Halifax's Cooper Coats continuing to shine for Canadian rugby sevens team
25-year-old suffered knee injury in January, but plans to be ready for world cup in South Africa
Cooper Coats didn't play a game of rugby until he was in Grade 12 at Citadel High School in Halifax, and was known for his abilities on the soccer pitch at Acadia University.
Fast forward eight years and Coats is now one of the leaders on Canada's rugby sevens men's team.
"Back in high school I went to a few training sessions and then played a few games and I ended up falling in love with it," said Coats, during a day off from training with the national team in Victoria.
Rugby sevens became an Olympic sport in 2016 in Brazil. With only seven players per team on the field at a time, instead of the traditional 15, it is a sport that is very physically demanding. If you aren't fast and strong, the game is not likely to go well for you.
Coats has both of those physical attributes.
"It's very quick with a ton of running, which makes for a lot of highlights," said Coats, 25. "That makes it a lot of fun for people to watch."
Coats suffered a knee injury in January when Canada played in four tournaments in Dubai and Spain. Arthroscopic surgery has repaired the knee and he's now rehabbing and training with his national teammates in Victoria.
He is unlikely to play in three upcoming events next month in Singapore, Vancouver and the Bahamas. But he plans to be ready for the rest of the summer season including the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town, South Africa.
"He really has been on an incredible journey and he is quite a story," said Jack Hanratty, a provincial rugby coach in Nova Scotia who coached Coats for several years. "Within six months of picking up a rugby ball for the first time, Cooper wore the maple leaf and played for Canada's U-18 team on a tour through Romania, which was a huge achievement."
Hanratty, now the coach of Canada's national women's team, said the sky's the limit for Coats, who is just rounding into the peak of his rugby career.
Coats was the captain for Canada in their last two tournaments.
"I was honoured to be given that responsibility for those two weekends," said Coats. "I'm truly proud to be the only player on the current team from Atlantic Canada so it was pretty incredible to wear the armband and represent the team."
Coats writes the letters NS on tape that he wears over his wrist so everyone knows where he's from.
Many veteran players have moved on from Canada's team. Coats is leading a new group of younger players, and he hopes they can qualify for the Olympics in Paris in 2024.
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