Cutline: Second-year Gee-Gees Alex Ondo Donato and Taylor Donato with coach Jen Boyd. Photo: Courtesy of Sports Services.
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For Gee-Gees coach Boyd, the opportunity to coach at at home was something special

From Aug. 1-7 Rugby Canada and USA Rugby competed in a four-game series featuring the countries’ U18 and U20 teams. Canada’s U20 team featured two Gee-Gees athletes, helmed by Gees head coach Jen Boyd.

For Boyd, the opportunity to coach team Canada comes on the heels of her being named Rugby Canada’s female coach of the year last March. While Boyd has previously coached for Rugby Canada, she felt there was something special about getting to do it on her home turf.

“It was pretty unique being in Ottawa with a lot of support—family and friends—for the girls but also for me personally as a coach,” said Boyd. “So it was nice to not have to travel and just be really comfortable at home on our field at (the University of Ottawa) and using our equipment and stuff, and working with all the event staff that I knew was very comforting.”

For second-year Gee-Gees Taylor Donato and Alex Ondo, the comfort of playing in familiar settings and with their university coach was a big help in a new, high-pressure situation.

“It was really different than anything rugby-related I’ve done before,” said Ondo. “Having coach Jen as well made it a lot easier to go into; less stressful because it was familiar in that sense, especially with it being at the university.”

“I’ve only been with the Gee-Gees for a year but I think Gee-Gees have been, in terms of rugby, the biggest impact for me so it was nice to take a team Canada experience and have it somewhere familiar,” said Donato. “I really like being a Gee-Gee, so it was nice that I got to get the two in one experience there.”

Team Canada’s U20 team performed exceptionally in the series, defeating USA 45–24 and 50–12. Boyd was particularly impressed with how her two Gee-Gees athletes performed on the national level.

“I knew they were ready; I wasn’t sure if they knew they were ready, but they were. Ondo could have easily been a player of the game in one of the games and Donato started one game and came off the bench in another game and made a real impact to the team, so it’s really great to be able to share that with them.”

For Donato, the series was an opportunity to measure herself against the best North American rugby players her age.

“I really enjoyed the rugby, I really enjoyed the team. Team USA was a good battle because they were really tough and they were really feisty and they were really good at tackling.”

Meanwhile, Ondo credits the series with giving her a boost of confidence ahead of her second season with the Gees.

“In the past, with the university for example, I’d get really nervous for a game and (the series) helped me be more confident in my playing and my personal performance.”

Playing at the national level provided a chance for Donato and Ondo to get some invaluable experience ahead of their second year with the Gees. And as Boyd continues to add to an impressive coaching resume, the Gee-Gees rugby program is in good hands for years to come.