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.

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          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!

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Follow Jess on Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography

Jess is wearing:

RaceHER Tank Top

FastHER Rugby Shorts

HoldHER Headband

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