The Canadian women’s sevens rugby team bid farewell to its captain this week.
Jen Kish played in 134 matches, scored 170 points and 34 tries and never once grabbed a yellow or a red card. While she’s been a part of the national program for the past 13 years, she admits she would have played longer if her body allowed it.
Kish has been dealing with an aggravated neck injury since 2015 and a problem hip and torn labrum all part and parcel of when she partially broke her pelvis. Had her pelvis broken fully, it would have been career ending, so she was playing on borrowed time.
“My fear was if I keep playing I’ll push it to the point where it can’t be repaired and it will be too much,” Kish said.
Doctors told her the only way her body will heal is if she stops playing contact sports, she said.
It was a hard decision for Kish to make, putting herself before one of the greatest loves of her life and her team. She said she has never fallen short of something she wanted to do – and that was to finish the season.
The lower hip pain has been there since the injury, but she has a very high pain tolerance. Her mental toughness and adrenaline is what carried her through.
Kish said she was surprised head coach John Tait offered her a contract at the beginning of the season, considering her injuries. But Tait told her he’s never seen her back away from a challenge and so had no reservations about signing her.
When she got injured again this season in San Diego and was in rehab while her team was at the Commonwealth Games, she knew it was time to hang up her boots.
Kish said her teammates have been incredibly supportive of her decision to retire and some have said it’s going to be difficult without her, but she feels like the program won’t skip a beat.
She thinks the talent pool in the program is so great and that if she’s done her job as a leader, there won’t be a gap between veteran and rookies players.
She is very proud of how hard she and her teammates worked to create a national team program that is now capable of medalling in any tournament. She has an appreciation for what players before her did, and she hopes that future players don’t lose sight of the little things those before them worked so hard for.
Her experiences as an athlete have made her grittier, from the baggy jerseys that she didn’t fit, being cut from the sevens team in 2007, she feels more confident to conquer life outside of rugby because she’s faced challenges and overcome them.
Being a professional athlete and travelling around the world to play was an experience Kish will always cherish, but once she retired she realized she never really stopped to enjoy the beauty of where she was, despite the fact that she was outside all the time.
She was always thinking about the next practice, game or play and is excited to enjoy the little things in retirement. She would like to return to the places she has played and experience them as a tourist, and of course take in some rugby.
Rugby will always remain a part of her life.
Kish is an assistant coach at her club, the Edmonton Rockers, and is passionate about helping re-build the franchise to a premiere team like when she played.
She will give speeches and talks about her journey with the sport, and hopes that will satiate her hunger for rugby.
Kish is also planning on getting back into personal training once her body has recovered, she worked as a personal trainer for four years, before she began training with the national team full time.