I caught up with Catherine a couple of days ago and we chatted about how women’s rugby, one of the fastest growing sports around could benefit from more sponsors getting involved at what is a very exciting time for the sport.
How do you think women’s rugby has changed over the last few years?
I first started playing when I was 8 years old, so over the last couple of decades or so I’ve witnessed a tremendous amount of change at just about every level of women’s rugby. It’s great because girls of all ages are now involved in the game and this includes at primary school level where the kids get to play tag rugby – it’s all really encouraging.
The future of women’s rugby is looking good with loads of new young talent being moulded for what I’m certain will be an exciting time ahead and I plan on being involved as much as possible.
What are your thoughts on sponsorship for women’s rugby?
With the ladies walking away with the world championship this year, and with so much on the cards over the next couple of years – the UK hosting the men’s RWC in 2015 and then the Olympics taking place in 2016 – it’s the ideal time for sponsors to step up and support women’s rugby at all levels of the game.
Women’s rugby, football and cricket are fast growing sports and although rugby is less well profiled, sponsors should consider broadening their horizons. However, the support that sponsors offer needs to trickle down from International Elite level, to the Women’s Premiership in the first instance then to the championship and then to local clubs at grass root level, much as it did in the past with men’s rugby. This is, after all, where our future players will come from.
Do you think the speed at which information can now be exchanged will accelerate up the process?
I would hope so because social media, and other platforms that many people routinely use, makes communicating easier and therefore people are more accessible. It is now far simpler and quicker to get a message across to a targeted audience. For the moment, the majority of women rugby players have to do a great deal of juggling because they hold down full-time jobs and still need to get in all the necessary training. This, naturally, can take its toll on a person’s psyche and can affect individual and team performance.
However, it’s not just at a player level that sponsorship offers much-needed support. Apart from the top elite level in England Staff and management hold down full-time jobs as well. Having sponsorship in place effectively takes a lot of pressure off people because everyone involved, whether it’s staff, management or players, gets to focus on what needs to be done for the sport rather than worrying about having to hold down a full-time job to pay the bills.
What impact would sponsorship have on a team’s mental and physical preparation?
It would have a massive impact on both a team’s physical and mental preparation. It is not uncommon that players suffer mental burnout, which is hardly surprising when you consider everything they have to deal with on the job front, training sessions, making sure they are 100% fit and then playing matches. Another factor is that a lot of the time players just don’t have the luxury of more relaxation or even “sleep time”. With increased media attention around major tournaments and work at club level to increase profile this pressure on players time will only increase.
Having the right sort of backing and support from a sponsor would not change a training routine; in fact, it might become a little more intense but for all the right reasons. However, the one thing it would change, which is just as important, is the amount of time a team member would have to unwind and catch some much-needed shut-eye.
What’s the future looking like?
I recently launched a Speaker Bureau, Inspiring Women, which I’m happy to say is going from strength to strength. From where I stand, the future is looking good but there is still a huge amount of work that needs to take place in order to provide much needed support for our clubs to grow and provide a more ‘professional’ set up for their players, coaches, managers and support volunteers.
From a personal level I am determined to help our current crop of players understand their own value and worth as international athletes. People do want to hear them and meet them and see them and the players need to understand this and grab the opportunities that are associated with this.