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Staying active has always been important to Andrea, spending her school days playing basketball, volleyball, softball and many other sports. The one sport she had never played, however, was rugby. Her life changed when a teammate convinced her to join the rugby fray. “To this day, I don’t know how she got me on the field,” Andrea said. “But from the first game I played, I absolutely fell in love. I immediately excelled at rugby. It was the perfect sport for my strong physique, power, and aggressive style.”
While Andrea had always enjoyed staying as active as possible, the introduction of rugby into her routine took it to another level. Once college rolled around, Andrea didn’t see herself as experienced as the other women who had played for years. She decided not to try out for the collegiate women’s rugby team, a decision that left her feeling disconnected from the sport she had once loved.
Fast forward to several years later, and Andrea had recently moved to the Ottawa area to work for a non-profit. She didn’t know anyone in Ottawa, and she still desperately missed the sport that she had once fallen in love with. After she discovered the existence of an Ottawa women’s rugby club, Andrea decided that she wanted in. She leashed up her dog and took an afternoon walk to the practice field, soon learning that while the previous club had been disbanded, the Ottawa Beavers Banshees RFC was there. “Two hours later, I was a Banshee!” Andrea said. “I hadn’t played rugby in 12 years, so I was about as green as they come, but I was determined. Being part of the rugby community is so different from any other sport. You really become a family.”
Back in the rugby game and feeling good, Andrea began considering provincial rugby to improve faster. Then, she suffered a high-grade ACL tear and began to feel her dream slipping away. She kept practicing, attempting to keep the same activity level, but the pain and discomfort caused her fitness level to deteriorate along with her health. “I was steadily losing the level of fitness I had maintained before because the pain and swelling kept me from training at the level I needed. I wasn’t able to do cardio work outside of practice, and I gained some extra weight as well. At 34, I was already far older than almost all of my teammates, and no one would have questioned it if I hung up my cleats. But I was determined to prove to myself just how good I could be,” Andrea said. “I knew that lacking the confidence to try out in university was one of my major regrets, and I was convinced that if I had kept playing, I would have been great. I wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet.”
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Andrea had the drive to keep going, and she was determined not to let an injury get in her way. She started focusing on her health holistically, consulting with former CFL player Pat Woodcock on training plans and dietitian Helene Charlebois on nutrition. Andrea began a major focus on fitness and on food, incorporating Progressive's active women's MultiVitamin, fish oil and collagen daily, and learning how to fuel her body properly. “With Pat and Helene giving me the tools and knowledge I needed, I worked hard every day to be the best I could,” Andrea said. “So when I heard about Ontario provincial tryouts in April 2019, I decided to give it a shot.”
At the age of 35 -- and with a serious lack of experience -- Andrea consistently felt out of place during tryouts. However, it was a long-time dream, and one she wasn’t willing to give up on. “More than once, I cried and told myself I was embarrassing myself and that I had no right to be there among these incredibly talented athletes. But I showed up, I did what I could, and when I received the email that said I had been named to the seconds’ team, I knew I had proven to myself that yes, I could do it.”
As the oldest player with the least experience, Andrea has faced plenty of challenges along the way. From age to health, it hasn’t always been an easy road. However, she’s not done, and this summer travelled to Quebec City to compete in the Canadian Rugby Championships. “Having the opportunity to wear a jersey and represent my province, my home, was a feeling of pride like no other. It was a feeling I will never forget,” Andrea said. “Since then, I’ve continued to work at my goal, determined to return to see my teammates and coaches in April 2020. Determined to build on what I learned last year, and be more ready to perform at the elite level. And no matter what happens going forward, I am proud of who I am and what I’ve done.”
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When she’s not on the rugby field, Andrea spends her days as a business development manager for AgriTeam Canada. While activity has always been important, it’s even more important now. By changing her mindset and focus on health and nutrition, the self-professed “fitness junkie” has changed her own life and chased her dreams full speed ahead. With an unbridled passion for her sport and the self-motivated drive to care for herself, health and wellness have become second nature to Andrea.