Women's Month SPOTLIGHT: Sara Svoboda

March 28, 2024


Women's Month SPOTLIGHT: Sara Svoboda

By: Nikolas Viveiros

In a country filled with any sport one can imagine, Sara Svoboda was born to play rugby. Her father and uncle grew up playing for the Belleville Bulldogsdeveloping the amount of skill that led to enormous opportunities.  

Sara’s uncle Karl played for Canada in their first three World Cup appearances and her father, Paul, played at a high level in Ontario well into his 20s. They found a passion for the sport that would inevitably be passed down to Sara and her sisters.  

Though the game was in her blood, Sara found her own love for it. While she played hockey and soccer growing up, she gave rugby a more serious shot during her first year of high school 

“I never felt like it was forced on me, and all three of us fell in love with the game.” 

Sara’s two sisters, Katie and Tia also playedKatie (her twin) received her first cap for Canada in 2016, while Tia was carded for Canada’s 7’s program for a few years running.  

Sara got her start in Rugby Ontario at the U16 level. Her coach in Bellville, Pete Hercus, noticed that her and Katie had some extra flare to their game, telling them they should bring their skill to the provincial level. After a few trials, Sara was told something that came to her as a surprise.  

“They told me I was more suited for backrow, and I couldn’t believe it,” said Svoboda. “I just remember going to my dad in tears telling him they must think I’m slow.” 

When it came time to play at the U18 level, Svoboda had established herself as a flanker. It’s a position she fell in love with, and still plays today with the Loughborough Lightning of the PWR.  

I think that was a decision that needed to be made sooner rather than later, and I’m happy I listened and leaned into that position.” 

Shaun Allen was another important coach during Svoboda's time at Rugby Ontario. Not only did he help recruit Svoboda to McMaster University, but his coaching philosophy helped her become a stronger and more confident player every day. 

“He was so passionate about the Women's game and led with the philosophy of expressing yourself,” said Svoboda. “He helped me realize that it’s not always about structure, and at the end of the day there’s 23 of us stepping on a pitch to win at whatever cost.” 

One of the most important things Sara has taken away from the game on and off the pitch is the bond with teammates. Though she described setbacks like injuries and non-selections during her young careerultimately, it’s the connections you make for a lifetime that make the game rewarding each day 

“My teammates and I will assign someone to be on cooking duty and we’ll blast Canadian country music while making pasta,” Svoboda laughed. “These are the things you don’t have in other environments and these moments with teammates make you a stronger team.”  

Looking towards the future of the Women’s game, Svoboda hopes to see Ontario continue to grow the game, especially at the university level.  She noted that the work being done to have Ontario universities compete in high-level tournaments like University 7’s in BC are important steps being taken.  

“My dream is that one day we could home grow athletes and keep them here with our own pro teams,” said Svoboda. “If someone told me this league was starting tomorrow, I’d be home in a second.”  


Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to lead, support and promote Rugby for All from communities to clubs to province. This mission signals a movement toward creating a more cohesive, supportive and progressive sporting environment that is responsive to the needs of all members.

To learn more, visit https://www.rugbyontario.com/




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