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Gees coach brings commaing presence to the game

Photo Credit: Sarah Nolette

For Jennifer Boyd, rugby is about way more than passing and kicking—it’s about living. The women’s rugby team recently moved into the ninth spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) top 10 rankings after a 45-21 win against Sherbrooke.

Their success is due in large part to Boyd, the team’s head coach. She started her second year as the Gee-Gees head coach in fine fashion, leading the team on a three-game winning streak. Much of Boyd’s philosophy lies in the demonstrative power of rugby—how the sport really reveals the character of an individual.

“You can’t hide who you really are. If you’re a coward, if you’re courageous, you see it on the field,” she says.

Boyd says the sport is different from any other because its ferocity knows no bounds.

“I find it very special, and very unique,” she says. “It’s the only sport where the rules for a contact sport aren’t adapted for women. There is no women’s rugby. There’s just rugby.”

Boyd has almost 20 years of combined experience as a player and a coach. She began her playing career in her second year at Bishop’s University, where she graduated with a bachelor of science in 1997. After playing three years at Bishop’s, Boyd moved on to the University of Ottawa, where she wore the Gee-Gees jersey while attaining a bachelor of education in 1998.

She played in numerous different positions during her time in Sherbrooke and Ottawa, which has given her valuable insight when it comes to coaching. Boyd also played on the Canadian national team for three years and competed in games against New Zealand, Scotland, England, and the United States.

As a coach, she has worked at local rugby clubs and at the varsity, provincial, and national levels. The Gee-Gees women’s rugby team practices six days a week— Boyd and the team’s contact coach Duncan McNaughton demand excellence at each one. The coaches focus on the basics such as passing, catching, and tackling.

Boyd says the hardest thing to teach a new player is tackling, because it’s just as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

“You’ve got to want to tackle and take someone down,” she says.

When it comes to coaching, it’s all about the player’s development and the bonds that form along the way, says Boyd.

“It’s not about the passing and kicking,” she says. “it’s about the relationships that you build, and setting goals.”