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In the Field at Work and at Play: Vanessa Duffley at the 2022 Canada Summer Games

Meet Vanessa Duffley, Superintendent of Field Services with CFM. She recently volunteered her time and passion for rugby as Head Coach of Team NB Équipe at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games. Her indomitable spirit, exemplary leadership and teamwork skills, and strong advocacy for diversity and inclusion shine through at work and play.


Q: Tell us about your team and your role in rugby at the Canada Summer Games this year.


A: I am the head coach for Team NB Équipe / Spruce Rugby Sevens, a team of 10 female athletes under 19 years of age.


The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games (the Games) were held from August 6 to 21 in Niagara, Ontario, after having been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We competed during the first week this year.


This was my first experience at the Games and it was phenomenal! The atmosphere is like a miniature Olympics, including opening and closing ceremonies. The overall calibre of competition, venues, support services and entertainment were second to none.


I was honoured to be part of this experience: one that our athletes will cherish and never forget. 


Q: How did you get involved with rugby? What are some highlights from your days as a player?


A: I first fell in love with rugby as a player in grade five, which was only possible because I grew up in Belleisle, where rugby was the most popular sport.


I played competitively through my youth, representing the province of New Brunswick in 15s rugby at the U19 level since the age of 14. I then played at St. Francis Xavier University for four years, from 2010 to 2014. In that time, we won four AUS Championships, two CIS National Titles, and one Silver CIS Medal. Our 2010 Championship team will be inducted into the St. Francis Xavier Sports Hall of Fame this coming October. In 2013, we won CIS Nationals at home in front of over 5,000 families, friends, and fans. That team was exceptional and one of my fondest memories to date!


Q: Now that you have graduated from school and are an up-and-coming professional, how do you stay involved in the sport? What keeps you motivated to volunteer with it?


I have been a volunteer rugby coach for more than 10 years, all while working or studying full-time.


Now that I have stopped playing, I am most passionate about contributing to the development of others, in and out of the sport. I want young athletes to have female role models in leadership positions that they can aspire to, which is why I coach and am on the New Brunswick Rugby Union’s board of directors. 


The most rewarding part for me is helping young adults achieve their goals such as post-secondary education, national team selection, and so on.


Q: What skills have you learned from your involvement in rugby that you bring to life and work every day?


I bring the World Rugby core values to work every day: discipline, respect, integrity, passion and solidarity. In addition to those values, I’d say the most important skill I’ve learned through rugby is grit. You learn to persevere through physical injuries, scoring deficits and the psychological aspects of the game.


Rugby is unlike other sports. There are no time-outs or ongoing substitutions so you learn to work through things in real-time with your teammates, who are on the field next to you. This perseverance is invaluable in the workplace to get results, make positive changes and do it as a team.


There is also a component of trust in rugby, where you need to trust in others to do their specific roles, like make their tackle, hit their penalty kick, or run a support line. Trusting in my team at work serves me well in my current role because I am not an industrial mechanic or welder by trade. We play to our individual and group strengths. Ultimately, that makes our team successful on the playing field or in CFM Field Services.


Q: Let’s flip that: what skills from life and work do you bring to rugby?


I’ve had a variety of roles at JDI, which I’ve been able to draw on in my rugby career. These include recruitment, engagement, facilitation, mediation, performance management, goal-setting, change management and financial management.


On Team NB as the Head Coach, you’re also the accountant, team manager, and everything in between. We are ultimately responsible for every aspect of the team from ordering kits to booking flights and teaching someone how to safely tackle.


Working at JDI has been a great practice with ever-changing situations, effectively communicating with different people, and has positioned me well to customize my coaching and interactions with athletes, parents/guardians, referees, spectators, and others.


Q: What’s one thing you would like people to know about rugby culture?


Rugby is unique in that it welcomes all bodies, abilities, and experience levels! It’s a diverse sport that’s truly for everyone. Our team is open to you, no matter how you identify, where you are from, what you believe in, or who you love.


We want you to fall in love with the sport so that you can continue with the game in whatever way you desire, whether that’s playing competitively, for fun, refereeing, coaching, joining a board, or being a team manager.


Q: Do you have any words of wisdom you would like to share with others who might be considering getting involved in rugby as a player or a volunteer?


A: The rugby community will welcome you wholeheartedly, no matter how you want to get involved! You will gain friends, who will become like family, and see first-hand how unique the culture of the sport truly is.

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