In March 2018, Maddy Grant walked into the RBC Training Ground local qualifying event in Kingston, Ontario, open to whatever opportunities might arise.
Seven months later, she walked into the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, a member of the women’s rugby team that would go on to win the bronze medal.
About to kick off its fourth year, RBC Training Ground is an innovative, nationwide program that identifies and tests young Canadian amateur athletes. Those identified as having high potential receive funding and other forms of support they need to one day reach an Olympic podium.
In 2019, eight National Sports Organizations will be keeping a close eye on the results that athletes aged 14-25 achieve in various tests of strength, speed, power, and endurance to identify those with great potential. They may discover an athlete who comes from another sport or, as in Grant’s case, get a better picture of an athlete already in their system.
In August 2017, Grant had left her hometown of Cornwall, Ontario to train at the Rugby Canada Development Academy in Langford, British Columbia. Though she had heard about RBC Training Ground through friends, it was one of her coaches, former Canadian international player Adam Kleeberger, who really put the idea of attending a combine in her head.
“My mindset going in was to hopefully get a jumpstart within my current sport, rugby,” Grant told Olympic.ca. But when she was also identified for cycling and rowing, she went out and gave both a shot before deciding to stick with rugby.
“It was an amazing experience and I had a lot of fun trying out both sports,” Grant said of being pushed out of her comfort zone. “I think overall, at the end of the day, it made me a better athlete in the sense that I was able to be confident in my own abilities through the support behind me to try out new sports.”
Grant had been one of the top performers at the Kingston combine, which earned her an invitation to a regional final. She was transferred to the Vancouver final because it was closer to where she was residing. Feelings of nervousness and excitement accompanied her there. At 17, she was among the younger competitors in the regional final. But she was also prepared, having done similar testing throughout the year with her rugby teammates.
“I just had to output what I knew I could do and what I knew I had been training for,” she said.
Not letting anyone or anything intimidate her, Grant achieved some standout scores in Vancouver and was named the winner of that regional final.
“It totally took me off guard,” she said. “The competition there was amazing. I was really proud to come out on the other end.”
But she found motivation for the future of her career in more than just her results from the testing realm. There was inspiration to be gleamed from the words and experiences of current high performance athletes, the RBC Olympians who often attend the combines to show their support for the next generation.
“It kind of lit up a pathway in my eyes,” said Grant. “I needed to excel in order to get the type of benefits that RBC Training Ground could offer me, so it pushed me that much harder.”
Grant’s career has taken off since her high potential was identified. Before competing at the Youth Olympic Games, she was on the Canadian team that just missed the podium at a rugby sevens tournament in Hokkaido, Japan in September.
“I think if I hadn’t gone through the process of RBC Training Ground, I definitely wouldn’t have been as motivated,” said Grant about the impact the program has had on her career. “Seeing the talent identification process of upcoming athletes coming through the program… that sort of pushed me more, knowing that they’re trying to identify all these athletes from all these different backgrounds that could potentially come in and excel at the sport that I was already in.”
“It pushed me to become more of a competitor.”
As for any young athletes across Canada considering whether to register for RBC Training Ground this year, Grant offers this advice:
“Definitely, definitely go and be confident in your abilities and not let other competitors get in your head. Because only positive things can come from going to a Training Ground, whether that be you get funded through RBC or you are just able to experience that type of positive environment where you know you have hundreds of people behind your back supporting you along the way.”