I've never written a blog post before. I'd also never played rugby before and yet here I am writing about both!
I was a latecomer to rugby, an armchair fan married to an ex player and mother to a new mini rugby player at the club my husband had played for since childhood. In my day job I push for inclusion for all in education and my frustration at not being able to ever be more than a parent or a fan turned itself into a question that became an all consuming passion. "Why can't women play here...?" After all my husband and son (and small daughter whilst still at primary school) could be a player but I couldn't.
At my club there is an ever growing 'give it a try' attitude. You want to start a rugby based fitness group for mums? Give it a try. You've attracted some teenagers who have no adult team to play for? Try entering the National Development League. Its not always been easy and I'm sure our story of scepticism from some quarters about the existence or seriousness of women's rugby is a familiar tale from many readers. We are, however, a strong group of women who have carved our niche into something much more central to the club as a whole who were supported by a couple of guys who believed in us with every fibre of their being. We went from nothing to league winners in 4 years and have spent the last year recovering from the resultant head spin and consolidating our systems, recruitment and the professional development of coaching staff.
This isn't the story of how much I love the team that has become an extension of my family though. Many people reading this will agree with the strength of the bonds that players in a team can create. I have a uniquely Rugby Mum perspective with these girls. I wasn't physically fit enough to join them at the beginning of their journey, shedding five stone in order to consider myself competitive on the pitch while learning the game in my late thirties. As one of the behind the scenes people I had dealt with player availability, advertising and recruitment, with mediation between ruffled feathers and with the life challenges and realities of being a young player living far from home. My dinner table, and often couches are often full and my children have a group of amazing role models to look up to who cover every element of the human condition.
There is, however, something to be said for being old enough to be a team mate's mum. And for being a relative beginner playing division 1 rugby so soon after being in a team that won the league! I needed a way to remain involved with the game and decided to train as a referee, passing my SRU level 1 course in October last year. My plan was to see out the season and then move into team management to ease the burden from my husband who has coached the team from the start and to referree some games to keep contact with the grassroots aspect that I love.