ABBOTSFORD, BC - Our latest BC Rugby First XV Volunteer was recently recognized by Rugby Canada as their 2012 Female Coach of the Year. Abbotsford's Jen Ross began volunteering in 1991 and has since coached at the high school, club, youth and rep levels.
Over the last year Ross has coached Abbotsford's U18 women's team to back-to-back provincial titles, coached Fraser Valley's U17 teams to gold and silver medal finishes at the BC Summer Games and has also been instrumental in growing Robert Bateman's high school girls program.
Ross also served as Fraser Valley's senior women's team manager during their 2013 Ruth Hellerud-Brown Cup campaign and was recently appointed as the BC U16 girls provincial team coach for the upcoming summer.
"Jen is committed and passionate about developing young female rugby players and her resume shows that she is garnering success with her coaching methods," BC Rugby Girls Youth Development Officer Marlene Donaldson recently said of Ross's appointment.
This past weekend Ross was once again at the rugby pitch holding a trial camp for over 65 Fraser Valley girls ahead of the B2Gold Provincial Regional Championships. We caught up with our latest First XV Volunteer when she had a rare break from rugby and she told us a bit about how she began volunteering in the rugby community…
BC RUGBY: How long have you been involved as a volunteer with rugby? What roles do you currently have?
JEN ROSS: I started volunteering in 1991, pretty much the same year I started playing 15's back in Toronto. I coached the first girl's team at Agincourt Collegiate. I have tried to cut back a bit - but currently am managing the U18 Valley Girls, coaching the BC U16 girls, just finished up with the Robert Bateman girls and will continue to work with the Abbotsford U18 girls this fall. I am also part of the FVRU (Fraser Valley) Executive.
BC: Why is volunteering important to you and why have you dedicated so many hours to Abbotsford and Fraser Valley's programs?
JR: I strongly believe that youth today need more than just their parents support but mentors in the community who truly believe in them. Bringing athletes together from different schools and different clubs breaks down barriers and builds positive social environments with a common goal. Besides that I simply love the sport and have a lot of fun watching the girls excel.
BC: What is the secret to balancing so many hours of rugby with your professional life?
JR: I expect it is learning to say no but that is a work in progress for me. I am lucky that the company I work for shares my passion for all sports and have been extremely understanding and flexible with my coaching commitments.
BC: Can you tell us a bit about your playing career? How did you first get involved with Abby?
JR: I came to rugby late in life in 1989, playing 7's for two summers before I ever played 15's back in Ontario. I have played for 13 different clubs in Ontario, BC, England, and Wales. I have been fortunate to win 3 National Championships - 2 for Ontario and 1 for BC and was honoured to represent Canada from 1994-96. After moving back from Wales in 2005 I joined Abbotsford RFC and it has been my home ever since. It has been amazing to see the growth within the club and I look forward to watching the Women's side develop in Abby.
BC: What positions have you played and which one is your strongest?
JR: I started my career in the back row but played in the tight five for Canada. I really wasn't tall enough to lock (it was the days before being lifted) but it actually was my favourite position. Then after joining James Bay I was moved into the backs and played the last half of my playing days at 12 and then 10. I don't know if it was my strongest but I had the best time at fly half.
BC: Have you ever played/coached/volunteered at another rugby club other than Abby?
JR: The clubs I have played at are Balmy Beach Club, Ajax Wanderers, UVIC, Castaways, JBAA, Altrincham Kersal, Pontyclun, Bridgend Athletic and then ARFC. I have coached at JBAA, Bridgend Athletic and also the Crimson Tide.
BC: Who is your favourite Canadian rugby player (ever) ?
JR: For their intensity on the field Dan Baugh and Moira Shiels
BC: Who is your current favourite rugby player and why?
JR: Sappy answer but for sure my boys Jake, Josh and James Thiel
BC: Do you see yourself leaving the game of rugby any time soon?
JR: You can do that? No one told me you could leave the game!!
Since developing osteoarthritis and waiting on a hip replacement I have had to retire- it has not been easy to stop playing cold turkey but I am definitely moving on. I think I will probably take on less so that I can watch my boys play but I don't think I will ever leave the game completely.
BC: What is your greatest rugby memory either as a player or as a volunteer?
JR: There is nothing better than playing for Canada!! My greatest memory volunteering is seeing the Valley girls finish 1st and 2nd in the BC Summer Games last Summer.
BC: Anything else you would like to add?
JR: I have been really fortunate to be surrounded by amazing co coaches, mentors and athletes over the years. We have met so many wonderful young women and their parents over the years. It makes all of the hours worth it!
The First XV Volunteer Appreciation program is an initiative designed to recognize the valuable pillars of our membership that help keep our sport afloat. Each recognized volunteer will be presented with a "thank you" item, a customized BC Rugby Umbrella. Each individual will then receive another 10 thank you BC Rugby travel mugs to show their appreciation to the top 10 volunteers that work alongside them in their club.