If you thought rugby was just a sport for men, then think again. Participation in women’s rugby has doubled in the past 10 years and who could forget the celebrations when the women’s team won the World Cup in Autumn 2014. Olivia Hubbard attended a ‘Pitch up and play’ session in Regent’s Park this July– a new initiative to get more women playing sport.
Play to your strengths
Rugby clubs across the country are offering free ‘Pitch up and Play’ sessions this summer, open to women of all abilities. On the 2nd July team FitPro headed over to ‘The Sports Hub’ in Regent’s Park eager to get involved with a few rugby exercise drills and to also meet Women’s Rugby World Cup Winner Natasha Hunt and professional Rugby Player for Women’s sevens, Amy Wilson Hardy. Before play commenced, players selected a ‘motivation band’ helping both Hunt and Hardy to shape the session and determine what you wanted to get out it. So whether you were there to increase your fitness level, improve your technical ability or just have fun – you felt inclusive and for those players wanting a more competitive session, it allowed them to pair up with a player with the same end goal.
The 30 minute session began with some teamwork drills – including getting into groups forming a ‘scrum’ one person was in the middle of the circle as team mates linked arms. Playing to your strengths indeed, you fought to break the human wall. Hunt and Hardy encouraged participants – as University Rugby players and novice journalists worked together as one team to challenge their own abilities whilst having an enormous amount of fun.
The Pitch up and play sessions are all about ‘playing your own way’ so whether you’re fast, agile, tall or strong, Pitch up and Play empowers women to unleash their inner toughness and unites all Rugby women. We were introduced to tackling, worked as a team to pass down the line racing against the opposition’s speed and concluded the session by experiencing match play. The sessions build confidence, fitness and femininity and provide the perfect platform for young girls to literally, ‘give it a go.’
Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Natasha Hunt, says: “England Rugby are hoping to get 10,000 more women into the sport by 2017, so we’ve launched these friendly Pitch up and Play sessions and are calling upon women who might currently go to the gym, take part in obstacle course races or who perhaps want to become more active to give rugby a go, regardless of age, ability or previous experience. The sessions are completely free and provide a fantastic introduction to newcomers, so bring along a friend, family member or colleague to give rugby a try!”
Hunt added, “It’s quite daunting to go to a rugby club that you’ve never been to before and there’s definitely a stigma attached. However, events like this provide ‘an intro to contact’ and really helps increase people’s confidence to allows them to turn up to a rugby club and give it a go.”
Breaking the mould
“There’s definitely perceived stereotypes in a lot of women’s sport, begins professional rugby player, Amy Wilson Hardy. “I think people often think that either they’re not the right shape or size, or that their not equipped and have to conform to a stereotype to play. However, in rugby especially, the diversity of the skills you require is essential to having a good side. So events like this, enable girls to see that they can be good at something without being 6ft 3 inches and really strong.”
What skills are required to make it to the top?
“It’s a workplace but it’s an intense workplace. You’ve got a lot of emotions going; you have to be a tenacious, hardworking person because you won’t succeed if you’re not.”
Skills gained from the game
“Everything from team work, to determination, the enjoyment aspect and of course respect,” says Natasha Hunt. There is such a wealth of different things that you can take away from rugby. Transferable skills in team sports are just fantastic.”
Hunt concludes, “We’re all following in women’s football’s shadows at the moment, pretty much all of their club teams have gone pro. It just shows how big women’s football is in this country. We’re definitely moving in the same direction, we have 20 contracted players now with the RFU who are funding us, even though we’re going to be a GB team in the Olympics, which is amazing support.”
Who got involved?
Jess Davies, Club Captain at London School of Economics, said, “I’m here because any promotion of women’s rugby is something that we want to get behind and involved in – (and our season is finished, so we’re keen to get back on the pitch!”)
The young player added, “Men’s rugby is so different to women’s rugby, in the sense that it’s a completely different skill base. I think that in women’s rugby it’s a lot about being quick and being smart. Rugby is not provided to women from the age of five, I think women struggle to find a club until they reach university age. I know they are lacking in women’s rugby clubs. I don’t know if it’s down to lack of demand or whether girls just don’t get into it because they don’t have the training from the younger ages.
Jess concluded, “I think women’s clubs could do a bit more to get out there and get the membership up but I think the successes of the Women’s team has shown that , rugby is a sport that women can excel in. It’s all about girls realising that they can join the club before the club is created.”
‘Pitch up and Play’ sessions launched in July and will run throughout the year, visit: Englandrugby.com/rugbywomen for more information.