While many things are different this year, some things never change: Sophie de Goede continues to light it up on the rugby pitch—only this time on a new team and in a different continent.
When university sports were cancelled due to COVID-19, the fourth-year commerce student crossed the pond to London, UK—where the professional league, the Allianz Premier 15s, was continuing with league play—and joined the Saracens Women, the reigning league champions.
Although it was a career move de Goede was considering pursuing down the road, the opportunity to play professionally came earlier than expected.
“The coach at Saracens, Alex Austerberry, and I had chatted previously about the potential for me to join the club at some point in my rugby career. When our Queen’s season was cancelled due to COVID-19, we got back in contact with each other to discuss me coming over this year,” she wrote in a statement to The Journal.
The transition from post-secondary sports to professional play can be difficult, especially in a country with a different style of play. However, de Goede has found the transition smooth, something she credits to her time so far with the Gaels and Canada’s national women’s team.
“UK rugby tends to be more attritional and hard-hitting, whereas in North America we like to play a wider, faster style around the pitch,” she said.
“Our rugby program at Queen’s does a great job in holding itself to a high standard in terms of professionalism at the university level, so I’m very fortunate with how that environment and my National team involvements have set me up for success here.”
De Goede and the Saracens have certainly found success, currently holding a 5-0 record on the season as they look to secure back-to-back league titles.
However, while adjusting to professional play is one thing, doing so while completing studies in a different time zone is another.
“It’s tough at times to juggle scheduling, but I’m sure I’m not the only student working from abroad during the pandemic. With that in mind, our courses have been very flexible, and my professors have been really understanding of my circumstances,” de Goede said.
In fact, de Goede said she’s arguably having an easier time with the workload than when she’s in Kingston, where she juggles both rugby and basketball with her academics.
“Training demands are definitely heavy, but the nice thing is that I don’t have much else taking up my time other than film review and recovery. So, because I’m not also having to fit in basketball practices and in-class time, the balance between training and getting schoolwork finished feels a bit more manageable than my usual schedule at Queen’s.”
Despite being thousands of kilometres away from Canada, there are still elements of home in the UK.
For one, de Goede’s Queen’s teammates McKinley Hunt and Taylor Black are also playing pro in the UK. The two are set to face off against de Goede on Dec. 5 in a quasiQueen’s reunion.
Queen’s offensive player in the year is also reminded of her native B.C. with the UK’s coastal landscape.
“I’m actually living a bit outside of London currently, in a coastal town, and we drive in for training. It’s been really nice to have the beach nearby – being from the west coast, it reminds me of home,” she said.
All in all, the reigning OUA MVP is just happy to be back on the pitch and experience some return to normalcy in a year that has been anything but.
“The highlight of my stay so far has been getting back into actually playing games. Since the pandemic began, it has felt like an extended off-season of heavy training loads, so it is very refreshing to be able to play in games again.”
Professional sports, Sophie De Goede, Women's rugby
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