Photos by Catherine Goce
By Adriana Skaljin
Sara Svoboda has been playing for the McMaster women’s rugby team for the past five years, and has reached the end of her university career.
While playing for the rugby team, off the field, Svoboda has been busy completing a degree in Kinesiology, a subject that has been helpful for her even outside of the classroom.
“Kinesiology teaches you about the importance of cognitive and physical breaks, which is complementary to playing rugby,” Svoboda said.
She has described her time on the rugby team as one that brought balance into her life, and emphasized the importance of doing everything in moderation.
“I have learned so much through the camaraderie of the sport,” Svoboda said. “It tends to get a bad rep because it is so physical, but it is one of the sports [in which] I encountered the most respectful and all-around great people. Having sport as an outlet allows me to uplift any bad days, whether it is stepping onto the field or seeing my teammates.”
Svoboda has had the chance of playing with both of her sisters, fifth-year flanker Katie and second-year fly-half Tia, on the McMaster team. This is her twin sister Katie’s final year on the team as well, who plays on the back row with Sara.
“Katie has been a huge part of both my team and my own success in rugby,” said Svoboda. “Having a twin is like having a biologically perfect training partner to rely on.”
Svoboda was ecstatic when her younger sister, Tia, moved from playing rugby in British Columbia to McMaster, getting the chance to play with both of her sisters who were already mainstays of the Marauders lineup.
“Seeing my younger sister develop as a player has been exciting,” Svoboda said. “She is only in her second year, but plays fly-half, so she fills a major role. It is cool to see her step into a leadership role and follow her guidance.”
At their last McMaster practice, Svoboda noticed Tia getting emotional; realizing that the three sisters’ time together on the Marauders was coming to an end.
Throughout the regular season, coach Tim Doucette used checkpoint conversations to look at the team’s progress. When entering the playoff season, he emphasized that this was no longer a test, and that the team needed to execute their game plan.
“We internalized what he said and switched to a mindset that focused on having heart and grit,” said Svoboda.
The Marauders effectively implemented this game plan, and finished third in the Shiels division by the end of the regular season. Mac followed up their strong finish with a dominant quarterfinal win, beating the Wilfred Laurier University Golden Hawks 109-0.
Unfortunately, the Marauders would go on to lose against Queen’s University in the semifinals, just falling short in a close 29-24 contest. Despite this heart-breaking loss, Svoboda still classifies it as their best game.
“We weren’t happy with our result when we played [Queen’s] on our home field earlier in the regular season,” Svoboda said. “We executed our game plan and pulled off a better performance this time around.”
In their Bronze Medal match on Oct. 19, the Marauders put on another authoritative win, this time rolling over the Brock University Badgers 59-5; sealing the Bronze Medal for the home team.
— McMaster Athletics (@McMasterSports) 20 October 2018
This game was a strong end to Svoboda’s final season with McMaster. Reflecting upon her time as a Marauder, Svoboda expressed her gratitude to both her parents and her teammates.
“Coach Tim always stresses that after the game, we clap to the stands,” explained Svoboda. “Like most parents, mine have never missed a game and are the most supportive fans.”
Each year, the women’s rugby coach implants a word into the player’s heads. This season, Doucette created the hashtag #HFOR, which stands for “Here For One Reason.”
“This really resonated with me and my teammates, because no matter [your age], McMaster women’s rugby has always been about playing for each other and creating an inclusive environment both on and off of the field,” Svoboda said. “We have preserved a culture that stresses inclusivity, whether it be in terms of sexual orientation, ethnicity or background. I am honoured to have been part of such a wonderful community.”
“I am grateful to have been able to inspire the next generation of women to get involved with such a rewarding sport,” Svoboda added.
Over five years with McMaster athletics, women’s rugby star Sara Svoboda has developed as both an individual and a rugby player, with the help of her family and teammates. Mac’s famed number eight will always remember gathering on the field beside her fellow Marauders after a game, and seeing all of their fans and families in the stands.