Vancouver, BC – May 10, 2020: BC Rugby would like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to moms in British Columbia and around the world! Rugby at any level would be impossible without the support of mothers who make their children’s rugby dreams a reality. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we wanted to provide a unique perspective from some of our Canadian national team players about their own trailblazing rugby moms and the impact they had on their lives and rugby careers.
Maggie Banks and Heather Wilson-Banks.
Heather Wilson-Banks featured in two Rugby World Cups for Canada, and has also captained the team on two occasions. Her daughter Maggie plays centre for the Queen’s University Gaels, who won the 2019-20 OUA Women’s Rugby Championship and came second at the U Sports National Women’s Rugby Championship. In 2018, Maggie featured on the Vancouver Island Central Coast sevens team at the BC Summer Games, winning the gold medal and earning the WR Bennett award for most outstanding athlete at the event. She also earned a callup to Canada’s U18 team that same year, but was unavailable due to an injury.
“It’s different having a parent who knows what it’s like first hand,” says Maggie. “She’s been there and done that so she can see things from the athletes point of view, which not every parent can. I’m lucky to have such a passionate, supportive and hardworking mom who has made me the woman I am today.”
Sophie de Goede, Maggie’s teammate on the OUA champion Gaels, also comes from a very strong rugby background. Mother Stephanie White was the first-ever captain of the national women’s rugby team in 1987, and was a co-captain four years later in the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup. She then moved to sevens, where she also served as captain for Canada. Now a Rugby Canada Hall of Fame member and executive, she served on the BC Rugby Board of Directors and then the Rugby Canada Board of Directors, all the while championing the progress of the women’s game. Today, White is the Chairperson of the Monty Heald Fund, a Canadian Rugby Foundation, dedicated to removing pay-to-play for national woman’s rugby teams in Canada. Daughter Sophie has carved out a fantastic career for herself so far – in addition to her success with Queen’s University, where she has earned numerous provincial and national accolades alongside her 2019 championship, de Goede has played for Canada at the U20 and senior level.
Sophie de Goede and Stephanie White.
“I appreciate my mother and her rugby experience for far more than simply the technical and tactical teachings she was able to pass on to me at a young age,” de Goede says. “Through listening to stories from her playing days, I was afforded a greater understanding of how far women’s rugby has come in terms of the resources and exposure that I am now fortunate to benefit from. My mom really taught me to appreciate and to value the efforts of the women who came before me and to strive to be a role model for the young girls who will follow me. I also learned from watching her interact with former teammates and now lifelong friends, just how special rugby is as a sport in its ability to bring a diverse group of women together.”
One of Stephanie White’s teammates on Canada’s first ever women’s side in 1987 was Pam Pickering, mother of the University of Victoria’s Brooke Bazian. Bazian, like her mother, plays XVs, but has also picked up the 7s game where she has found great success. On UVic’s sevens team, she is a three-time Canada West champion. She has worn the Maple Leaf in both XVs and 7s as well, playing for Canada’s U20 XVs at the 2018 Tri-Nations Cup and in 2019 at the FISU Summer Universiade 7s.
Canada’s 1987 women’s team featuring Pam Pickering (front row, fourth from right) and 2019 FISU 7s team featuring Brooke Bazian (back row, third from right)
Bazian didn’t know her mom was on that 1987 team until after she’d already picked up the sport herself. “The first time I watched my brother play rugby back in high school, I knew it was for me. I asked my mom if I could join the school team, but she was worried I was too small. A couple years later, I tried again and finally got the okay. It wasn’t until a year later when I started playing for BC that I found out my mom played for the first ever women’s national rugby team. She said she wanted me to pave the way for myself, and didn’t want her name to have any impact. I have now played for Canada’s U18s and U20s, and I owe it all to her.”
Jen Ross playing for Canada.
On the men’s side of the game, brothers Jake and Josh Thiel also take inspiration from their mother. Jen Ross is a former national team player, and played with Abbotsford RFC for quite some time, retiring with a Women’s Division 1 championship in 2011 and moving to coaching. Ross has since coached numerous rugby sides, and is currently the coach of the University of the Fraser Valley’s women’s sevens team. In 2020, Ross received the Joan Spray Award at the BC Rugby Hall of Fame induction ceremony, presented annually to a woman in BC’s rugby community who has exhibited dedication and a lifelong contribution to the sport.
The brothers have both represented Canada on the sevens circuit, most recently taking home a silver medal together at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. In addition to sevens, Josh also plays XVs in Major League Rugby for the San Diego Legion, and has played with the senior national XVs side.
Jake credits his mom’s passion for rugby with his success.
“My mom had a huge hand in teaching me how to play rugby, in addition to all of the usual tasks of a rugby parent like driving us to every practice. But on top of that, she passed onto us her love of the game and taught us how to be coachable people, which I think is a huge part of why I’ve made it this far in rugby. She was there for me when the road was a bit harder, always encouraging me to keep doing what I love.”
While neither Thiel felt any additional pressure to perform, having a mother who had made it to the very highest level of rugby in Canada was an inspiration.
“You hear about the success and accomplishments she’s had in rugby and of course growing up it inspires you to try to pursue it,” says Josh. “You hope to have the same effect on others that she had on us. She’s had a huge impact in every way, whether it be driving us to training or her support off the field, as well as her constant coaching support and unwavering belief in us to succeed.”
“If I didn’t have my mom in my life I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Jake. “She’s an incredible person, who’s touched so many lives with her volunteering and coaching. She was always helping anybody that needed it, in rugby or in life. I benefited from that because I was always around rugby, getting to practice and learn from some pretty amazing women’s players growing up but I also learned that rugby is more than a sport, it’s a way to give back and help improve people’s lives. I’m lucky to have had such an incredible role model in my life who is also my mom.”
I’m sure I speak for all the people she coached and helped in her life in saying thank you for everything you do, love you. – Jake Thiel
Thanks, mom. Thanks for being the loving and supportive person like moms are suppose to be. But mostly thanks for waking (forcing) me up for early morning practices, thanks for making me feel guilty when I take a rest day, and thanks for pushing me to go for a “leisurely” run with you when we end up racing each other to the end. I definitely took it for granted in the moment but I appreciate these things today because it has truly shaped the person I have become. Disciplined, driven, confident and most importantly passionate about the sport of rugby where I can feel most like myself. – Brooke Bazian
Thank you for understanding the commitment and drive it takes and thank you for always pushing me to be my best. I wouldn’t have accomplished the things I have without you so thank you for everything you do. – Maggie Banks