• Sports
  • March 10, 2022
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  • 8 minutes read

What playing Rugby at Uni has meant to me (and everyone else)

By Maisie Crittenden

At first, joining a society at University can feel at equal times too easy, and massively too complicated. Specifically, sports societies, which often come with a great sense of history and tradition, and a pressure self-exerted to be ‘good enough’. Although this is what I expected when I first joined Reading University’s Women Rugby team, it isn’t at all what it turned out to be like. What at first seemed like additional stress on top of an already packed workload, became my second family and the greatest opportunity I had at University to learn and push myself to be better. Now I’m in my third year of the club and vice-captain. After being president last year, I felt it an ample time to ask around my club the five most important things they’d learned while being part of this team, and what they would tell others who were thinking of joining a sport while at university.

Sense of Community

Many universities like to advertise themselves on giving students a sense of community, and Reading is no different, but sometimes this community can feel slightly too big, and incomprehensible. Joining a sports society narrows this down to a feasible amount, and specifically within RUWRU, gives each new player a built-in rugby family, complete with their own specific allocated ‘mother’ who they can turn to for advice not only limited to the sport itself. Getting together three times a week for training and matches, not even counting our socials, means that you are constantly surrounded by the same people, getting to know each other without even realizing it. As a commuting student, like some others on the Rugby team, the girls make up the entirety of my university community. A quote from one of our third years says it best :

“No one cares what you look like, where you’re from, or whether you’ve even touched a rugby ball before. I’ve met some of my new best friends at RUWRU!” – Michelle, 3rd Year.

Finding fun in fitness

I am not afraid to admit, fitness has never been a word that has sparked joy for me. Before university, training with a team always felt internally competitive, as there was judgment constantly over who was the best fit for each role. At RUWRU, our coaches run sessions that are suitable for both players who have played rugby at a highly competitive level prior, and to girls who have never touched a ball in their life. Many of our players have not played the sport competitively before University, so training with such a big team can be a huge adjustment. We make sure that training is fun, but also a chance to push yourself to achieve something independently.

“I’ve not been part of a big sports team before so now having that is great as we get to work as a team in training and games. It’s always more fun when you’re trying to keep fit and you’re doing it with other girls as well” – Amy, first year.

Communication

Rugby is a loud game. Whether you’re shouting from the side lines, shouting the plays at 10, or telling your teammate to put a bigger shift in during the tackle, our team is talking constantly, and 80% of the time it’s relevant and useful. We encourage our new members from their first session to engage in discussion, whether taking feedback from both our coaches as well as our veteran players or asking the right questions to make sure they can develop their skills. On the field, efficient communication is most important for the players at 9 & 10 as they control the play around them, meaning that the players relying on them must be able to listen and trust the information they are receiving quickly. We must communicate both to learn, and to help our teammates.

“It has also made me more confident in letting others take the lead, as we put our trust in numbers 9 and 10 to organize us, and I now feel more confident trusting others to set me up for success.”

 

Life Skills/Employable Characteristics

 

The purpose for most students when attending university is to find a job benefited by their degree. Sometimes, this can make sports societies feel unrelated to their chosen career, but there is a massive amount of skill transfer an individual can take from playing a sport, and not just that it’s an extra line on a cv. Being able to listen and adapt on the fly to the game being played in front of you and take in new information from coaches shows an ability that many employers want. Alongside this, being part of a team tests a member’s ability to manage their time alongside their studies, as well as their organizational skills to bring everything they need for training and games. Although on one odd occasion we have seen members miss the bus to games, this is extremely rare, and time management is something our team prides itself on. Another great opportunity for our members is to be on the committee, which allows them to organize and run club events as well as to manage a budget and make the best decisions for a group outside of themselves.

Confidence

The greatest thing anyone should take away from playing a sport at university is confidence! The ability to put yourself forward, represent your university and your friends, and to get that win is something nothing else can replicate. I could talk about how empowering being part of a specifically female sports society is, but it comes best from our many members who were asked how rugby had developed their confidence.

“My flaws are no longer my flaws, they’re my strengths when I play rugby. This makes me feel more confident in my everyday life and learn to accept myself entirely.”

“It’s shown me that I can be good at and enjoy a sport. Even when I’m struggling with the training or the game, having support around me really gives me the boost of confidence to keep trying!”

 

“proven that sometimes doubt is all in your head”

 

“The unconditional support you receive at RUWRU helps you to feel more confident in taking risks and making mistakes”

“Getting on the field and being part of the team has benefited my confidence as has the support from the committee and other members of the team during training has certainly boosted my confidence”

 

Finally, I asked players what the most important thing was they had learned and wanted to tell others from being part of RUWRU.

“Everyone is equal, and women’s rugby definitely deserves as much credit and respect as men’s rugby.”

 

“I wish I had met everyone much sooner and it wasn’t just for the time we were at University! Without sounding sad… RUWRU has shown me the attributes of real, true friendships.”

 

“No matter who you are, what your ability is with skills or fitness, there will always be a welcoming place for you in rugby. Whether you want to use it for fitness, to play matches, or to enjoy a new hobby, it’s open for everyone.”

 

“The key thing I will take from being a part of RUWRU is the importance of being your own person. The game needs loud voices and quieter listeners, people of different strengths and skills, if all the players on the pitch acted and looked the same, we’d be much worse off.”

 

“The most important thing I think I have learned is to just go for it! Whether it’s trying this new club or trying something else you’ve never done before, just give it a go! No risk, no reward.“

 

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