5 reasons to play mixed sport this summer

I am a BIG fan of mixed sports teams, particularly of the social format. I’m currently playing mixed netball and touch rugby and to be fair, I probably actually enjoy it more when it’s mixed than if it was ladies only. Particularly netball, where, although I love the pressure and competition,  I put far too much on myself and lose the ability to enjoy it.

I can imagine some people haven’t always had the best experiences with mixed sport and it drags back to awkward PE lessons, but if you’ve got a bunch of decent people who aren’t idiots or ridiculously sexist in their thoughts about gender performance in sport (with bias in either direction), it usually makes for pleasant entertainment. So please don’t be afraid of giving it a go because of prior assumptions.

Go Mammoth, O2 Touch and Try Tag Rugby are all decent places to start – whether you have a team already, want to join as an individual, want to play something you’re good at or something you’ve never done before, you’ll find a league somewhere!

1. Less pressure. There is typically one half of your team who has not played this game at school. Sometimes, neither half has! This generally means you have a fighting chance of not being completely incompetent in comparison! There’s something about the balance between the genders as well that makes the pressure to do well still there, but it’s a bit less imposing. I can’t explain why. We’re also old enough and big enough now to not make a huge fuss about having to play sports with *shock* members of the opposite sex without being melodramatic about it and making assumptions about their capacity due to their gender. Yes, you will still see some teams who are ridiculously poor at using their women but I’ve noticed it less and less – and the more people play mixed sport, the better it’s going to get.

2. You usually get to either a) learn a new sport you haven’t played much before or b) teach others a sport you know how to play quite well. Helping others is a sure fire way to improve your game, and there are so many transferable skills between different sports that it will help you across the board. Playing touch was a key driver of my short-lived (although still active) 7s career, and that’s partly because of the encouragement I got from both females and males on my team that I had the ability to step up and do it.

3. You will laugh a lot. If you’ve ever seen a confused face as someone tries to get their head around the fact that they can’t run with the ball, you’ll know what I mean. Or a 15s player trying to understand that they can’t just hit hard lines and run straight at people who are about a foot shorter and several stones lighter than them when playing touch. Extra points for flair and style. Mixed leagues are also much more likely to be social – so although there will be an element of competition there (no matter what people say), it is much more about enjoyment and fun.

4. You’ll learn you can hold your own and it will up your game – if your opposing player is suddenly a good few inches taller than you’re used to – and probably about 5 times more accidentally physical (see point about laughing), you’ll jump higher, run faster, dodge with a bit more purpose and think more about what you’re doing. And get a sweet satisfaction when your opponent is visibility irritated about it. However, sometimes people are not that good despite obvious physical advantages…but this is the same in any sport.

5. It will probably end in the pub. And if you pick a good league (hint, O2 Touch), you often can get some free chips and nachos. Or garlic bread. Which is dreamy (#cleaneating) You’ll get a bunch of new friends with a similar interest to you, therefore always have ringers available for any other sports team you ever need and you’ll probably end up playing at least one season!

What are your thoughts on mixed sports? The way forwards or a painful reminder of PE lessons?

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What I learnt playing rugby for the SECOND time

As some of you will know, last year I ventured out of the safety of touch rugby and into 7s, taking a trip down to Brighton with some of the girls from work for our FIRST EVER WORK FEMALE RUGBY TEAM (yeap, we are all over gender equality) and you know what, it wasn’t that bad, I didn’t break any bones and I think I kind of enjoyed it. It was sunny, there was beer and I learnt a lot of things – which you can read about here

Well, moving on a year, I’m no longer in the same job, but because I am therefore ‘alumni’, I am allowed to come back and play (plus, there still aren’t really quite enough girls…so I sort of had to)…but this year we kept it closer to home, opting for Summer Social in Richmond instead, which has grown from being a rugby festival to a ‘loads and loads of different sports’ festival. Kate O’C was gutted she couldn’t make it. So I will try not to rub in how much fun it was.
As Summer Social is of a pretty decent size (and because it started as a rugby tournament), there are several levels catering for all – Elite (men’s) , Open, Social and Ultra Social (men’s and women’s). Not entirely sure why the Women’s Open wasn’t just classed as elite, considering it included Scotland, Wales and a GB side…but oh well. On the plus side, this means that for a novice women’s team, you aren’t lumped against people who have been playing for years, which is the case for some tournaments where you can only get enough for one level (or so you think anyway)

Winding back a few hours…an early start was had as we had been at a rugby club ball the night before – surprisingly, my boyfriend choosing not to drink because he had to drive me to a 7s tournament the next morning. I however, did drink, despite having a 7s tournament the next morning. And moving swiftly on…

We arrived at Richmond, parked up and waited for the girls and SHINY NEW KIT! This was fairly exciting considering last year we just used our touch kit, which isn’t actually ideal for contact. Also, an extra gem – it matched my boots!

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Our first game was against Windsor. We lost.But we went in with not much structure or plan, hoping to use it as a warm up and then talk tactics afterwards. Which we kind of did. It was a learning curve – I remembered that tackling isn’t that difficult and falling over doesn’t hurt that much. And that it’s hard to talk with a gumshield!

The problem with there being so many games and general popularity of the tournament (men’s elite, open and the three women’s tournaments are at Richmond Athletic Ground, with men’s social being at Old Deer Park) means that there is a bit of waiting around between games – especially if the opposition never turns up. So our next game (Kingston) wasn’t for a good 3 hours! We took the time out here to indulge in healthy intra-game snacks (chips, pizza and the like) and actually run through some moves, covering the breakdown, defending as a line and a couple of set pieces.

Our next game was against Kingston rugby club and our practice showed! I don’t know what the score was…but we won! Boyfriend was also at this point promoted to subs manager, which took a layer of pressure off us from trying to think about playing and subbing.

Our third game was against the Pink Rinses (one of the well-known Pink Ba-Bas team, who are regularly on the 7s circuit) These women knew their rugby. Discovered afterwards that there were several ladies with MULTIPLE national caps in there, which explains a lot. This game was less ultra social and more stressful. I mean we lost by a chunk, but we played a cracking game considering their level of experience (lots) against ours (not quite as much) – and their coach said we stuck up for ourselves well.

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We finished up against Roehampton Uni, which was a nailbiter, finishing 26-22. Unfortunately to them. But it was a cracker, we won scrums (probably why my neck hurts so much) and everyone really put their all into it.

There is so much offside in this it's unbelievable

There is so much offside in this it’s unbelievable

So then a quick shower and onto the evening! Because we didn’t finish until far gone 6, it was clear the other sports had been at the bar for a good few hours, so we played catch up and ended up in Infernos. Win. Summer Social has a real festival atmosphere, the DJs are awesome and anywhere with a live saxophonist has my vote. Plus, despite the crowds, the bar queues were totally acceptable.

So, what did I learn as an experienced (ha!) 7s player?

  • The fear before a game is much worse than the actual game. I DREADED the 10 minutes pre-match, especially being told I was starting (because #experience), but as soon as I was on…it was OK
  • Do not be intimidated by size. We aren’t a particularly big team, and some of the others were. It’s fine. It’s easier to predict direction. You can run round them.
  • National level players drop the ball – you can watch the women’s elite and there are still dropped catches, bad passes and the odd missed tackle. So if the pros do it, it doesn’t matter so much if you do it.
  • There will be bruises. The bruises will grow and grow and grow. And be blue (coordinated with boots/kit)
  • Accidents happen – having an air ambulance land on the pitch next to you is less than ideal, especially when you are already a tiny bit stressed. But, the majority of rugby games do not result in air ambulances, so do not worry. (Side note – it appears the guy who it was for is recovering well)
  • Being first on the score sheet is a nice little buzz. You will also surprise yourself by backing yourself to score. And then worry EXTENSIVELY about not dropping the ball over the line!
  • No matter how hard you try, your parents will want to come and watch. Your mother may not actually watch that much though due to the stress of watching tackles, despite having put up with it on a weekly basis for 31 years already…also note, your parents will manage to know LOADS of people there.
  • Bank Holiday BBQ line out practice will pay off. This was literally our best moment of the game when it a) worked b) no-one dropped it and c) we scored off it. I am gutted we have no evidence so you will just have to believe me!
  • You will hurt a lot afterwards. Going open water swimming the next day is not advisable. Nor a duathlon 3 days later.
  • You may end up eating 3 portions of chips in one day. And little else. And accidentally forgetting the calories in cider.
  • It is physically possible to get home, have two people showered and dressed within 15 minutes and then be in an Uber.
  • You will ache for days later. To a point where all you can physically do is nap on Wimbledon Common. This is totally acceptable. Apparently ‘you get used to it’
  • 7S IS INCREDIBLY FUN AND YOU SHOULD ALL GO AND PLAY IT!

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Stand by your man? That’s not what World Rugby did…

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably noticed the Rugby World Cup has been taking place. And if you haven’t….what are you doing? Even if you haven’t, I would advise you not to switch off and stop reading just because you don’t understand rugby.

This isn’t just about rugby, it’s about the link between players, referees, governing bodies and organisations. And their allegiances, expectations and support networks. And how to deal with disappointment.

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10 complaints I have about sun in the UK

If you are in London, you will have noticed that everyone is going cray cray over the weather. Because we can’t handle sun in the UK. I’ve had a think about why it’s great, but also the problems I am currently encountering….(i.e. MANY)

1. Racer back tan lines. Or cyclist tan lines. I seem to get the majority of my tan when I am doing outdoor activities. This means it is a combination of racer back, sports bras and cyclist jerseys. Meaning I can NEVER wear strapless dresses without having to fill in the gaps with some stripy fake tan. Cycling glove lines are a firm favourite!

2. The tube is too hot. Yesterday I did ONE STOP from Southfields to East Putney and I literally could feel myself melting. Sorry if it’s TMI, but I felt like I was leaving the gym. Whilst squashed with 25 other people also leaving the gym. After wearing a ski outfit. I am glad I cycle to work because it’s then acceptable to be sweaty…

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Daddy Cool: Fathers’ Day fitness inspiration

Being as it was Fathers’ Day on Sunday we wanted to take the opportunity to pay homage to our Dads this week, in much the same way as we did for our Mums on Mothers’ Day – we’re both very lucky to be close to the men in our lives, they are a continuous source of support, inspiration and encouragement, and they are undoubtedly also the reason the pair of us are so bloody headstrong and competitive…

Kate: My Dad has always been a keen sports man, when he was younger he played soccer, rugby and gaelic football for school and university teams as well as being a keen runner and squash player. Nowadays, along with my mum, he cycles, rows, kayaks and hikes like a mad person!

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What I learnt playing rugby for the first time…

Kate & I went on a little jolly last weekend – to Brighton! The girls we play touch with had been flirting with the idea of getting together a 15s team, but quickly realised that finding more than about 10 girls from work to actually play was going to be a tough ask. So it got downsized.. And yours truly, when asked if she wanted to play, responded with a ‘maybe’ which was understood to mean yes. Immediately followed by “AAAAAH OMGOMGOMG I HAVE NEVER PLAYED CONTACT I AM GOING TO BREAK EVERY BONE IN MY BODY AND DIE”.

So yah, there was a lot of panic. However (as you will soon find out), I was basically massively over-reacting and I’d love to try and persuade other girls that it isn’t anywhere near as terrifying as you think it might be. This weekend was the culmination of 2 weeks of stressful events – my first tri, followed by the Chiltern 100 and then potentially getting my face broken à la Georgia Page.

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#isitok….to say women’s sport isn’t as exciting?

I start this post following an interesting day which sparked a few discussions around female participation in and enjoyment of sports that well, just aren’t traditionally female.

Firstly, I spoke with a well-known ex international rugby player and coach, whose first words were “sorry girls that you had to sit through all that rugby chat”. Well let’s say, it was a rugby-focused event. I like rugby. I thought it would be interesting. I wasn’t just there on a jolly to spend 45 minutes away from my desk. But why the assumption that 3 girls couldn’t possibly be interested in, or play, a game that is traditionally male?

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