I am a keen follower of the England Women’s rugby team. I have a vested interest due to the fact I share a home with two of the current squad members Rocky Clark and Kat Merchant. I guess like many of the friends and family members of the other squad, I have sat – and I mean sat—and watched the work go in to their world cup preparations. I have seen the physical toll when they come back from some of the camps, and I have heard the limits they have pushed themselves to with awe.
It’s a strange thing to be so close to. Sharing a space with people during this level of preparation is a bit like being a father during a pregnancy. There isn’t a lot you can really do. You just have to stand by and make sure you try and help out when someone asks you to pass the hot towels. You can’t make it less painful or take up the slack you just have to watch and try to be supportive. In my case it seems to involve making sure the washing machine is free or there is milk in the fridge—there is a milk obsession in my house, only Cleopatra used more of it.
I have, on occasion been accused by my housemates of being sexist. I think mainly because I have some old fashioned ideas of certain things. With regards to rugby and the standard of the game I am a thoroughly modern man. I even hate the expression “Women’s rugby.” As it suggests some sort of separation. It isn’t women’s rugby they are playing it is rugby, watch the rugby played during the last six nations and you will see examples of physicality that will match any other rugby games. My experience of coaching with and being coached by Rocky and Kat has left me in no doubt of what they offer the game of rugby. They have both been great mentors for me as a coach I would go further and say I have learnt more from them than from any other coaches I have been around.
I have nothing but admiration for my housemates and their teammates. Not just because of the level of performance but because of the dedication it takes. This is a team that has dedicated itself to its goals and its targets which are wrapped up in huge personal sacrifice. There is no hiding place. How you hold down a job and commit to the amount of training that is required is beyond me. I sack off the gym if I have to cook dinner as I am worried I won’t have enough time to sit on my arse. Then there are the weddings and the family parties that have to be missed. As well as the big events, there are countless small events. Just going out for a beer and not caring about what you eat or drink. In the case of my housemates they finish a week long training camp then work on the weekend. It’s a big sacrifice every player makes before they even put on the shirt.
This is where my admiration extends even further. Win or lose, when the World Cup is over for England I bet there are players who will be in work on Monday morning; either teaching or fitness instructing or any other variety of jobs.
All of these sacrifices, all of these moments where you have to make a choice between what you want to do and what you have to do. The knowledge of the personal commitment involved means supporting them is so important. These are a group of people fighting to be the best in the country in their position, with the ultimate goal to be the best team in the world. There is no financial incentive for it, there is no big payday at the end of the journey. Every player and every individual is motivated by something different. Some people may want to prove themselves to someone, some want to be the best in the world. For some, who have been there before, there is a burning desire to put right the one thing missing. Then there are all the other things that drive people along maybe deeply personal things or maybe just a pure love of rugby. All of them add to the fuel that is used to drive the overall machine that is the team and the squad. When you understand what these players have put themselves through, and what they are playing for, you realise what powerful motivational forces there are within it.
On the radio today I heard a soldier say “we train hard so we fight easy”, and this is something that must have a ring of truth for the England team. When the going gets tough, which it inevitably will, they can look back on all they have been through and know that they are standing alongside the only other people who have been through it with them. The only people who have shared the experience and seen the depths their teammates are willing to reach into to achieve their overall goal. That squad of players and management are the only people that matter. They are the only ones who can do anything and change anything they are the only ones who can pull each other on when the time comes to do so.
As we can see from the current football world cup, tournament sport is an unpredictable beast. All you can do is face what is in front of you on the day. I am filled with nerves for them and excitement. I am lucky enough to be going out there for three of the games. I am hoping to cheer them all the way through to the end of their tournament. Whatever happens, my admiration for them will be unswerving. Personally I believe they can be the best team in the world but my opinion means nothing, all I can do is wish them luck. #carrythemhome