The BC Summer Games are just around the corner and local rugby players are looking forward to the challenge.
Scratching out the x’s and o’s for the Wolves, the North West zone girls team is coached by Ben Harris, a former rugby player from New Zealand.
Harris, a civil technologist who arrived in Smithers just three months ago to take a position with Opus DaytonKnight, is no stranger to rugby.
“I’ve had a rugby ball in my hands since I was born and playing since I was four,” Harris said.
Harris distinguished himself on the rugby pitch, representing his province, Hawke’s Bay, at the national level up to the U20 level when his career was cut short by a knee injury.
Not bad considering New Zealand is a gold mine of rugby talent with every child dreaming of playing for the national All Blacks squad.
“It forced me to think about coaching,” Harris said of the injury that ended his high-performance career.
Harris is guiding a team comprised of players from Smithers and Houston, players that have faced each other a few times, but have never played together.
That, Harris said, poses an important challenge.
“These girls have played against each other, but they don’t know each other on the field.
“I’m trying to get them into a team environment.”
To get the girls to learn about each other on the field, Harris has designed practice drills to allow the girls from Houston and Smithers to play together and learn the on-field habits of their teammates.
With little time to prepare, another challenge Harris faces as a coach, is getting his players to put into effect what they learned in practice and stepping up their game to match the higher level of play he expects to see at the BC Summer Games.
“Hopefully everything will click and the girls will step up,” Harris said.
“Hopefuly we stick to our plan and hopefully we’ll be a well-structured side.
“I think we’ve got a great team, there’s a lot of talent here.”
One of the players Harris will be counting on is Samantha Gibbs.
Gibbs, 14, has played rugby for two seasons now, admitted she enjoyed the competition and physical play of rugby.
“I like the adrenalin rush, it’s fun,” she said.
Gibbs also said she appreciated rugby because it could be played by girls of different statures.
“It’s for everybody, it doesn’t matter what your body type is,” she said.
“Anybody can play.”
When asked what the biggest challenge would be, Gibbs alluded to the structure coach Harris alluded to.
“Knowing what to do when you’re caught up in everything,” she said.
Although the trip to Surrey marks her first time at a BC Games competition, Gibbs said she isn’t nervous, but rather excited about the opportunity to spend four days playing rugby.
“I’m stoked,” she said.
Joining Gibbs are Cassie Ayers, Ashley Cocklin, Hanae Kerr and Chasity Rozsas, as well as supervisor Cobus Jonker.
Although the team is young and has little time to prepare, Harris was optimistic about the outcome of the games.
“Win,” Harris said.
The BC Summer Games are set for July 19 – 22.