. (Left to right: Michael Hucal, Halley Pazuric, Jeff Kwok and Alicia Guerin)

The coaches include returning head coach Mr. Jeff Kwok, a past Riverside teacher, along with assistant coaches Michael Hucal and Halley Pazuric, two Riverside rugby alumni. Alicia Guerin is also joining the coaching team with her experience playing rugby at Charles Best Secondary during high school, and then playing for the United Rugby club for 13 years.

Rugby is a sport focused on communication and teamwork. With these key skills, Riverside doesn’t see rugby as just another sport, but as something that teaches the female athletes life lessons, such as teamwork, dedication and perseverance, along with some rugby skills of course. According to Psychology Today, teenagers who play team sports gain more than just the title of a school athlete. They meet friends, remain physically and mentally healthy, and most importantly, they develop a feeling of importance since they are an equal member of a team.

Grade 11 student, Marwa Aziz has played rugby for one year, and will be a part of the team for another year. She has seen the benefits of playing the sport and is passionate about playing. “I love playing rugby so much. It includes so many important skills like having respect for others and sportsmanship, it has really taught me how to work as a team. I never get upset when I lose because I am just so happy I get to play and support my teammates,” said Aziz.

Grade 12 student and Riverside rugby athlete, Teagan Ewart believes that playing such a team-based sport creates lasting connections and friendships “Your team becomes your family. It’s amazing to have a huge group of people supporting you. From this, I’ve developed leadership and cooperation skills that really help me in my school and at-home life too,” said Ewart.