Catherine Hall knows what it feels like to get hurt playing sports.
And she knows how to help prevent it among young athletes.
The former rugby player at McMaster University, who is now a physical education teacher at Lawrence Park Collegiate, was forced to quit the game she loves because of a variety of ailments suffered during her days in the scrum.
“Physically, my body is a mess,” Hall said. “I can’t run anymore because of the injuries. Rugby is a pretty intense sport.”
Asked exactly what was bothering her, Hall was very blunt in her self-assessment.
“Everything hurts,” Hall said. “I broke my nose, a couple of concussions, but my back is the main reason I can’t run. My spine is all ‘smushed’ from rucking in the scrum.”
Hall played prop, a position in rugby that is akin to a lineman in American football.
Basically, props — and locks, and hookers, for that matter — are the foot soldiers that put in the hard work in the trenches so the star wingers and backs can score a try.
And that job was perfectly fine with Hall until she was forced to quit.
Now, she is employed as a gym teacher, a position she is perfectly content with, given the fact she is allowed to coach the school’s extracurricular teams.
Many sports have been under the microscope lately because of the number of players receiving blows to the head and subsequent concussions. It’s something Hall knows all too well.
Aside from suffering her own concussions, the coach has also witnessed first-hand some of her players incur head injuries of their own.
“Yes, I’ve had a couple of people have concussions,” Hall said. “One girl was injured in a pre-season rugby exhibition game. She couldn’t play for the rest of the season and couldn’t even come back to school.”
As someone who is directly responsible for the safety and well being of all the members of her teams, Hall believes it’s her duty to educate her pupils about the pitfalls of brain trauma.
“Just today I had a couple of conversations [about concussions] with my colleagues,” Hall said. “I’d like to get someone to come to talk to parents and athletes about concussions.”
Hall, though, doesn’t believe concussions are the result of players lacking respect for those they play against and believes she knows the real culprit behind the epidemic.
“It’s not that people don’t care about each other,” Hall said. “It’s that they aren’t trained how to tackle properly. Another thing is coaches bringing back people in too soon [which makes it even worse].
“If I couldn’t coach, I wouldn’t teach,” Hall said. “It’s all about the coaching.”
Hall’s journey into teaching came the same way many people find their passion, almost by accident.
“I actually wanted to be a physiotherapist but didn’t get into the program, so this was my backup,” Hall said. “But it’s definitely good because of coaching. I love coaching.”
Now, Hall is in charge of not only the girl’s rugby team, but their women’s hockey team as well.
“They needed a female to go along with the team, so that’s how I got into hockey,” Hall said. “I enjoy it.”