JULIA FOLK – “The Perfect, Best You”

          “If you’re not first, you’re last, and you’re just not fast enough”… “You can’t guard her, you’re too short”…

          Despite my effort to prove myself as a strong, tough athlete, I take most comments to heart.  I’m sensitive to the opinions of others and, like most athletes, I want to be perfect. I want to be the best. Often, however, the determination to be “perfect” and “the best” is exhausting, because how can we achieve such superior status when there’s no objective way to define it?

          In high school, I played basketball. Naively, in an attempt to be what I thought was perfect and the best, I worked against myself in order to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted so badly to be just like the rest of my team, but I struggled to do so because it didn’t come naturally.

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          Let me paint you a picture. Three of my teammates– who I had been playing with since I was 8 years old and who have now gone on to play university and/or national level basketball – are tall,  blond, very skilled and were named to the senior team in our junior year. Meanwhile, I was less than average height, not extremely skilled, I had unmanageable dark hair, and I was going to band practice instead of playing for the senior basketball team. I wanted to be like them because in my mind, their success was directly correlated to their “perfection”.  I would spend way too much time in front of the mirror seeing dozens of flaws—or at least what I thought were flaws at the time– and dwell on them. Regardless of the fact that I couldn’t actually change the way I looked, or the way I was built, I would make impractical goals to change these things anyway. “Maybe I’ll start running every morning at 6am and I’ll probably just have a light lunch…I could do bicep curls every morning too…and maybe wear heals to school or something… God I’d love to be taller.” In addition to this, I took hours to straighten my hair most days, I worked really hard at practice so that I would be more than just “the defensive player coming off the bench”, and I always asked to guard the biggest girl because I wanted to prove that my height didn’t matter.

          In my last year of high school I was hoping that my hard work would finally pay off. However, I still wasn’t a starter. I was still told that I was “too short”. Working hard on the court may not have landed me the WNBA contract that my eight year old self dreamt of (seriously… I shot for the moon when I was eight) but, nonetheless, I gained a lot from this experience. Needless to say, I appreciate that I did have many coaches, basketball or otherwise, who helped me develop a lot of heart to continue training, regardless of an obvious reward (ie that WNBA contract).  What lesson really sticks with me now however is to always respect my own body.

          In high school I was painting the wrong picture of myself all along. Sure, in my own eyes, I wasn’t the athlete, or the body type that I thought I needed to be, but I recognize now that the flaws I saw in the mirror weren’t necessarily flaws at all. When my coach called me the best defensive player, he wasn’t saying that in vain, or to just make me feel better for not scoring, he was saying that because maybe I was actually a good defender. And perhaps, just perhaps there was nothing wrong with my long dark hair. Strange right? To actually like the hair you have.


          It was only a couple years ago, when someone commented on my height in a positive way for the first time. At first, it seemed very strange, and I was so used to assuming that my height was a detriment that I actually laughed because I thought the person was joking. It was an honest compliment! My stature can actually be a positive attribute! Finding this through rugby, I am so grateful to be involved in a sport where every body type is celebrated in its own way.  As a rugby player, I have learned to appreciate bodies, skills, and personalities for what they are naturally good at.

          Maybe you’ve been made fun of for being “lanky”. But I bet your long arms can stiff arm anyone on the pitch. Maybe you have “thunder thighs”. Well maybe you can use those to drag three defenders down the pitch until you touch the ball down for a try. And maybe people think you’re a little too crazy, but I haven’t met a successful person who wasn’t.

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          There may be no way to objectively describe the “perfect” or “best” athlete, but there is a way to describe the perfect, best you. Use your natural ability to your advantage. Don’t be caught up in trying to be someone you aren’t. Always remember to appreciate your own talents, appreciate your own body, and always ALWAYS to see that water bottle as half full.



Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Julia is wearing:

RaceHER Tank Top designed for Acadia University

FastHER Rugby Shorts

PowHER Jersey designed for Edward Milne Secondary School in Sooke BC



NAKISA LEVALE “Take Nothing For Granted”

          Being of Samoan decent, rugby is not an option, it is a way of life. In my family we make sure to bring our cleats to every family gathering because there is bound to be a big game of touch sometime throughout the day.  From a very young, age we grew up playing with a rugby ball, taking it everywhere we went. I was privileged to be surrounded with so many great coaches (and by coaches I mean all of my uncles and my dad).  They would always be introducing new skills and games for me and my cousins to play.  If I ever needed a thorough game analysis, they were the ones to go to.  It was the strong cultural history with the sport, and playing touch with my family, that sparked my passion for the game.

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          It wasn’t until grade 9 that I played on a team for the first time.  I played for the Abbotsford rugby club in the u18 division.  I remember in my very first game, this girl was running at me full tilt and it was my tackle to make.  As she was running, I felt as if everything was in slow motion.  In that time, I was thinking, “should I tackle her? It looks like this is going to hurt.  Maybe someone else will hit her before she gets to me!”.  I ended up just stepping to the side and letting her run past because I was too afraid to hit her.  I will never forget this moment because I let fear overrun me.  I made a promise to myself to never let the fear of the unknown stop me from playing the game.  I continued to play club rugby for the next 4 years and in the meantime, played for my high school, Abby Senior, and team BC.  All the while learning lots and discovering a family within the rugby community.


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          October 13, 2014 was the day that changed my life and my outlook on rugby forever.  For most, it was just another thanksgiving, but for me it was the day that I lost one of my good friends and teammates.  Chantal Maclean, the girl with the biggest heart and the unforgettable conversions.  Her dream was to one day wear that maple leaf on her chest and to sing the national anthem at the top of her lungs.  I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that she would have achieved her dream and more.  This was a dark and hard time for a lot of people, including myself.  It took a lot to step onto the field for the first time since losing her, not seeing her beside me. It was from that day forward that I had a completely different outlook on rugby.  It was no longer just a game, it was an escape.  A way that I could truly express myself and continue to carry on her legacy.  Now every time that I step onto the field I play for her.  Chantal continues to live on through rugby, and to inspire many.  My biggest take away from this whole incident is that we are never guaranteed tomorrow.  You never know when it’s going to be the last time you put on that jersey.


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          I pushed myself to continue to pursue rugby at its highest level.  In September of 2015 I was fortunate enough to wear the Canadian jersey for the very first time on my tour to Samoa for the Youth Commonwealth Games.  It was such a surreal experience; being able to play the sport I love in my home country in front of all of my family.  I was hooked, and I knew that playing for Canada on the senior women’s team was what I wanted.  I pushed myself on and off the field to ensure that my dream of being a Canadian rugby player became a reality, and it is through this perseverance that I have found my greatest success.  Since January of this year, I have been fortunate enough to train with the Women’s National 7’s program.  It has been a dream come true to play at such a high level and I hope to continue to pursue my dreams within this program.


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          My biggest words of advice are to take nothing for granted.  Don’t let loss stop you from chasing after your dreams, but instead, use it to fuel your fire.  We are all going to come across rough patches in our lives but it is how we overcome these circumstances that shape and determine the person that we will be.  Every opportunity you have to step on the pitch is a chance to do something spectacular!


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Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Nakisa is wearing:

RaceHER Tank Top designed for Acadia University

FastHER Rugby Shorts

PowHER Jersey designed for Edward Milne Secondary School in Sooke BC



JESS NEILSON “Chase Your Dreams”

          The first book I bought myself was Hayley Wickenheiser’s “Born to Play”, I was eight at the time and I remember telling my mom that I wanted to play for Team Canada one day. A few months later I discovered the game of rugby and in time, fell in love with it. When I first joined, I played with all boys at my Elementary school. They all told me to “Go home, this is a boy’s sport,” but I stuck with it. It wasn’t easy, in fact the first time I scored a try, I threw the ball down in the end zone as if it were a touchdown – I’ll never forget the embarrassment! But looking back I realize that those experiences I had playing with the boys made me become stronger physically and mentally, it was all worth it in the end.

jess Neilson APTOELLA Rugby 01

          If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to not only take but be thankful for every single opportunity you get and embrace the challenge that comes with it. When I was 12, I practiced with the Velox Valkyries Senior Women’s Team, which
opened my eyes to where rugby could take me one day. To this day, playing with Velox was on of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had but at the same time the most unbelievable because it enabled me to push myself and learn from some incredible people.jess Neilson APTOELLA RUGBY 5

          At 13 I moved to Vancouver where I commuted everyday on the Canada Line (basically a subway), the Seabus, bus and walked to Carson Graham in North Vancouver. A commute that took two hours of my day, but I did it because they had the best girl’s rugby program in BC. It involved a lot of sacrifice, like time spent with friends and doing other things but ultimately when you love something so much, it’s not really a sacrifice! I had great coaches, and great teammates. We would train four days a week with a morning practice that started at 7am during season. When I wasn’t in season I started working with a strength and conditioning coach everyday, I’d play club on the weekends, and during the summer I would play for Regional Representative teams and my Province.jess_02-4

          When I found out that I made the U20 Canadian Women’s team, I screamed, scared my mom and began to cry. I was so happy that something I’d worked so hard for had finally happened. I’ll never forget how it felt to pull on the red jersey for the first time, run out onto the field, and line up for the anthem. The butterflies in your stomach, the immense amount of pride you feel, there’s no way that feeling can ever get old. Standing singing the anthem with your teammates is indescribable. All I could think about was “Play for the little girl who fell in love with the game, and never looked back.” I guess what I’m trying to say with telling you all of this, is that it takes a lot of time and dedication to achieve the things you want to and nothing is ever given to you, you have to work for it. It’s a process with a long winding road full of setbacks and curveballs but the end goal is worth working for. I’m still putting in my 10,000 hours, trying to learn as much as I can and hitting my goals, but I hope that in this little story you’re able take a little inspiration out of it!


Follow Jess on Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Jess is wearing:

RaceHER Tank Top

FastHER Rugby Shorts

HoldHER Headband



Nutrition for Athletes by SUSAN BOEGMAN

Susan Boegman is an employee of the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific.  Susan is a nutritionist for many Olympians as well as the entire Canadian carded women’s 7s program.  Thank you Susan for sharing your tips and helping us have a healthier relationship with food!


Your every day eating pattern is critical because it is the foundation from which you train and compete. Poor eating = poor foundation! Great eating = solid foundation!


Bianca Farella APTOELLA Rugby

Getting nutrition right can help you to:


* Maintain/increase energy and stamina

* Recover from training loads

* Enhance immunity

* Achieve a healthy body and a healthy training weight

* Recover from injury

* Cope with daily stressors/Improve sense of wellbeing


Quality Eating Tips:


* Start every day with breakfast. Your brain and muscles will thank you. This meal will rev up your metabolism and prevent nighttime junk food fests.

* Eat every 2-3 hours, aiming for 5-6 snacks or mini-meals. Meals should be well balanced and should focus on high quality foods (see Table 1).

* At every meal include: carbohydrates for energy, skill and going the distance. protein to build, grow and repair; high quality fats to decrease inflammation; and vegetables and fruits for antioxidant protection.

* Eat the highest quality food that you can afford.

* Maintain hydration throughout the day, including during training and competition.


Carbohydrate Rich Foods Protein Rich Foods Healthy Fats
Fibre rich grains and legumes Lean animal protein sources Animal fat sources
* quinoa, brown rice, barley, whole or multigrain pasta, sprouted or wholegrain breads, old fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, multi- or wholegrain cereals, chick peas, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, black beans * fish, lean beef, bison, chicken, turkey, lean pork cuts, eggs * fish, grass-fed beef


Dairy and dairy alternate carbohydrate sources Dairy and dairy alternate protein sources Vegetable fat sources


*yogurt, cow or goat milk, soy milk, rice milk *whey protein/isolate, yogurt, cow or goat milk, soy milk, cheeses


*olives, flax, hemp, chia, olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, soybeans
Fruits and starchy vegetable carb sources Vegetarian protein sources


* all fresh and dried fruits, yams, sweet potato, potato, corn *all legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products and non-dairy protein powders





Nutrition Rugby Julianne Zussman APTOELLA

Once a week sit down to plan your meals for the week. Plan for veggies, high quality fats, lean proteins, whole grains, yogurt and/or other calcium rich foods and fruit. Add in a little fun stuff like dark chocolate for chocolate dipped strawberries or rich chocolate pudding. Plan for foods you love that will love you back! Consider your busy training schedule to make sure you have food available throughout the day. Plan for easy to digest and travel friendly snack foods that you can eat on the way to, at or from the rugby pitch or weight room.


Microsoft Word - Susan Boegman Contribution.docx




Nutrition Julianne Zussman Rugby 2



made with: 14 halves or 1/2 oz raw walnuts (or other raw nuts) 8 fl oz (1 cup) milk –

may need more depending on how thick you like your drink 1⁄4 cup coconut milk 1 cup

unsweetened frozen or fresh berries 1/2 – 1 medium banana INFINIT whey protein – 1

scoop 2 tbsp orange juice concentrate

Add all ingredients to magic bullet or blender Blend well



California Turkey Vegetable Sandwich

Prep: 5 – 10 min 2 pieces of good whole wheat or spelt bread 3 thick slices of roasted

turkey breast 1/2 tomato, sliced 4 Cucumber sliced 1/4 Avocado, sliced

Handful of sprouts Handful of baby spinach leaves Thin slices of red onion 2 slices of

low fat Swiss cheese 1 tbsp Low fat mayonnaise Deli mustard (optional) Sea salt and

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Add the mayonnaise and mustard to the slices of bread. Add the turkey, spinach,

tomato, sprouts, cucumber, red onion, Swiss cheese and avocado. Season with sea salt

and black pepper to taste.

Nutrients per serving: Cal: 500 kcal Fat: 23 g Carb: 49 g Pro: 20 g Fiber: 8 g


Tomato, Egg and Feta Wraps

Prep: 10–15min 2 whole wheat tortilla, large 2 cup chopped fresh spinach 4 – 6 eggs,

scrambled 2 – 4 tbsp feta cheese 2 tomato, diced 6 halves sun-dried tomato in oil &

spices, chopped salt and pepper to taste

Spray pan with nonstick spray or lightly oil. Heat medium. Add chopped spinach and all

tomatoes. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the cheese and cook for 30 seconds.

Removed from heat. Remove form pan and set aside. Add scrambled eggs to pan, flip

and fold until firm. Make into a patty shape. Heat tortillas in the microwave until slightly

warm. Place veggie/cheese mixture and egg in the center of each tortilla. Wrap the

tortilla up envelope style. Place the wrap in a warm oven or toaster oven. 2 minutes – if


Nutrients per serving: Cal: 432 kcal Fat: 18 g Carb: 27 g Pro: 23 g Fiber: 5 g



Chicken Fajitas

Prep: 30 min 2 tbsp. of lemon juice 1 tbsp. vinegar 1 tbsp. each of Worcestershire and

coriander 1-2 minced garlic cloves 2 tsp. of cumin freshly ground pepper to taste 6

boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces A variety of sliced vegetables such as

peppers (red, green, orange…, etc.) and onion for stir- frying Sprouted wheat tortillas

grated cheddar salsa light/fat free sour cream or plain yogurt, avocado.

Combine first 7 ingredients and rub into the chicken. Marinate overnight, for several

hours or for at least 10 minutes. Stir-fry until cooked through and still moist. Remove

chicken to a plate and let it rest for 5 minutes to reabsorb the juices.

Lightly stir-fry the vegetables in the same frying pan you cooked the chicken in. Place

the chicken, grated cheese, stir-fried vegetables, salsa, avocado slices into warmed

tortillas. Top with light sour cream or good quality plain yogurt. Makes enough for



Greek Burger – from Gourmet Nutrition

Prep: 15minutesplusgrilling 3 lb (1.5kg) extra lean beef or ground chicken or turkey 1

cup feta cheese 1 cup black olive slivers 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, form into patties, and grill. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes enough for leftovers.


Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon


3 lbs beef – chuck roast, stew meat etc. – cut into chunks 6 bacon slices – regular or

turkey 2 Tbsp Olive oil 1 large onion, sliced in rings

several large carrots – chopped 4 garlic cloves – smashed or chopped 1 Tbsp Herbs de

Provence or combination of dried basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano leaves 1⁄2 -1

teaspoon good quality sea salt 1⁄2 tsp fresh ground black pepper 1 Tbsp tomato paste –

once you open a can plan to add it to a tomato sauce or freeze in ice- cube tray and

once frozen pop into plastic bag and store for up to 3 months. 2 cups red wine – this

makes the dish – don’t worry about general drunkenness the alcohol burns off leaving

behind a yummy flavour and aroma – heaven!!

Use a medium to large slow cooker In the bottom of the slow cooker smear around the

olive oil. Then lay down 3 slices of bacon, Add sliced onion and garlic, Put the meat into

the pot on top of the onion and garlic and sprinkle on the spices and herbs, Add the

tomato paste. Lay on the last 3 bacon slices, add the carrots and pour in the wine. Cover

and cook for 8-9 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high or until the meat is tender. Serve

over mashed potatoes, yams or an unprocessed grain of any kind.


Share this one – your friends will bow down to you forever!



No-Bake Muesli Energy Bars

Prep: 30 min 2 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked 1/2 cup toasted wheat or

oat germ 1/2 cup dried nonfat milk or protein powder – (use an HFL tested brand such

as Infinit) 1/2 cup dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries or other dried fruit,

coarsely chopped 1/2 cup raw nuts or seeds 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips –

optional 1 cup natural-style nut or seed butter (e.g., peanut, cashew, almond, or tahini)

3/4 cup honey 1/3 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4

teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon salt

Line a 9×9-inch square metal baking pan with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray or

lightly oil In a medium bowl mix the oatmeal, germ, protein/milk powder, dried fruit and

nuts; set aside. Place the nut butter, honey and molasses in a large heavy saucepan.

Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly, melted and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the cereal mixture

(mix until well blended and all of the oat mixture is coated).

Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Using a large square of wax paper or foil, very firmly

press mixture down into pan to compact. Cool completely. Remove bars using foil

overhang and then cut into 16 bars or squares. Tightly rewrap each bar in plastic wrap.

Store the wrapped bars in a plastic zip-top bag in the refrigerator. Can also put in the

freezer. Makes 16 servings.

Nutrients per serving: Cal: 300 Fat: 12g Carb: 38g Pro: 10g


Banana Nut Squares

From Gourmet Nutrition – recipe doubled and slightly altered 1 cup very ripe mashed

banana 4 eggs – preferably local 1⁄2 cup cottage cheese

1 cup old fashioned oats, spelt, or barley flakes

4 cups walnut meal or a combination of other nuts -grind nuts in a food processor, coffee grinder

(not used for coffee or well cleaned) blender or place in a sealed bag and smash with

the bottom of a pot. 12 scoops (300 g) Interactive (HFL tested) vanilla protein powder 1⁄2

tsp baking soda 1⁄4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk eggs. Add banana and cottage cheese. Combine

remaining ingredients stirring until evenly mixed. Combine wet with dry.

Lightly butter or spray a 9×9 inch baking pan and add the mixture. Bake for 10 – 15

minutes. Should still be moist. Cool, cut into 8 and store.


Muesli Cookies

1 cup whole wheat, barley or spelt flour 1 tsp baking soda 3/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp allspice

2 tsp cinnamon 2 tsp ground ginger 2 eggs 1/3 cup grape seed or canola oil 1 1/4 cup

unsweetened applesauce or other blended fruit 3/4 cup brown sugar 2 tsp vanilla 3 cups

oats 3/4 cup almonds or other nuts 1/2 cup sunflower seeds 1 cup dried cranberries

*Alter the ingredients using chocolate chips, raisins etc. as alternatives.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon and

ginger, stir well and set aside. Place eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce and brown sugar in

a large bowl and beat together well. Add vanilla, oats , almonds and sunflower seeds

and stir until well combined. Add flour mixture and stir well. Add cranberries and stir well.

Using an ice cream scoop, place each scoop of dough on cookie sheet and press

down with a fork to form a cookie. Bake for 15-20 min or until lightly browned.


Enjoy your solid foundation and happy training!


MANDY MARCHAK “Find Yourself”

          Excelling in rugby did not come to me easily to me, it took a lot of people believing in me to get me started, and overtime me believing in myself to go out and get it.

Mandy Marchak Rugby APTOELLA 3

          In other sports I just assumed I wasn’t good enough to make it any further then just my starting level, and at a young age I didn’t know any better to think I could improve or was capable of more. Then rugby came into my life. It was the first time that I had coaches and teammates who thought I could be something special, and their encouragement helped me believe in myself. They became my rugby family, a very loyal group of people, who I knew I would have for the rest of my life. Rugby gave me a sense of purpose, something to strive for, something to be passionate about, and a goal. I could finally be a part of something extraordinary and I had earned the right to be there. This gave me confidence in many areas of my life that were lacking and for the first time I believed in myself.

Mandy Marchak Rugby APTOELLA 2

          Growing up was challenging. I was never the favourite, the popular, the bold, or the beautiful. I had a lot of great friends but just never really knew where I fit in. With rugby, people from all walks of life were accepted and welcome. Having people accept you for who you are- whether you’re a bit odd, stare a few seconds too long, have a tick, or are just plain weird – rugby helps you to be comfortable with yourself and have no shame in being that wonderful person that was scared to be herself. I owe a lot to rugby and to everyone that helped me along the way. Rugby helped guide me to where I am today, it has helped me build character, and be extremely confident and happy with the person I am.

Mandy Marchak Rugby APTOELLA Race-Her_Tank_Web

          I’m fortunate to have had the people in my life who have helped guide me and push me in rugby. I have been to amazing places, played with the most skilled and talented people in the world, and have trained in world-class facilities; most importantly rugby has provided me the environment to grow in to a confident happy woman and provided me with lifelong friends.


Mandy Marchak Rugby APTOELLA 2          If people in your life encourage or compliment you on something you do well, listen, even of it takes you a while to believe yourself. You may in fact have that extra something and with a lot of hard work, determination and will – it could be your ticket to an extraordinary life and an amazing sport family. Believe in yourself, you will be amazed at what you can do.

Follow Mandy on Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Mandy is wearing:

Pink Punch RaceHER tank

Black Mamba FastHER rugby shorts



ELISSA ALARIE “Doubt your Fears, Not your Dreams”

     The decision had been made. After playing U19 Canada and 6 years of senior Quebec rugby, it was time to give my rugby career another shot. I decided to quit my salary paying accounting job, sublet my apartment, pack all my things, say goodbye to family and friends and jump in my car for a 5000km road trip across Canada. I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking in that moment other than “If I don’t try this now, I’ll never know.”

     After surviving the long hours on “Onterrible” roads, horseback riding in the Prairies and a grizzly bear encounter in Banff, I reached my destination. Any Quebecer who wants to separate from Canada has definitely not seen what beautiful sights our country has to offer.

     I did manage to line up a job interview in my first week, so my crazy adventure had few side effects. My goal after all wasn’t to become a hipster on the west coast but rather to develop my rugby skills to ultimately be a better player. I registered with Velox Valkyries to play club and spoke to the Canada 7’s coaches to see if I could participate in a few training sessions. They accepted as long as my skills were up to par and I wouldn’t slow the group down.

Elyssa Alarie APTOELLA rugby

    Luckily, my job at the Canadian Sport Institute was flexible which made it possible for me to attend every skill session. I was then allowed to participate in conditioning sessions and remember some of the girls saying: “you’re choosing to run these 300s with us?”

     About a month later, I was invited to my first senior Canada camp, in order for the team to prepare for Dubai 7s. Here I was training with a group of 24 athletes when I hadn’t even been invited to the previous summer camp where 50 athletes from across Canada had been seen. Next thing I know, I’m sitting in business class on my way to Dubai 7’s representing Canada’s development side, the Maple Leafs. Dubai? Wow! I couldn’t believe it. To top it all off, we won Dubai 7’s Invitational category and throughout the tournament I proved I could be part of the program.

Elyssa Alarie APTOELLA rugby
I have to admit the whole journey was quite stressful. During my first training session I remember thinking “I thought I knew how to pass” after realizing how difficult it was to master a 10-12 meter pass. I had to continuously convince myself I was good enough to be there even though I was the only one who had never truly been invited or offered a salary. I chose not to go home that Christmas, a first for me, in order to focus on putting in extra hours in the weight room. A decision I don’t regret as I then got invited to centralize for the next 6 months.


     Giving myself the opportunity to consistently train with the best players in Canada brought my game to the next level. After a year of training and my first 7s cap in Guangzhou, I received my first 15s cap at Nations Cup in Colorado. I went on to win a silver medal at the France World Cup in 2014 and today I am currently fighting for a chance to represent Canada at the Rio Olympic. Sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if I had never left my hometown in September 2012. I feel so privileged to be part of this program and to play rugby every day.

Elyssa Alarie APTOELLA rugby 2

     Remember to always doubt your fears, not your dream. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” -T.S. Eliot

Follow Elissa on Twitter

Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Elissa is wearing:

Black Mamba RaceHER tank

Black Mamba FastHER rugby shorts

Wicked White HoldHER hairband



PAIGE FARRIES “Push On and Prove Them Wrong”

 Paige Ferries APTOELLA Rugby 2               The summer before University I tried out for the Alberta U18 women’s rugby team. I was fairly confident in my skills due to the success I had coming out of high school. The process to make the team took the entire summer, and when the list finally came out announcing who was going to be travelling to Nationals, my name was not on it. The absence of my name devastated me and had me seriously considering giving rugby up all together. After some lengthy conversations with my mother, I decided that I was not ready to give rugby up and I would try out for the University team in the fall.

              Come September, I went out for the University of Alberta Panda’s rugby team and made the long list for the school year. A few weeks into September the travelling team was announced, and yet again my name was nowhere to be found. The initial blow of not making another team list was hard. I was not going to let this shake my confidence—instead, I decided to push myself harder to prove the coaches wrong. As luck would have it I was given an opportunity to prove myself when a couple of last minute injuries catapulted me into a starting position on the squad. For the remainder of the season I kept my starting spot and ended my rookie season being one of the top try scorers in the league.

               After that incredible experience with the University I was invited to try out for the U20 Canada team. I was extremely skeptical about risking my self-esteem once again, due to my track record with tryouts, but I thought I might as well go for it. Imagine my delighted shock when the results came out in December, and my name was on the team list. I was completely elated! It solidified that all the work I had done was worth it. I could not be happier, that is until February when I was invited to compete with the national senior women’s team in the Las Vegas Sevens tournament. The experience alone was a massive honor and will never be forgotten. I got to play with and against women I had watched play rugby for years, but to top it off the Maple Leafs team walked away with a first place finish in a stadium packed with cheering rugby fans. The momentum I gained from this experience carried me through the summer with the U20 Canada team in England where we won Nations Cup for the first time making history.Paige Ferries APTOELLA Rugby

               It was an incredible year that finished with an offer to centralize and train full-time in Rugby Canada’s sevens program. I sincerely hope I have learned to not give up on my dreams too quickly. Only time will tell as I push on!

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Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Paige is wearing:

SupportHER Sports Bra

FastHER Rugby Shorts



ASHLEY STEACY “Let Your Strengths Shine”

           Why I fell in love with Rugby….

Ashley Steacy Rugby APTOELLA

           I remember the day my best friend convinced me to go to tryouts for our high school rugby team. Rugby was not at all a mainstream sport in high school when I played. I remember my Jr. high gym teacher trying to teach us how to scrum and we were all like “our head goes WHERE?”. It definitely didn’t give me the best impression of rugby at the time. So when it came to playing on a team in high school I wasn’t so sure. But I went to tryouts anyway to see what it was really about. After the first week I had had so much fun and met so many girls that I wouldn’t have hung out with otherwise. There are so many reasons that I love rugby but I especially love the team culture and how rugby provides an environment for all strengths to shine.

           In high school I played soccer, volleyball, basketball, ran cross-country and did track and field. Rugby was so different, in a good way. Any body type could play. You could be tall, short, big or skinny, it really didn’t matter because there literally is a position for anyone. You don’t have to be the fastest or strongest or fittest to be the best. Volleyball and basketball weren’t my sports because I’m so short (5’1) and I didn’t have the stamina for cross-country. I liked track and field but I loved being on a team surrounded by friends. Rugby brings out your strengths and that’s what I love about it. You can be big and powerful and dominate a scrum or fast and shifty and score tries. You can be a wrecking ball who loves to tackle or you can be the general who takes control of the game.

Ashley Steacy Rugby APTOELLA 1

           Through all of my years playing rugby, 12 years to be specific, I have come across the most genuine, caring, loving and passionate people. I find rugby draws really remarkable people to it because it is such a great sport with a very distinctive culture. I have met some of my very best friends from playing rugby and I wouldn’t trade my experiences with these amazing people for anything.

           Play because you love it and enjoy the ride 😉

Ashley Steacy Rugby APTOELLA

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Ashley is wearing:

Black Mamba FastHER shorts and Black Mamba RaceHER tank

Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography



BRITTANY WATERS “Love What Your Body Can Do”

          I listen to my teammates talk about their bodies and it’s a constant reminder of the power of sport in building self-confidence and positive body image. “I want to add some weight sessions over the holidays so I don’t lose muscle” and “I lost five pounds over the tour and I’ll need to gain it back quickly” are common things I hear these days. As athletes, getting stronger, faster and fitter is what we drive our bodies to do. We are not concerned with much else because we view our bodies as vehicles to reach our goals. At the age of 32, I can honestly say I love my body. This wasn’t always the truth. The difficulty of straying from narrow ideas of femininity and beauty nearly held me back from being where I am today in sport.

Brittany Waters APTOELLA Rugby

       When I was younger I didn’t like having muscular arms or legs. I would avoid wearing tank tops and tie hoodies around my waist to hide my butt. If you saw a picture of me back then you wouldn’t even notice anything but a regular girl, but I was self-critical as most girls are. I didn’t want to look different than my friends.

Brittany Waters APTOELLA Rugby

        When I first started playing rugby I said to my brother that I don’t want to play for Canada because I don’t want to be huge and bulky and I don’t want to look masculine. I’m embarrassed that those words came out of my mouth. I kept playing rugby and a few years later I was asked to try out for the national sevens team. I knew nothing about the expectations of a national level athlete. I had never lifted weights or trained outside of set practices in rugby or any other sport. The strength and conditioning (S&C) coach at the time was explaining a typical training schedule and my first thought was: “I don’t want to become too muscular and I don’t want my body to change.” I actually had the audacity to ask the S&C coach if I could add long distance running to my program so I would stay lean. He looked at me like I was crazy. Needless to say I did not make the cut that camp. Fortunately I had a chance to come back that summer and try out again. I started to train really hard, letting go of worries about my body. The goal of making the national team and having the chance to represent Canada at the 2009 7s World Cup became my focus.
Brittany Waters Rugby Rugby APTOELLA

       From my experience, being thin or having a certain body type does not lead to happiness or confidence. I have learned that confidence comes from working hard and achieving goals; It grows from over-coming challenges and getting up after you’ve been knocked down. My positive body image came from pushing myself in the gym, at training, at the track, etc., and experiencing the way it could perform. Using your body to do things that you love, whether it’s running, cycling, hiking, yoga, or playing rugby, promotes a healthier perspective towards it. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16 year-old-self to love her body and to focus on what it can do rather than what it looks like.

Brittany Waters Rugby Rugby APTOELLA Rugby
People used to say to me: “You don’t look like a rugby player.” I don’t hear those words very often anymore. I look like an athlete and I’m proud of it.


       Brittany Waters has represented Canada in four World Cups, she played a key roll in helping her team bring home two silver medals, one in 7s and one in 15s. Brittany had an international 7s career from 2007-2014, and is a current international 15s player and has been since earning her first cap in 2008. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and Sociology she went on to earn a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Victoria. Fittingly, Brittany is now the head coach of the women’s Vikes program at the University of Victoria.

For more info on the is fabulous women you can follow her on Twitter or check out THE ANGELS

Photographs by Krystal Calver of CalverPhotography

Brittany is wearing:

Black Mamba FastHER Shorts


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