Last year I started a journey into a brave new world. A brave, new and very muddy world. The world of women’s rugby. I wrote about it last year in a piece for HuffPost – and things went a bit nuts off the back of it.
Without rehashing old content though, I wanted to touch on it a bit more for the women who’ve asked me about it all since then. Especially the ones who still believe that they couldn’t do it.
I honestly believed that too. Sometimes, I still do. But rugby is a sport that has a lot to offer women, and it also provides you with a confidence you might not know existed before.
So here, without further ado, is my beginner’s guide to women’s rugby – for fannies and fearless types alike. For what it’s worth, I was and very much still am a fanny, so you’re not on your own at all.
How do I get started?
A good place to start (obviously) is to find your local rugby club. If you’re not sure where it is, hop onto Google or you can check the England Rugby website. You can also visit England Rugby’s Inner Warrior pages, which have been set up by the RFU to try and encourage more women across the country to get into rugby. That’s how I got started with it, and it was a great way to introduce a total novice to the game.
If your nearest club doesn’t have a ladies team yet, there’s bound to be one locally that does! Women’s rugby is growing at an incredible rate, so don’t be disheartened.
Rugby women are all massive though.
Bollocks. I’m 5’3 and about nine stone wet through. I’m not especially strong, but I can run fast, and that’s where I can make a bit of a difference. Lots of people believe the stereotype of female rugby players being huge, brawny women who mow down anyone in their path. And while this may be true in some cases, the game of rugby requires a diversity in skills, sizes, shapes and attributes in order for your team to work.
There’s a role for everyone on the rugby pitch, regardless of how big or small you are.
I’m shit at sport.
So am I. So what? The whole point is that you give it a go – you probably aren’t shit at all. And if you are, well then you’ll probably start to get better. You have your own skills to bring to the table, and if you’re worried about letting the team down by not being able to catch and throw, guess what? So is everyone else. Women’s rugby isn’t school rugby. We’re not there anymore, it’s different. Your new teammates will be women just like you, and they’ll laugh with you if the ball gets dropped, not at you.
Will I need loads of expensive gear?
Not really. To be honest, the only thing you’ll need to invest in is a pair of rugby boots. If you’re like me, with size 5 feet, you can get a kids pair for a fraction of the cost of the adult ones. For example, these ones by Canterbury are available for £16 at the moment – so if you’ve got smaller feet and you’re prepared to have a look in the kids’ sections, you can grab a bargain!
I think I got my first boots for like £19.99 or something, and they’re Adidas ones. Anything bigger than a size 5 and you’ll have to hit the men’s section. It’s slowly becoming more mainstream for women’s boots to be manufactured, but to be honest, they’re just going to get pitted in mud anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much.
The other thing you might want to buy is a decent quality sports bra. By decent quality, I mean supportive, underwired and with a proper back fastener.
I got one like this from Marks & Spencer and it’s been worth every penny so far. Rugby does have a contact element to it as an impact sport, so you want to protect your bad boys as much as possible.
Other than that, you’ll just need old tops, trackies and leggings to train in. You’ll get muddy whilst learning, so there’s no point spending a fortune on new gear really.
Won’t I end up with my face smashed to bits?
Only if you put your face somewhere daft. I’m a proper fanny about getting hurt and so far I’ve been fine. A lot of it is common sense, and a lot of it is learning how/where to move, stand, tackle and roll. The short answer is that you won’t get hurt if you’re learning and doing it right – and if you’re not sure then you can always ask.
Another thing to invest in if you decide to give contact a go is a decent gumshield. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on the importance of this point – protect your teeth at all costs.
There are different variations of rugby, so if full contact isn’t something you’re that comfortable with then you can start off with touch or tag rugby, which is a lot less full-bodied (literally).
Most people worry about getting hurt when it comes to rugby, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that you’ll end up with a messed-up face and broken legs, so like everything new, check your misconceptions and try it for yourself.
I don’t know any of the rules.
Neither do most beginners. It doesn’t matter. Rugby is good fun, great fitness and it helps to build incredible friendships. You can learn the rules of the game as you go along. Don’t think that you’ve got to sit up at night swotting up on the Six Nations and reading rule books, just worry about learning something new and enjoying yourself.
I’m a massive fanny.
So am I. So am I. You know what though, it’s been the best thing I’ve ever tried to help me overcome that. There’s always that fear factor when you’re trying something new. There’s also a bit of an anxiety factor when it comes to playing team sports and meeting new women. Don’t let it get the better of you though. You’re tougher and way more capable than you think.
Rugby is a sport about discipline, teamwork, empowerment and respect. It’s something I’d encourage any woman to have a go of because it’s so much more than just a game.
Want to know more? If you’ve got any questions you can give me a tweet over here on Twitter or ask away in the comments below and I’ll happily answer them as best I can.