The sun is beaming down, the mercury is edging toward 30 C and Lauren Kerr is standing in the middle of an empty field practicing her kick.
The Robert Bateman secondary grad’s plans to try out for provincial and regional rugby squads this summer have been scuttled. Instead, she’s training six days a week, usually for upwards of four hours at a time.
It’s not exactly how Kerr envisioned herself spending her first month after high school, but her intensive training regimen comes with a big payoff.
Kerr, 18, found out last week that she will be heading to China in August as part of Canada’s women’s rugby sevens squad at the Youth Olympic Games. She is the lone British Columbia player to make the team.
With rugby making its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the youth team is a key stepping stone toward selection for Canada’s women’s rugby squads in 2016 and especially 2020.
So Kerr, a scrum half/first receiver who started the game four years ago at the behest of her brother Devon, was more than a little excited to learn of her selection by email.
“I just melted,” she said. “I was amazed. I can’t express the feeling. I started to cry.”
So too did her parents Leslie and Ray, who will join their daughter in Nanjing.
Kerr hadn’t liked her chances at wearing the Maple Leaf during two selection camps for the squad.
Canada’s women’s rugby program is strong, having qualified for the Youth Olympics by finishing second at the Women’s Rugby Sevens World Cup.
“I didn’t think I had a shot,” she said. “From my point of view, the other girls had so much talent.”
But so did Kerr, apparently.
She captained Bateman’s 15-a-side squad this year but found herself on the sidelines for the bulk of the provincial championship game after separating her shoulder in the Fraser Valley final. The shoulder’s back in tip-top shape now, but Kerr won’t be playing locally or provincially in order to stay healthy for the national team.
Her selection is indicative of Kerr’s skill, but it’s also a testament to her inner drive, said Bateman coach Jen Ross.
“She is extremely determined and hard-working, but what sets her apart is her love of the sport,” Ross said.
And while rugby is known as a hard-hitting, fast-paced sport for uber-athletes, it’s the nuanced parts of the game that appeal most to Kerr.
As a ball-distributing scrum-half, Kerr sounds like a chess grandmaster as she explains her love for rugby.
“There’s a lot of thinking involved,” said Kerr. “During the game, I have to know my next move two moves ahead, before I can complete the first one.”
Kerr doesn’t just enjoy thinking rugby. She likes thinking about thinking; she plans on studying psychology at the University of Victoria and will also likely suit up for the university’s rugby squad. With Canada’s women rugby team based nearby, she’ll be in a perfect spot to build upon her reputation as one of the country’s best young players.
But that’s in the future.
Today and tomorrow and the next day are about working out in the gym, practicing the fundamentals, and getting ready for China.
“The work doesn’t stop,” she said. “You’ve got to keep going.”