Athlete of the Month May 2020 – Sara Svoboda

Sara Svoboda –Local Rugger on a Roll

By Total Sports

Sara Svoboda, 25, is a graduate of Centennial Secondary School and McMaster University. She started her rugby career at CSS and with the Belleville Bulldogs and has represented Canada nine times with the senior women’s National Team. She is currently working on a Masters Degree in Sports and Exercise Psychology at Loughborough University in England.

Svoboda recently took a timeout to participate in a Q and A session with Total Sports Quinte.

TSQ: Which coaches most influenced your athletic career?

SS: “Rob Terry was my soccer coach for the Belleville Comets from U8-U18, which really speaks to how passionate he was about the sport. A lot of what he instilled in us stuck with me and translated well to rugby. Shaun Allen coached my sisters (Katie and Tia) and me at McMaster and is an awesome person and great coach. He taught me so much about the tactical side of rugby and created a really competitive environment in training. He also helped us develop leadership skills by taking a step back at game time and letting the players run the show.”

TSQ: What attracted you to rugby?

SS: “I loved soccer and hockey growing up but the high speed combined with physicality of rugby was unlike any sport I’d played before. My uncle and dad also played a high level of rugby so my sisters and I were eager to give it a try, first in the Bulldogs Touch League and then full tackle in Grade 9.”

TSQ: How do you train away from the field?

SS: “Any team I’ve played for has had a great strength and conditioning staff so I’ve had plenty of support lifting weights at school and home. I ran cross-country in high school which helps me be able to challenge myself with workouts on track or trail.”

TSQ: What are your strengths as a rugby player?

SS: “Conditioning, being able to cover a lot of the field on attack and defence, support. My fitness has allowed me to fill that role well.”

TSQ: Where do you most need to improve?

SS: “Tactical awareness. Canada, like most countries, is developing a more structural style of play — getting in the right places, creating the best ‘shape.’ You can never watch enough video or study the game enough to become more aware of on-field positioning.”

TSQ: Where has women’s rugby improved the most since you started playing?

SS: “Game knowledge. We’re really fortunate to have access to analysts and some pretty cool technology at training camps and on tours, such as drones, that allow us to get instant feedback and a view of all phases. It helps in game preparation.”

TSQ: Best rugby memory to date?

SS: “Winning the OUA championship my first year at McMaster, on home soil, and getting silver at Nationals in Guelph. In the spring, we also captured the National Sevens title in B.C., so it was a pretty awesome first year.”

TSQ: Worst rugby memory to date?

SS: “Narrowly missing out on a trip to Nationals in 2018 in Alberta in my final year at McMaster.”

TSQ: Advice for young rugby players with National Team aspirations?

SS: “Get your hands on a ball — as much as possible. Watch rugby. It isn’t a sport a lot of Canadians grow up playing, so we’re at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to experience on the international stage. Develop strong ball skills, study the best players at your position to accumulate ‘mental reps’ so when you try a skill yourself, your brain already recognizes the pattern.”

TSQ: Career interests beyond rugby?

SS: “Working with athletes competing at various levels to enhance their performance and improve their preparation to ultimately get the most from their sporting experience.”


Favourite food: “My mom’s turkey dinner.”

Favourite cheat food: Dairy Queen.

Favourite musician: Bryan Adams.

Favourite movie: Titanic and Jaws (tie).

Best place visited: Paris.

Three people, alive or dead, to have lunch with: 

“My grandfather John Svoboda, who I never met (he died in 1989), Clara Hughes and Will Ferrel.”