Sophie de Goede has a mantra she tries to live by: “Your goals dictate your actions.”
The third-year Queen’s women’s rugby and basketball player has ticked off many accomplishments already: OUA championship, U SPORTS Player of the Year and playing for the Canadian senior national team. That’s only in rugby.
“If I just let my goals dictate my actions, I can take responsibility for the outcome because I know I’ve gone through the process,” de Goede says, in basketball, she has similar aspirations.
“If I’m trying to decide to go get shots up or not, if I want to win an OUA championship with the Queen’s basketball team, that’s already been decided – I have to go get shots up,” said the dual-sport student-athlete.
de Goede describes herself as tenacious and hard-working.
“I’m very competitive. I’d say that’s the one word to describe me most as an athlete…so that’s kind of what’s driven me.”
Growing up in Victoria, B.C, de Goede was raised in a rugby family. Her parents – Hans de Goede and Stephanie White – were both captains for the Canadian rugby national teams. Her brothers also played rugby.
de Goede played numerous sports at Oak Bay High School but she enjoyed basketball and rugby the most. She started playing rugby at an early age but didn’t realize she was good at it until Grade 10.
“I kind of fell out of love (for the sport) a bit towards the end of high school,” de Goede says, despite racking up the accomplishments and featuring on junior national teams.
“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform and I was thinking so much of rugby in terms of where it could take me and the performances that I needed to put in and I wasn’t thinking about it as ‘You do this sport because you enjoy it,’” she recalls.
That changed when she got to Queen’s, and after a difficult decision. She chose to be a basketball and rugby player over staying home with Canada’s rugby sevens program.
Being around teammates at Queen’s who shared her passion for rugby allowed her to have less pressure on herself, while also maintaining her high expectations and striving to get better.
“Practices are the best part of my day,” she says.
de Goede understands the balance she maintains. The drive to want to be the best pushes her through tough practices, but de Goede also realizes playing the sport should be fun.
“Once I’m on court and on field, I just have to remember to enjoy it.”
Her coaches see her passion and drive on a daily basis.
“She receives a whole lot of personal attention and a whole lot of individual accolades, almost weekly,” says Queen’s rugby head coach Dan Valley. “But she’s the first person to tell you that the individual stuff means nothing.”
Valley pointed out how impressive it is that de Goede balances her two-sport lifestyle. She works on basketball skills during rugby season and vice versa.
Valley also notes that from his experience, it’s not common to see athletes like de Goede who are “innately talented, an excellent teammate and exceptionally hardworking.”
She’s someone who’s not satisfied with her accomplishments either
Valley realizes de Goede’s determination is fueled by future aspirations but also something else.
“She’s wired differently. There’s an innate drive to be excellent and it’s tough to pinpoint where that comes from but it’s a very pure, genuine drive.”
Dan Valley - Queen's Rugby Head Coach
de Goede says she likes having full days. She gets anxious when she sits around for too long, not being productive. Her hatred for losing also motivates her. Her drive to keep pushing and pushing to get better also gives her confidence.
“No matter the outcome, I know that I went through the process as opposed to being concerned with what the finished product looks like,” says the commerce major.
de Goede and Queen’s women’s basketball coach James Bambury have worked on improving her development in both sports as a process.
“I think she’s become more willing to accept that she’s not going to be perfect at everything right away,” Bambury says. “I think a lot of the time she wants to be good right away.”
“It becomes frustrating when it doesn’t come as naturally as rugby does to her,” Bambury adds. “I think now, she’s taking that frustration and turning it into a positive. She’s finding energy from it rather than it kind of zapping her energy, which I think it potentially did earlier in her career.”
They focus on making the game slow down for her mentally – much like she’s already done for rugby. This summer, she spent time scrimmaging to develop her skills more. Bambury says the team is looking for her to take on a larger, more versatile role this season.
Even when she’s out of the lineup, de Goede’s drive persists− she injured her ankle at the end of the last rugby season but was still watching basketball film constantly before she was healthy.
One thing both coaches notice is de Goede’s constant questioning and curiosity.
“It’s not that she’s questioning why we’re doing things,” Bambury says. “She’s actually questioning it…to be able to understand conceptually what we’re trying to do.”
de Goede says she learned the value of asking good questions early on from her dad. She calls him being “a very thoughtful person” who would always take his time answering her questions with valuable, thought-out responses.
“I realized that the better the question, the more value you’re going to get from the response.”
That’s part of what de Goede has continued to work on over time: being a better communicator and leader. Being at Queen’s has helped with that. She’s taken on more responsibility and gained more maturity and self-confidence having to communicate with others.
As a leader and a team captain, de Goede tries to be authentic. She calls herself a logical and direct thinker and teammates to build mutual trust, understanding as well as developing relationships – all working towards their goals.
de Goede still has many goals to accomplish. She wants to win a national championship with Queen’s – in both sports. She wants to win a Rugby World Cup with Canada and play on Canada’s rugby sevens team at the Olympics.
There’s a chance to meet one of those marks shortly.
The U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship is underway in Ottawa from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, after which she plans to join the basketball team.
Whether or not she achieves those goals is uncertain, but one thing is certain – like the motto she lives by – she’ll stop at nothing to achieve them.
As the official Rugby Ball Supplier of U SPORTS, Gilbert Rugby Canada will provide match balls and other prizing to the 2019 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championship Presented by the University of Ottawa from Oct. 30 - Nov. 3 at Matt Anthony Field.
Michael is a second-year Carleton Master of Journalism student. Michael writes for The Charlatan, Carleton’s student newspaper, as well as the Ottawa Sportspage and was a assistant Communications Intern for Wheelchair Basketball Canada. Michael also does colour commentary for the Carleton basketball broadcasts.