Hannah Scherr started her on-field athletic career playing soccer. But despite the fast-paced nature of the beautiful game, something was missing — more contact.
That’s when she decided to turn her focus to the game of rugby.
“I like the aggressiveness, I like hitting. My dad played too, so just the whole [contact] of it,” Scherr said last week before taking to Patullo Field for practice with the Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) team.
“I tried playing soccer again [after] and I couldn’t do it, it’s just not the same.”
In fact, Scherr was so driven to get involved in something a little bit more rough and tumble that she, along with a couple friends, started practicing with the boys rugby team a couple years ago when she was in Grade 9. There was no girls high school rugby squad at the time.
Her sheer willingness and fearless determination to play against the boys that Scherr showed that year was a major factor in establishing what is now the first-ever girls rugby team at CHSS.
And her trailblazing athletic career has helped other girls become involved in what used to be a male-dominated game in Prince Rupert.
In the game of rugby especially, the more confidence you have in your abilities, the more effective you start to become. Scherr has reached that level of play this year, said her CHSS coach, Amanda Barney.
“The biggest thing with Hannah is she’s always been really committed. She’s an incredible athlete and the big change in her is the confidence in herself in general and then the confidence in her skill,” Barney said, adding that she now leads the team as its captain.
“The more she learned about the game and understood it, it was exponential in the way that she took off as a player. As soon as she understood what was going on and felt confident that she understood what was going on, it was all there.”
Scherr’s biggest strengths are her ability to engage in contact, as well as her running. Last week, and as the team’s leader this year, the Rainmaker demonstrated the scrumming techniques to her teammates, who are now learning and gaining confidence in themselves, just as their captain did, as they ratchet up the intensity in practices.
In Rugby 15s, Scherr is the ‘eight-man’ who protects and supports the offence if her side wins the scrum, or must attack with her flankers to get the ball back. Either way, in a split second, Scherr must be ready to attack or defend at a moment’s notice right in the thick of things.
The eight-man must also be able to tackle effectively, hold her ground and be strong against opponents’ (often large) bodies. Rucks are where the action is, and where the rough stuff increases.
“In 7s, I’m the person in the middle of the scrum getting the ball out, so my job is to hook the ball back,” the captain said.
“It’s just adrenaline, you just go,” she added when asked about the mental intensity needed to perform well against so many imposing opponents. She’d like to work on her passing skills to round out her game for this upcoming year.
The 16-year-old has been a member of the Rainmakers since the team’s inception, but recently she made the BC Rugby Elite Girls U18 7s provincial team where she was one of the only northern-based girls to make the prestigious squad, who practiced regularly in the Lower Mainland.
Scherr couldn’t make regular practices, but did join the team for their two tournaments earlier this year – the Las Vegas Invitational in early March and the Vancouver Rugby Festival mere days later.
“There was a tryout in Kamloops that I went to. I didn’t think I’d make the team and then I got a call a month before [the tournaments] asking if I wanted to play and I took that opportunity,” she said.
“It was a good feeling. Just to get that much more experience that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go. It’s a big eye-opener for sure.”
Scherr’s under-18 squad finished third out of 16 teams in Vegas and in second out of six in Vancouver, where her team faced off against a side from world rugby powerhouse New Zealand, the Tahi Kaha All-Stars.
“It was insane. It was pretty cool, though,” Scherr said. “The girls were huge … I feel like my team was almost there, I think [New Zealand] just had a size advantage on us, but in terms of skill I think my team was there,” she said. “It was a good eye-opener for what other kinds of teams are out there.”
Should she make the team as a returnee and a 17-year-old (a good bet) next year, Scherr wants to work on her comfort level on the field.
“I just hope to feel more comfortable at that level because I felt a little bit uncomfortable compared to the girls that were used to it, so if I make the team again, I hope to have that more in my zone,” she added.
She’s well on her way, Barney said.
“She’s an incredibly dynamic runner and a really strong tackler … She just knows what she’s doing and she has that ability to keep the team settled and make decisions on the field. It’s up to the captain if you kick or if you run a play on a penalty, and she knows the game well enough now that I trust her decisions,” her coach said.
The captain thanks Barney, fellow coach Chelsey Ellis and boys’ coach Andy Enns for helping her in developing as a player.
“Just playing with more experienced players helped me realize what I can do differently to become better at rugby. Some of the girls I played with are really amazing and just looking up to them, I want to be able to learn how to do that. It helped because now here in practice, I can work on all those skills,” Scherr said.