“Rookie!”

I can remember my first day of rugby practice like it was yesterday.

I was just a scrawny, baby-faced teenager, surrounded by a group of 250 lbs men. I recall quietly shaking in my cleats, a combination of fear and excitement running through me.

Four years later, and where has the time gone?

This year we lost to our rival Queen’s in the semi-finals on the very last play of the game. It was a true heartbreaker, especially considering it was the last game of my career. I’d never experienced a feeling like that before — the feeling of something so important to you ending right in front of your eyes.

After the game, my parents walked over to give me a hug and I started crying…

I cried the whole bus ride home.

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Throughout my time in University, I’ve always had a goal: to keep improving every day in hopes of winning a gold medal. That’s what drove me. It drove me to work out, to eat healthy and to work hard in school.

Now that my rugby career is over, it's strange to no longer have that goal, to be in this state of flux. It’s not that I’ve lost my drive necessarily, I’m just unsure of where to turn next.

I’m sure a lot of people will go through this uncertainty as they prepare to graduate from University. That “what now?” feeling. The one thing I will say is, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish if you work at something every single day, without fail. You’d be surprised at your own ability to improve if you truly dedicate yourself.

When I look back over the past four years, I can’t believe how far I’ve come, both as an athlete and as a person. For that, I am truly thankful to the rugby program here at Western.

Importantly, I want to thank all of my coaches and teammates throughout the past four years.

When people ask what Western rugby means to me, I always think of this story:

Two years ago, we were travelling to Kingston to play Queen’s. We had stopped on our way there to practice at a local high school, so we got off the bus and quickly changed on the field. As per usual, I took my ring off and placed it in my shoe — the ring given to me by my grandfather, the person I was named after.

We practiced for an hour or so under the setting sun, until it got too dark to continue. As I ran back over and picked up my shoes, panic shot through me. My ring was gone. I’m sure most of us have experienced that unnerving sensation when you lose something important. I searched frantically in the dark through the long grass, but couldn’t find.

“Glen, we have to go!”, they shouted, and a sadness fell over me.

I remember climbing onto the bus, tears fresh in my eyes, when one of the veterans stopped me.

“What’s wrong?”, he asked, and I recounted what had happened.

“Well, we can’t leave!”

As we were pulling away, he shouted, “Stop! Stop the bus!”

The whole team grabbed their phones, and ran out to scour the field. Forty guys running around with flashlights.

Some 10 minutes later, a sudden “I found it! I found it!” was followed by hysteric running around and celebrating. I have shivers thinking about it.

Although it’s not some vast story of triumph, that is a moment I will never forget. I think it’s a perfect example of the brotherhood that is Western rugby.

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So, to all you “Rookies!”, or any current varsity athletes — cherish your time. Cherish your time competing and building friendships. Cherish your time making these memories. It’s later than you think.

And to all the soon-to-be university graduates — as you make your way out into the real world you will find yourself afraid, feeling like that scrawny, baby-faced teenager all over again. The only advice I offer is to surround yourself with a group of people that will be there for you when you most need it.

Surround yourself with people that will help you find your ring.

— Glen Thomson-Bullock is a fourth-year business student and outgoing member of the Mustangs rugby team 

 

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The Gazette sports section is run by sports editors and staff. Reach the sports section by emailing sports@westerngazette.ca or call 519-661-2111 ext. 82622.

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