Saturday, 14 April 2018

Finding Your (Rugby) Tribe

Finding Your (Rugby) Tribe
My faithful blog followers may have noticed that I haven’t written anything in months. My writing rate is now so poor that I feel that I should demote my status from ‘blogger’ to ‘bogger’, a label that suits me so much better. Because it’s been so long since I have written, I’ve had something of a crash in confidence and a writers (bloggers) block. I’ve also been really busy. Really. And preoccupied. But I’ll tell you about that again.
But here I am and what has given me the push to write now?
People who know me for a long time will know that I am not remotely sporty. Never was. Of course I followed Meath’s GAA football glory years of my teens and indeed this gave me some of my happiest memories with my late father. I recall too, the buzz of Italia ‘90, but my interest started and ended there. And while I enjoy running, a long walk and digging holes in the garden for physical exercise, I’ve always been inclined to sprint gently in the opposite direction away from competitive sport.  And don't expect to see a status update on how many kms per hour I achieved (or didn't) any time soon. It ain't happening.
Lots of things were sacrificed in my marriage breakup in the last few years and I’m ashamed to say that one of those was my children’s requests to get involved in activities. I operated in ‘preservation mode’ and tried to minimise commitments for places-to-be, while also avoiding clashes that could arise in co-parenting situations.
Last September though, my children arrived home from school with a flyer from Athy Rugby Club, welcoming new members. It appears that the two of them had a committee meeting, a twin-sibling speciality, before cornering me, with pleading eyes and sad faces about joining up. A proper sit-down chat followed and the pair agreed that if I paid the fees and bought the kit, that they would commit to rugby for a full season. Deal done. From day one, the two took to rugby like ducks to water, The Boy and The Girl joining the U10’s teams. Much of the training took place in pretty grim weather conditions and there has been ne’er a complaint from them. It seems that they thrive on the encouragement from their coaches, fuelled by a desire to achieve.
Outside of training and matches, my children love watching Leinster and Ireland play - boosted of course by Ireland’s recent Six Nations win and Grand slam (We even had the privilege of holding the silverware in the Club House last week). I’ve enjoyed watching matches with them, hoping that I’d learn something from the commentary and the ten-year olds, sponges for information, who between them know more than I ever will. We have been to two Leinster matches, travelling by bus with their teammates, reinforcing the camaraderie between them. The Girl acting as flag-bearer with the U10’s for a Leinster V Scarlets game, when the U12’s girls played an exhibition match at half-time and the pride ran through me.
Since they were tots, I’ve had to bring my children along to work-related cultural events at nights and weekends, ranging from poetry readings, local history reenactments to visiting film sets, with varying levels of boring-ness for children. They are always good as gold, although it has cost me a fortune in bribes. With rugby though, this interest has come 100% from them and for that, I am pleased. I think it’s called payback.
It is a juggle though. In October, they both had matches in Naas early one morning - the first big match for The Girl. My ability to watch two matches at once was pushed to the limit, with a relay of 5 minute sprints to go from one pitch to the other - waving and cheering furiously, so Child no. 1 could feel my presence, before doing a legger and repeat ‘I’m here!’ actions for Child no.2. Afterwards, I peeled the mud off the children at the back of the car, with a jumbo pack of baby-wipes, before doing a Wonder Woman-esque costume change on myself, so I could arrive in Newbridge for a lunchtime event for the Kildare Readers Festival I was speaking at. I’m sure if you look closely at the photographs, you can see clay in my hair.
I got a fright one Saturday last November when I spotted a missed call on my phone from one of my daughter’s rugby coaches, while I was at a wedding. I felt a wave of panic as I called back, fearing that The Girl had been injured. She hadn’t. The call was to ask if I would help out with the coaching of the Girls U10’s team. I must have had a rush of blood to the head and agreed to it … me who knows nuthin’.  I am an advocate for more women getting involved in sport though (and in all things generally), so someone needs to step up to the mark and why shouldn't that be me?

After months in the co-coaching seat, I can take credit for tying mucky laces on boots (which is a challenge even for an adult on some of the uber-chilly training nights), checking gum shields and dangly earrings and rubbing sore legs. My confidant, Mr. Scarlets tells me that if I just encourage the girls to ‘play what’s in front of them’, that I can’t go wrong. I’m not sure how that works with back passes though. Oh, my poor wee head.
Reflecting on the last few months, I’m aware of how outside of my comfort-zone I am. I’ve always been inclined towards things I have a flair for. I had a ‘moment’ recently when I wondered-out-loud to The Girl, questioning if I really had anything to contribute to her team. She pulled me aside after training last week and pointed out a list of things I was involved with that night, saying encouragingly, ‘see Mam, there’s lots that you can do.’ Her wee face smiling up at me and I wondered who was coaching who.F

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