Earlier this year, Valley native Erika Scott travelled to Spain to play rugby with a professional European league. She played with the team Club de Rugby Arquitectura Técnica (C.R.A.T.) A Coruña as part of the Federación Española de Rugby for about three months and finished the season with them. This trip happened just after she graduated from Bishop’s University in Lennoxville in December 2021.
Scott has been playing rugby since she graduated from CVR (Chateauguay Valley Regional High School). For the past few years, she played for the Bishop’s Gaiters, and it was her coach there who set her up along with another teammate to play at a professional level across the Atlantic. Scott had excelled during her time at Bishop’s and had been named an RSEQ (Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec) all-star for three seasons.
Travelling to Spain was a bit of a process amidst the ongoing pandemic. The paperwork and protocols added up, since she was travelling from Canada to Ireland and then from Ireland to Spain. The trip home was much easier, as she only had to worry about filling out questions on one app (ArriveCAN) as most regulations had been loosened or dropped.
Practice with ‘jet-lag brain’
When she arrived in Spain, Scott started practicing almost immediately. “We landed on Thursday, and then Friday night we had training right away – jet-lagged and trying to practice with jet-lag brain,” explains Scott. Though the league works on an elongated schedule, meaning she only played four games throughout the three months she was there, the team still practiced three times per week.
Initially, the team was placed fairly low in the league. With the work she and the other new teammate put in, they “got up to sixth place. Which means we didn’t have to play to be relegated. Essentially, if you’re in a certain position, you have to play additional games to stay in that top division.” The team’s position is now secured in this top league for next season.
Unfortunately, both Scott and her Canadian teammate contracted COVID after arriving in Spain and missed some time due to having to quarantine, and they did miss one game. However, they still managed to help their team “win some important games” afterwards, and Scott was awarded Player of the Game in two out of the four games she played.
‘They speak so fast!’
Moving to a new country didn’t come without a culture shock. When first heading to Spain, Scott had hoped to learn quite a bit of Spanish, but once there she realized the language was more complex than she had hoped. “It was a lot more difficult to pick up than I thought it would be. I thought [having] French would really help, but it didn’t. And they speak so fast.” Most of her teammates and people who worked in the town, did speak enough English to help her get by. Of her coaches, she says “It was funny: they would look at me staring at them – blank stares, blinking – and they would switch [to English].” Now, though she may not be able to speak Spanish fluently, she says “I definitely understand a lot more.”
Once her stint as a player came to an end, Scott and her teammate rented a car and toured around Spain for four days. They went hiking, stayed in small villages, and got to try delicious foods. Scott notes that as they were so close to the sea, she tried a fun variety of foods like octopus. “I had never really thought of it, but it was everywhere, so I figured ‘Now I have to try it.’ I learned a couple of recipes that I’m going to try at some point.”
Though she may not return to Spain to stay for such a long period, she says she would love to visit the friends she made while she was there. “You kind of build relationships with people. It was definitely a good experience in that aspect … getting to meet new people.” She explains that that camaraderie was one of the reasons that she chose to go on this trip to begin with.
Scott recommends the experience to anyone looking to visit a new country while playing their sport. “You meet new people and you’re thrown into a new culture, and it’s a sink-or-swim kind of thing.” The best way to get involved is to research where you’d like to go and reach out to different teams. Playing a sport and making connections is always a great way to expand your opportunities.