Three-sport athlete Olivia Sarabura wanted a bit of a change to start her Grade 12-plus year at John F. Ross CVI so she decided to become a four-sport athlete.
In previous years Sarabura played field hockey with the Royals varsity team and was a contributing member of three District 10 championship-winning teams, but she wanted to try something different this year so she went out for Ross’s varsity football team.
“I played field hockey for four years and I wanted to switch things up,” she said following a recent D10 girls’ hockey game with the Royals. She’s their captain. “I’m kind of too tall for field hockey to begin with and it’s my last year, 12-plus, so I figured I might as well go and have some fun with it.”
Now a girl suiting up for a high school football team in the local D10 league was nothing new as this year alone she was one of three. However, Sarabura received more playing time than most do, especially early in the season.
“I went out to the team just expecting to be kicker and go in every once in a while, but I ended up starting a few games and I played quite a bit,” she said. “I really had a good time with it. It was one of the best experiences I had in high school.”
Getting to kick, especially converts and field goals, would make sense to Sarabura as she does kick converts for Ross’s perenially strong girls’ rugby team. But the Royals already had a returning kicker for football, so her time on the field would be at another position – linebacker.
Sarabura is always busy in one sport or another during her school year as she plays hockey in the winter season and rugby in the spring season. She also plays rugby during the summer with the Guelph Redcoats and last August attended Rugby Canada’s women’s U18 East Camp along with other top rugby players from the eastern half of the country.
Football is never going to replace either hockey or rugby in Sarabura’s sporting endeavours, but it did give her a bit of a break and her 12-plus year was the right year for it.
“It’s something that I always wanted to do, but when I started high school I wasn’t big enough,” she said.
However, she always saw the Royals’ football team practising after school and after her field hockey games.
“I saw the guys (practising) and I thought ‘Hmm, that looks like a lot of fun.’ I always really wanted to do it.”
And when the season started, Sarabura received quite a bit of time on the field for someone who had never played the sport before. However, she’d seen plenty of games both in person and on television.
“I kind of watch sports every night and I’d watched football growing up and since my brother played, I’d gone to a bunch of the games.”
The eventual D10 champion Royals began their season with games against the Lourdes Crusaders at Lourdes and St. James Lions at home. Both were wins and Sarabura played at linebacker for about half the game against the Crusaders and most of the game against the Lions. However, her playing time fell as the season progressed.
“I played a little less toward the end of the season because I didn’t want to get hurt and it was getting a little more competitive,” she said. “At the start of the (season) when everyone was new and stuff, I really had a good time. I felt like I fit right in with it.”
She also lost playing time because she missed practices and on most teams that means a reduction in playing time.
“I was off for two weeks because I was going out visiting universities and stuff like that so I missed two weeks during the football season and I came back in near the end,” she said. “Near the end I didn’t play that much because I missed a bunch of practices and stuff.”
And her participation with the football team at Ross gave the school’s girls’ hockey team a first. It had a player miss pre-season practices and games due to commitments with the football team.
“I missed the first game (of hockey) because I was at CWOSSA for football,” she said.
This year she also had a bit of a different transition into hockey as in her previous years it had been a switch from field hockey to football. And transitioning from one high school sport to another is something that had done twice a year every year she’s been at Ross.
“At the start, it’s always a little difficult, but I’ve done that throughout the years,” she said. “I’ve played three sports every season. At the end of one and the start of the other I’ll miss a few practices and it’s always hard like that.
“The start is a little rough, but once we get going the team really bonds pretty well and I’ve never really had any problems with that.”