Brussels native named Western assistant rugby coach
BY DENNY SCOTT
Brussels native Lexi Smith started her first season as the Assistant Coach of the women’s varsity rugby team at the University of Western Ontario this week after playing for the program for a number of years.
The team started its preperation period on Monday, with training sessions twice a day for two weeks before the rugby season opens with the Western team facing off against the University of Toronto on Sept. 3.
Smith told The Citizen that, after playing rugby throughout her post-secondary education career, she had hoped to eventually return to coach the program, but the change came sooner than she anticipated.
Having recently graduated from teacher’s college, she said she was excited to be teaching in London, and then the chance to also coach presented itself.
“I was going to take a break and focus on my career, but the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t want to turn it down,” she said.
She said she will be busy, teaching in a Grade 1/2 classroom and coaching, but she should be able to manage both.
“It will be time-consuming, and I’ll likely be working every night from now until November, depending on how playoffs go,” she said. “It will work nice with teaching, because I can come and coach in the evening.”
Smith has a lot of experience to draw on for rugby, having first started as a student at St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School.
“A hockey coach of mine was the rugby coach at St. Anne’s, and he encouraged me to play,” she said. “I started in Grade 9, and it took off from there. I played for Team Ontario and a bunch of different clubs over the years, until I committed to playing at Western after high school.”
Smith has been involved in a number of rugby programs, tournaments and championship-level play over the years, earning numerous accolades and trophies before she signed on with Western.
She said that coaching rugby is the perfect marriage of her two passions, rugby and teaching, and will allow her to bring her expertise and experience on to the field.
She said being a woman in sport is difficult, and finding a way to make a living as one can be even harder, which made this opportunity of getting paid to do what she loved important. She anticipated coaching sports as a teacher, but not at the level she is now.
“Western is a very high-performance environment,” she said.
The head coach, Josh Campbell, is fabulous, Smith said, and has been wonderful to work with.
“We have a great relationship,” she said. “He’s a great mentor.”
As for this year’s team, she said the Western squad has a number of strong players, including some new recruits who are fitting in well.
Changes to the rugby league have resulted in a single division, she said, instead of two, so there will be some new faces to challenge the Western team. Specifically, she said that Queen’s University and the University of Guelph are known to field strong teams. She said it would be nice to see how the Western team measures up against them.
“We’re going to have a decent amount of competition,” she said.
As for how she got to where she is, Smith said that all it took was “going all in”.
“It’s super busy, and it might be a big undertaking, but no matter what it is, you have to give 110 per cent,” she said. “Whether it’s your career, personal life, family life or sports, you have to go all in.”