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.
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.
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.
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