Born into a sports family, Lauryn Walker grew up playing competitive soccer for most of her life. She enjoyed it but never felt like it was her calling.
“I was always too aggressive for the game,” says Walker. “I just started not to love it as much.”
In high school, Walker was asked to play on the school’s rugby team. Having watched her father coach football as a child, she decided to give rugby a shot.
“I instantly fell in love, and I haven’t looked back since,” she says.
Walker graduated high school and joined Carleton’s Child and Youth Studies program in 2019. She knew she wanted to continue playing rugby and was quick to make the team. Her first year was a little rough as she learned how to play at the varsity level, but in her second year and with the help of her coaches David Luong and Melanie Angeli, she began to find her groove. “I started to see my purpose, where the team needed me and where I could go,” Walker says. “And with the support of the coaching staff and my parents, it just took off from there. Our team went from winning no games to coming third. It took my ego to a whole new level.”
Carleton’s rugby team was just the beginning for Walker. With her father’s connection to the football world and having been born in Jamaica, he was able to get her in touch with the coaches of Jamaica’s women’s rugby team. She sent them highlight tapes and spoke to them over the phone, and they offered her a spot to play in the 2022 Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens Qualifiers.
“They offered me the spot in March of last year and by April I was in the Bahamas playing in a tournament with people I’ve watched on television,” Walker says. “It was all so fast and intense, but definitely worth it.”
Coming in first place, Team Jamaica moved on to the 2022 RAN Super Sevens Tournament in Mexico City. Walker was invited to play again — this time as the team captain. She led them to victory and qualified the team for the 2023 Pan-American Games, which will take place in Chile later this year.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Walker says. “I really hope I get to play in the Pan-Am Games, but if I don’t, I will definitely be there cheering them on.”
Playing for Team Jamaica not only expanded the world of rugby for Walker, but also gave her a sense of connection she didn’t know she was missing.
“As soon as I got off the plane, I knew I was home,” Walker says. “I looked around me and saw people who looked like me and who talk like my family members. It just felt right.”
Walker is in the midst of obtaining her Jamaican passport and plans to return to as soon as she can.
Aside from sports, Walker is passionate about working with underprivileged youth. She recently got hired as a child and youth worker at St. Mary’s Group Home and hopes that one day she can own and operate her own youth centre where she can combine her love of sports with her desire for helping people.
“I want to provide youth from all backgrounds with options for both academic and athletic outlets.”
For Walker, Black History Month is an opportunity for her to reflect on her accomplishments and to remember those that came before her.
“It is a reminder of all the things that I can accomplish, all the dreams that can come true, and all the people I can one day inspire,” Walker says. “At some point in life, there was a sport, a place or even a field of work, that didn’t accept Black people, regardless of the talent or abilities that they possessed. But yet, as a community, we still made a way.”
“And now decades later, I have the opportunity to do the same thing for others down the line, because those before me literally walked, so I could be the proud Black woman I am today.”