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What rugby has given to me

Besides a more intimate knowledge of my local emergency medical services…

end of 2012-13 season

end of 2012-13 season

I’ve never thought of myself as an athlete. Certainly not a ball player. I played a little soccer in high school, reffed a little bit of youth soccer, but when I was focused on fitness (which wasn’t often enough) I did solo stuff – a bit of cardio, some weight lifting.

But like every woman with a sketchy athletic history and a couple of old injuries who hits the age of forty, I decided I should take up rugby.

It wasn’t a straightforward path. First an acquaintance suggested I should play rugby. I didn’t just laugh. I scoffed. I don’t think he was entirely serious, nor do I think he was entirely sober.  When I informed him about 18 months later that I had followed his advice, he asked me if women’s rugby was full contact. Clearly he had no idea what he’d been recommending. And by the way, yes, women’s rugby is full contact.

Not too much later a client suggested that I should play rugby for a local team. I had a torn calf muscle at the time, so it was impossible. But he seemed quite serious.  When he found out I had a son, he told me I should at least bring him down to the club for rugby minis. Having played soccer, I thought this was likely the way I’d go.  But in the end, I fell into rugby. And when my son was old enough, I took him to Wimbledon minis.

Not coming from a rugby culture and never having experienced other clubs, I have to say I just love Wimbledon RFC. It’s a friendly and open club with a lot of people committed to making it work well.  I was invited to a social function hosted by the Ladies’ team by a couple of other rugby mums and I got a little tipsy. When the other rugby mums left I stayed on. By the end of the evening I was slurring that I wanted to play rugby, too.

Foolish me. I didn’t realise that you could back out of drunken pledges to play vicious collision sports. I was absolutely bricking it when I attended my first training session. It nearly killed me. But I went back for more. I improved my fitness. And by February, in sleet and icy rain after several more experienced players left the pitch with hypothermia I played in my first rugby match. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I can’t say it was pleasant, but I felt incredibly alive.

I’m old for rugby. I won’t have a long career. But I’m really glad I did it.

  • I’m a better team player. I’ve always enjoyed working in teams, but playing rugby has helped me to better understand when people are just talking the talk of team playing and when they really mean it.
  • Through being coached and in coaching courses. (I work with my son’s age group) I’ve learned some really cool facilitation approaches. I’ve always been a pretty good facilitator, but I’ve got some new tricks in my bag.
  • Cold-hardiness and weather resistance. Yes, I can now stand around in freezing, wet conditions in shorts.
  • I’m more in touch with my inner toughness.  This weekend I played rugby while sick, dizzy and barely being able to see after getting smashed in the face earlier in the week. I can’t say I played at my best – but I did it.
  • I’m more in touch with my femininity. This was the biggest surprise of all to me. I’ve never been a girly girl. But playing rugby allowed me to be myself in a way that made it easier to be a bit more feminine off the pitch.
  • Sisterhood. I’ve developed some great friendships with people I’d probably never have met otherwise. You might as well be friends with someone who’s sticking their hands between your legs in the scrum.
  • Fun. I’ve been having so much fun.

Women – I can’t recommend rugby enough! If you’ve ever even had a passing thought about it, go and train with a local team. It may or may not be for you, but if it is, I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Posted in musings, sport.

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One Response

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  1. Niall Smith says

    Hey Ingrid,

    congratulations, I did the opposite to you and stopped playing far too young.

    But my love of the game and the feeling of community I got from playing all the way through minis and youths at London Irish has never faded.

    When I was little I learnt that being smaller than the opposition didn’t matter if you had good technique and were faster than them.

    and when I got bigger I learnt that being a good player isn’t enough you have to bring out the best in your team mates, creating the conditions for you all to succeed.

    Glad you discovered rugby and hope your little boy loves it as much as I did/do



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