There Was Also Rugby

When I share the part of my story about how I came into the sport of rowing, I often say that I chose rowing because “it was the only varsity sport that had a novice team.” (Meaning, you could join without having any previous experience.) Well… watching the Olympics this week reminded me that that’s not quite the whole story. It wasn’t the only varsity sport you could join without any experience.

There was also rugby.

canada-faces-britain-in-bronze-medal-match-in-women-s-rugby-sevens-event-article-image-0I actually spent some time debating with my new friends which team I should try out for. Some of them even tried to convince me I’d be good at rugby. Can you imagine how different my life would have been? I am so NOT a rugby player. But even then, the rough-and-tumble side of the sport held a certain appeal, as I (briefly) fantasized about me crashing into other girls and letting my alter-ego take the field. Or pitch. Or whatever it’s called. I can only imagine this adventure ending with a broken nose, or worse, some broken teeth (which my mom always reminds me, cost $6,000.) And then that probably would have been it.

Watching our Canadian women’s rugby sevens team compete really drilled that home. What an incredible group of hard-hitting girls!




At the same time I was watching rugby sevens make its debut at the 2016 Olympics, I was also reading the book of Jeremiah. I inevitably was reminded of the oft-quoted verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare [other translations say ‘good’ or ‘peace’] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29.11, ESV)

It struck me that God is planning our lives out and orchestrating all of our options for us everyday. I’m sure we only realize it a small fraction of the times that He masterfully guides our paths – like steering me away from the rugby team and to rowing.

I also remember an experience I had in 2008, at a conference put on by the Canadian Olympic Committee to help us all get to know each other and mentally prepare before heading off to China. I was headed down to the gym with some teammates, and Kyle Shewfelt, already an Olympic gold medalist from the 2004 Olympics, looked at me clutching my weights program. He asked, “Do you have a coach that plans all that for you? Man, I wish I had something like that!” I couldn’t believe it.

Well, God is that type of coach. He is your strength coach, but also your sports psychologist and your nutritionist (He feeds the sparrows, so He can feed you! [Matt. 6.26]) He has planned all of the details of your life. He knows when things are going to go well, and when you are going to face hurdles.

But you know what? He is also your equipment specialist. He has given you all of the things you need to succeed – and He cares that you have a hope and a future.

If you’re having trouble finding your equipment – if your quiver feels like it’s running out of arrows, or you’re fading in the final leg of your race, take a look at the following verses: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29.12-13, ESV)

If you’re an athlete, you probably already know what it’s like to train with all of your heart, soul and mind. What if we sought God that way too?

About the author : Sarah Bonikowsky

Sarah Bonikowsky Chaudhery is a 2008 Olympian (women’s eight, 4th) as well as a world cup silver and bronze medalist, Pan Am Games bronze medalist (women’s pair) and a two-time National Champion. She is also passionate about her bikes, and has competed in both mountain biking and as a tandem pilot in paracycling. After retiring from the Canadian National Rowing Team in 2012, Sarah married Joe Chaudhery. They live in a small town north of the GTA, with Zoë (born in 2016) and Zachary (2019). Sarah now practices as a paediatric occupational therapist, helping kids reach their full potential by maximizing their abilities at home and school.

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