Rajotte’s Last Stretch With The Stingers
Graduating Rugby Player Paved The Way for New Recruits
After three years of playing with the Concordia Stingers, women’s rugby captain Frédérique Rajotte will bid farewell to the team at the end of this season.
Finishing her final year in Concordia’s communications program, graduation will mark a bittersweet end for the player as she pursues new avenues both within and outside the sport.
“I’m excited for it but it’s also super sad because I feel like I haven’t been there for five seasons,” the 23-year-old rugby centre said.
Stingers head coach Graeme McGravie is sad to see Rajotte go. He pointed out that if she hadn’t taken off a season to go to British Colombia, last year would’ve been her last. He’s glad that the team will get one last season with her.
“She’s given everything she has, and she’s Concordia through and through,” said McGravie. Coaches like to see their athletes win as much as possible in the limited time at the university, he said. “But you also want to see them be successful students and graduate.”
Throughout the years, McGravie has seen Rajotte’s growth firsthand, both as a player and in her physical strength—the area in which he feels she has most improved throughout the years. McGravie feels her rigorous training during the Stingers’ off-seasons are what have helped her get to this point.
“Obviously her time with the national team has seen her grow, I think physically she’s a lot stronger than she was when she first got here, and that has just turned her game into another level,” he added.
Having observed some of the new recruits play during open practice sessions in the winter, Rajotte is confident that they’ll integrate well to the team. Her goal for the team is to make it to the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec finals again this season.
Some of the team’s newest recruits have already trained with Rajotte, including Shawna Brayton and Erika Scott. McGravie has high hopes for this season and his new recruits, with about five or six of them able to start right away. His expectations are high for Brayton in particular.
“We’re super excited to have [Brayton] and we’re really hoping she can make an impact. She has at the CEGEP level and at the provincial level, so we’re just hoping that continues,” said McGravie.
McGravie has described Brayton as a focused player. He compared her to Rajotte, saying that she too spends a lot of time building up her strength in the off-season.
“She’s a seriously dedicated athlete, that’s for sure,” he said.
Brayton considers Rajotte to be her idol and says Rajotte, as well as veteran centre Alexandra Tessier, taught her to play rugby and got her into the sport. Brayton played with Rajotte on Quebec’s provincial team for two years and has been training with her at the Institut national du sport de Québec with Stingers coach François Ratier, as well as weight and conditioning sessions together at Claude-Robillard, for the past few years. She says Rajotte’s been helpful in welcoming her to the team.
“[Rajotte’s] definitely a leader I’d say, very loud on the pitch, telling everyone where to go, what to do,” said Brayton. “She’s a very confident player and always brings 100 per cent to the field.”
This is Brayton’s first semester at Concordia, studying finance and science in order to complete the prerequisites needed for the John Molson School of Business.
“I started rugby when I was 16 years-old in high school and I didn’t know much about it and then it took me across the world” — Frédérique Rajotte
Brayton previously played for the Dawson College Blues rugby team and at the national level with the under-18 Commonwealth Games and the under-20 England Tour last year. Though a little nervous about coming in as a rookie, she hopes to contribute to the Stingers’ success in winning this season’s finals.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Stinger, even before I started CEGEP. They have a great program, great coaches, I mean some of the coaches are even Canada-level. Even in the Olympic program, there was always some training at Concordia,” she said.
Brayton hopes playing at the university level will make her a stronger player overall.
“I’m nervous being a younger one on the team and a rookie, and maybe smaller. […] I think that might be a bit nerve-racking but I’m sure after a while I’ll fit in, get comfortable and used to it,” she said.
After playing with Team Canada in the International Women’s Rugby Series in New Zealand in June, Rajotte went on to make the team for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland this past summer. Stingers teammate Tessier has also made the team. Their team finished fifth.
“I started rugby when I was 16 years-old in high school and I didn’t know much about it and then it took me across the world,” said Rajotte. “I got to see so many things, I got to experience so many challenges. It definitely made me a stronger person.”
“But if you asked me two years ago if I thought of making it to the world cup, my answer would’ve been completely different,” Rajotte said.
She was selected for the team by Ratier, who encouraged her not to give up on her dream of pursuing the sport a few years ago. Coming back from Victoria, B.C., she felt discouraged and was almost ready to hang up her boots for good.
“I was just so beat down and not happy to be playing […] When I came to Concordia after that kind of break, I had a tough season and I was just not there at all,” she explained.
When Ratier encouraged her to continue pursuing rugby, she decided to push forward and became increasingly hungry for the sport. With people around the world watching her in Ireland, she felt the pressure to perform well, but managed to remain calm by treating it as any other game.
“I personally think I’m out there, I’m playing the sport that I love,” said Rajotte “I’m excited […] obviously I’m super competitive about it, but I try not to think about it too much and not stress over it cause it’s just another game at the end of the day.”
Rajotte has no regrets in her career with the Stingers so far, but has some advice for incoming students of all programs. In her first year, she had practices in the evenings, often preventing her from going out to parties and similar events—something that she feels many students feel pressured to do in their first year, whether they actually want to or not.
“When I look back on it, I’m like, maybe I should’ve gone out more in my first year and really had that university experience,” said Rajotte. “But if I think about it, it pays off down the road […] You don’t have to have that cliché university experience that everyone talks about in the movies.”
McGravie added that with it being Rajotte and Tessier’s final season, there is a lot more pressure placed on the team for the upcoming campaign this fall. Adding to that pressure, there are several rugby players going into the Stingers hall of fame at their homecoming, giving this season an added importance with several alumni coming to watch the games.
Upon graduating, Rajotte hopes to kick off her professional career in Montreal, keeping her doors open for all opportunities, but especially hoping that she may someday be a sports broadcaster—an ambition she’s had since she was a child.
“Rugby’s still going to be part of my life cause I’m still young so I think two world cups are still in the works for me,” she said. “But I really want a career for myself and to make a name for myself outside of sports.”