Tamara Dixon: Player, mentor and coach


Tamara Dixon is not only the committed and passionate coach of the Sheridan Bruins women’s rugby team, she is an accomplished athlete who overcame a devastating injury.

The Brampton native began her rugby career when she was 15 at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary. After high school, she played rugby at Western University, where she studied sociology and theology.

On the right is Bruins assistant coach Amanda Corsetti and on the left, head coach Tamara Dixon speaking to the team prior to a game last season.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE SHERIDAN BRUINS: On the right is Bruins assistant coach Amanda Corsetti and on the left, head coach Tamara Dixon speaking to the team prior to a game last season.

Dixon, 33, said she chose Western for its rugby program, however that’s where her athletic career took a life-changing turn.

At the end of September in 2001 Dixon fractured her back.

“It was the last day of tryouts at Western and the coach announced that everyone on the field had made the team,” said Dixon. “After the announcement was made we were scrimmaging and I got tackled. Her head hit my back directly.”

Physically, Dixon was able to make a recovery in six weeks, however mentally and emotionally it took much longer.

Due to the injury she missed the entire rugby season and although she had the opportunity to play in the final game, Dixon had developed a fear of tackling or getting tackled.

“I think it really took years to overcome and when I did it was entirely random,” said Dixon. “I was very aggressive, very aggressive in play of action and to lose that was rough. It was my thing.”

After two years at Western, Dixon transferred to York University where she continued her studies and also joined the rugby team.

Not only did she play for York, but she played club and provincial rugby as well. Dixon continued to play provincial rugby until 2007 and still plays club rugby to this day.

After finishing her degree at York, Dixon attended the University of Toronto where she received her bachelor of education.

Dixon has been with the Sheridan program since it started four years ago and has been head coach the past two seasons.

On top of coaching rugby at Sheridan College, Dixon is also a high school religion and student success teacher at her alma mater, where she coaches as well.



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Somehow in the middle of everything else, Dixon has also been playing rugby as a member of the Jamaican national team. As a dual citizen of Jamaica, Dixon has been able to play for the Caribbean nation. She has also recruited other players from the GTA with Jamaican roots, three of whom also attended York University.

The Jamaican team competed at the North American Caribbean Rugby Association Pan Am trials in Mexico last December, finishing fourth, and again for the Olympic trials where they lost to Trinidad in June.

Amidst her rugby and teaching career, Dixon also spent three years as a member of the Canadian bobsleigh team.

From 2009 to 2012, Dixon was a member of the Canadian national B team and raced at international competitions. She went from playing on a muddy pitch, to hurtling down icy mountains at speeds nearing 140 kilometres an hour.

“A lot of rugby players were getting drafted into bobsledding at the time,” said Dixon. “But it started taking up too much time, I wasn’t making money and I was taking too much time off from work. It just became unrealistic.”

Now Dixon’s average day looks something like this: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. she teaches, 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. she coaches high school rugby, 5 to 7 p.m. she coaches Sheridan rugby and, finally, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. she trains.

Despite how many things she has on her plate, she gives 100 per cent in everything she does, her players say.

“Coach T brings a positive example of how an athlete should act. She brings so much passion and commitment to our team,” said women’s rugby captain Natalie Nehlawi. “She’s always positive and she believes in her athletes. She inspires me to give 100 per cent in everything I do, both on the field and off.”

Dixon said that when it comes to her athletes and her students, as much as she loves to see them excel athletically, academics always take priority.

“When I’m recruiting for the Bruins I make sure that the girls put their education first,” said Dixon. “I promote the rugby program, but I wouldn’t push someone to come here just for rugby.”

But after just four years, the team is tasting success.

Dixon has taken the team to the playoffs for the first time.

“I actually had a goal of working with the team for five years before we made playoffs,” said Dixon. “They’ve certainly exceeded what I expected of the program.”

College programs make it difficult to build teams, as many players are only in school for one- or two-year programs.

“In university the students are sold onto the idea for four or five years and you can build off of that. Here it’s like starting from scratch every year,” said Dixon.

“When Sheridan becomes a university I think that’ll definitely change things, especially athletics. Until then I’m just focused on deepening our bench, getting our girls experience and getting past the first round of the playoffs.”