Photo By: Amine Rock Hoovr from Unsplash
When athletes get recruited from high school for university varsity sports, they are typically some of the best in the area. These athletes are usually the best at their school, they usually play for the best club teams and they have the potential to be real assets when joining university teams in the fall. This was the case for one of the Brock women’s rugby players, Alexis Gigliotti.
Gigliotti came to Brock in her first-year after being recruited by then-head coach Stefanie Pavolavic. Gigliotti had been awarded MVP in her grade 12 year for the Saint Paul High School rugby team. She had just made the Ontario West hub team and was playing travel rugby with the Niagara Rugby Club in her hometown, Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, Gigliotti broke her wrist during tryouts and was unable to play for her entire rookie year.
In Gigliotti’s second-year, she was successful at tryouts and was able to secure a spot on the team roster, only to see a total of 40 minutes of playing time over the entire season.
Gigliotti played in the first exhibition game of the season and then found herself redshirted, still a member of the team, but unable to train or dress for games.
“It was one of the hardest things to do, watch all the girls on my team train and do all the same things that I was doing, but they got to play, they got to wear the uniform and step on the field while I sat on the bench and watched them play in games,” said Gigliotti.
Unfortunately, this is how it works at the university level; all of the athletes are the best from their schools, they all play at the highest levels and when they are all pooled together to create the university team, things change. All university-level athletes are competing for starting positions and a few minutes of playing time in the second half. This can be hard for athletes to come to terms with when they are used to being the ‘best of the best.
After quitting in her second-year, Gigliotti tried out for the Brock women’s rugby team in 2019-20, not only making the team but scoring a starting position in the forward back for every single regular season and playoff game that year.
“I wanted to give up after my second-year because I knew that there were girls who were better than me and I just didn’t expect this at all, I tried out in my fourth-year because I missed rugby and I had convinced myself that being on the team and getting to train and be around everyone was better than not being on the team or around rugby,” said Gigliotti. “The fact that the new coaches saw something in me and started me in the first exhibition game of the year and then every game after that was honestly the highlight of my entire university experience.”
Gigliotti feels that her experience getting redshirted in her second-year helped her to appreciate it more when she got her starting spot on the team after her return in her fourth-year.
“This whole experience humbled me and taught me to be patient and work hard and it all paid off and I had the best year that season,” said Gigliott. “It just wasn’t my time to shine back then and now that I have had this whole opportunity, I was excited to graduate and move on with my life and use all the skills that I had learned… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Gigliotti offers some good advice and a great perspective into the real-life struggles and tough reality of being a varsity student athlete that is indispensable for any student athlete.
Disclosure: Morgan Vidakovic was previously a member of the women’s rugby team during some of her time as an undergraduate student at Brock University.