england rugby warrior camps

Did you hear that the Inner Warrior camps I did back in August drove a massive 3,500 women to pick up a rugby ball for the very first time?

If you didn’t get chance to try rugby then – or gave it a go and loved it – then I have some great news for you. Warrior Camps are back for 2018! The camps are running 12-28th January 2018, encouraging women to kick-start their fitness routine for the new year and challenge themselves to take up a new sport.

Some awesome stats came from the last wave of camps – over 10,500 women attended camps since January 2016 (way in excess of the 8,000 target) which meant that 41 new female contact rugby club teams began in 2017.

I covered the benefits of playing rugby after my first rugby training session, but if you’re unwilling to get on the field during the winter, here are some of the benefits of getting outside to play during the cold weather that will hopefully change your mind!

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This post is in collaboration with England Rugby Warrior Camps.

By now you will have heard of the This Girl Can campaign – going into its second season, it’s everywhere from TV to viral on social media. The ad came as a reaction to the difference of two million more men than women playing sport, and also from research by Women in Sport which found out teenage girls avoid sport and PE as they felt getting sweaty, messy and dirty was unfeminine, and they also felt that boys got more encouragement to participate in sport.

This Girl Can addresses those barriers by showing real women being active and loving it, whether they’re sweaty, jiggling, or red-faced. You can now be part of the campaign yourself by creating your own This Girl Can ad, like mine, above. I was recently a part of a radio documentary exploring why teenage girls try to get out of PE and sport. You can hear me lisp my way through the last couple of minutes of the show, talking about my experiences of sport in school, and the advice I’d give to my own fourteen-year-old self.

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Embarrassing story time: four years ago, when Spain won the World Cup, my boyfriend and I were in a small, ex-pat town in Spain. We were staying with his parents and we’d just arrived that day, so after watching the celebratory fireworks on the roof we decided to go to bed but hit the town to party the next night.

Big mistake. Nobody was around. We asked why: the answer was because they’d had the biggest party EVER the night before, with most bars only closing at 9am. Yes, even in a sleepy little ex-pat town.

There’s only two ways to handle the World Cup. One is to spend the entire six weeks complaining about the amount of football on TV, hating every second and making yourself miserable; the other is to embrace it and enjoy it thoroughly (ignoring it isn’t an option. It’s impossible). After missing out on what could have been the greatest celebration of my life last time I’ve plumped for the latter option – besides, I don’t fancy being miserable for that amount of time! The fact it’s in Brazil is an attractive factor for me, too. My dad worked in Brazil for a year when I was thirteen, and my mum and I travelled out to visit him; so seeing Sugarloaf Mountain, Maracana Stadium and Ipanema beach all over the TV is very nostalgic for me.

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Last night I went to ITV’s Fever Pitch, which is a re-purposing of the old Granada Studios in Manchester. The weather wasn’t the best but it was a fun experience – I almost (almost) felt like I was on holiday night out with the beach, beer and burgers… Obviously two beers down I just had to try out my handstand on the sand. We watched the Algeria v Russia game with a big group of Algerians and their enthusiasm was amazing – our group adopted Algeria for the night, so it was fantastic that they got through to the finals.

There’s another three weeks left of the World Cup, and whether you groan or cheer at that statement, remember life is what you make of it. You can make yourself miserable or happy with your mindset. I know which one I’d rather be!

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This past weekend Deansgate was closed to traffic (for those unfamiliar, it’s the backbone road of the city centre) not only for the Bupa 10K but also for the Great City Games. Manchester is proud of its sporting heritage and the legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth games seems to live on and on, and sporting events in the city draw sports enthusiasts and proud Mancunians alike.

I’d like to think I fit into both of those categories, so I made sure I was up at the front to watch the City Games. I was mostly fascinated by the speed displayed by the sprinters, yet the ease of their movement; up-close you can really see the power that comes from their backsides to propel them forward off the starting blocks. And we really were close-up! Deansgate is only the size of your average road so there were no seats, and a small metal barrier was the only thing separating us from the action.

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It was also awesome to see Christine Ohuruogu – one of Great Britain’s most successful athletes of all time, who came 3rd in the 200m – and Yohan “Beast” Blake. The Beast certainly lived up to his named and absolutely smashed the 150m to win with a time of 14.71 seconds.

An incredible day with some fantastic results for British athletes, boding well for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games. Roll on July!

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To the dismay of many a boyfriend (alright.. two. I haven’t had THAT many boyfriends) I have always held a bit of a disdain for football. It’s not the game itself I dislike, it’s everything that surrounds it: the players’ ridiculous salaries, the controversies, and the unruly fans. My ears pricked up a few weeks ago though when I heard England women’s team beat Montenegro 9-0 – mainly because I didn’t even know we HAD a national women’s team!

For once, I paid keen attention when my boyfriend watched MOTD that night. Surely with such an achievement there would be at least a small mention – but no. Backofbeyond United’s 1-1 draw with Arsend Rovers was clearly much more important.

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As a sport we are actually quite good at, why does it get such little exposure? It would be too easy to say that men are not interested, as I know this isn’t true. I paid the grand sum of £3 to watch Manchester City Women’s play Chelsea in the FAWSL quarter final and I’d guesstimate men represented 60% of attendees. Though matchgoers’ numbers were low passions were high as a men’s game, with the same comments about the referee being bellowed as you’d expect in the Premier League.

Personally, I think it comes down to sponsorship. In 2011 women’s football received only 0.5% of all sports sponsorship, with men’s at 61.1%. Interestingly the same report claims there was interest shown by the general public in women’s sports, and whether these figures have changed since the Olympic sports boom is unknown; but it is clear that investment is needed in women’s football to help it reach a wider audience. Without the huge investment from sponsors – like AON, Standard Chartered and Etihad – men’s football and the players’ salaries would not be at the heady heights they are today: it seems to be a “chicken or egg” situation.

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In 1921 the FA claimed that “football is quite unsuitable for females” and banned the game until 1971 – taking this into consideration I’d say it’s come on in leaps and bounds the past few years! After all, there must be others like me who aren’t keen on the egos and earnings in the men’s game, but are interested in the skill, speed and teamwork required. At the measly price of three quid maybe a selfish part of me doesn’t want the whole country to know, however this can’t be sustainable for the long-term. Organisations like the WSFF are coming to prominence and teams like Manchester City are taking their women’s teams seriously; perhaps in the next few years sponsors will follow suit and women will have their rightful place in football.

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