17 year old Amelie Anstead has been kind enough to share her rugby journey with us. Here's her story;
I have been playing sports since I can remember and couldn’t imagine a day without it. My main sport had always been netball, playing for a super league U19 team and representing my club at nationals twice. I’ve always grown up with lots of brothers and a step-dad who all played rugby so naturally I took a bit of an interest. I had taken part in a few mixed touch tournaments and had always loved it but thought I’d have to focus on my netball and was often put off rugby as it wasn’t ‘girly’ enough. It was only really last year, at the beginning of lockdown in March, where at the time, it felt like everything was taken away from me. My GCSES, nationals, and my training. I’m not the type of person who wants to sit at home and do nothing, there must be something that I could do. I live about a 5 minute walk from a rugby club so one day I took my brothers old boots with holes in, a cone and a slightly flat ball and walked up to the club with my step-dad. Since then I haven’t looked back.
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I have recently moved schools for sixth form where the options for sport for girls were hockey, yoga or a bootcamp, whereas the boys were offered hockey, football or rugby. Why couldn’t I play rugby?
At first I thought I'd be the only girl who would even consider training with the boys. I spoke to my two best friends, who also liked sports and the first thing they said to me is, “do you think the boys will laugh at us” and “will we get judged by the other girls?”. That upset me a lot.
They didn’t care about getting muddy, they didn’t care about the tackles, all they cared about was getting judged by everyone else. Getting judged by the boys wasn’t even the hard part, it was the comments from the girls, but we didn’t let that stop us.
Walking up to our first session we were all a bit nervous about how people were going to feel. Immediately we were welcomed, involved in the huddles, running around playing touch matches as there was no contact due to covid-19. We loved it and couldn’t explain how much it meant to be welcomed. It doesn’t mean we didn’t get any negative comments, or weird looks along the way, because we did. We kept at it, turning up week after week, proving our place in the squad, slowly but surely gaining more and more respect - not just as girl rugby players, but as rugby players.
This small action made by us three girls, has inspired us to start the first ever girls’ rugby team at our school. We have managed to get a squad together, which at first the teachers said we might struggle to do, but when we came back with 10 eager girls wanting to play, the teachers started a training plan, found us kit and booked us in for Rosslyn park 7s, which unfortunately was postponed. I think at first, the teachers thought we were mad, making a girls’ team of 10 girls who have never played. To be honest, we were mad, but we were willing to give it a go, to prove that we were capable and can do it.
I go to my local rugby club every day now. Kicking, sprinting and getting fitter. I have recently started a girls team near my school. Not my local club because they don’t have a girls’ team, but don’t worry - I'm woking on it ! Eventually, I'd love to play for one of the teams I’ve grown up watching and perhaps make it to England one day . Using lockdown to my advantage giving me time to practice as an individual athlete and work on my skills.
Stereotypes in sport, unfortunately still happen. Being constantly told by the media that “no one cares” and we “aren’t elite” athletes just because of our gender is very demotivating and I’m not surprised why some girls are worried about starting rugby. Proving that girls can play rugby, and that it's never too late to try a new sport is so important for the movement of girls’ rugby.
It's okay to some days want to put a dress on with some highs heels and the next day be able to put your muddy boots on. Sometimes all it takes is a small dream, hope, hard work, determination and a bit of luck.
Would you like to tell your rugby story? We'd love to hear from you!
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