Follow the link to read more about Helen's rugby experience, so far, as told to England Rugby: http://www.englandrugby.com/news/features/helen-polley-inspiring-rugby-journey/
The above interview occurred in May this year after Helen shared a few words on how rugby has helped her, and she updated it prior to the Warrior camp; the full version is below.
Why do I play rugby?
Many people seem surprised when I tell them I play rugby, which surprises me in turn. Let me tell you why I play.
I have loved watching rugby since I was young, with both my dad and stepdad being players in their younger days and avid fans to this day. I have always been in awe of the players I saw in internationals and just couldn’t get over how courageous they must be to play for their countries in such a fast-paced, hard-hitting game.
I never played at school or at university; I probably had no chance of finding a team at school-age even if I’d looked for one, but I regret not getting involved with a sports team at university and I think rugby would have suited me then as much as it does now.
I first got involved with my team through a friend at work – they needed numbers desperately, but I didn’t want to play (“I can’t! I’m too unfit! I’m scared of getting hurt!”) but I agreed to do what I could to help get more players into the club. I went along to a few training sessions, took some blurry photos and tweeted a bit. This was in February, right around the Six Nations. I went to a few socials and followed the groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I tried to think of ways to help but couldn’t put my finger on what we could do to attract and keep new players.
It got to June, and I realised I wasn’t happy sitting on the touchline, and really, I felt like a hypocrite telling others how amazing rugby is to play but not actually playing myself. So, in June 2016, I took the plunge and joined my first training session. Long story short, I felt like collapsing after the warm-up but, as I didn’t, I took it as a sign to stick with it.
Our first match came round and to be perfectly honest, I was terrified. I was most worried that I’d not survive the full 80 minutes and I didn’t want to let my team down. We couldn’t afford subs for someone just being knackered. Before the game started, our coach told us “the first 15 minutes will be the worst 15 minutes of your life.” She wasn’t wrong – I had no idea what I was doing, no idea where I should have been on the pitch and no idea of the rules, but it didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter that I got scared in my first tackle and pulled my knee, because I still kept trying for the next tackle and the next one. It didn’t matter that my opposite number in the scrum was twice my size, because we scrum as a pack and I knew I wasn’t going against her on my own. It didn’t even matter that we ran out the losers by a massive score because we had a played a full game of rugby and survived; better than that, the whole team had enjoyed themselves, and we only wanted more.
Since then, we have continued to train, and played again – we want to get back into the league and we will add as many notches to our belt as it takes to get there. We’re still recruiting and as we build those numbers, we’re building a fantastic team. The spirit in our team is true to rugby, and I wouldn’t want to play with any other club. We have an incredible mix of experience levels, personalities, and fitness levels. Anyone can play rugby, and our team is proof of that.
If you want more reasons to try rugby, I can keep going. The improvements to my fitness have been astounding, and every week I get better – I can run, whereas running before rugby was not on my radar. I scrum and I tackle and my body can do things I never thought it would do. I will get faster, I will get stronger and I cannot wait to play more and more rugby. Yes, I am exhausted after training but I’ve never slept better. I ache after matches but my recovery is quicker and quicker each time and my bruises are basically my personal set of rainbows. And yes, yes, yes, it takes some commitment and a change in your routine but it has become my new routine and if I can’t make training, I miss it.
It’s not just physical changes I have gone through; I have overcome mental hurdles as well, because of rugby. I have struggled with depression in the past, and, as anyone who has ever been close to depression in anyway will know, it never quite completely goes away.
With rugby, my depression has become a tiny voice that I no longer have time for. Rugby allows me to address mental exhaustion with physical exertion and find balance. It allows me to exercise and exorcise my inner demons, so they are also tired and stay quiet.
If I’m having a bad day, week, or month, rugby is my go-to source of comfort – whether it’s my team mates, training, the clubhouse, or just watching a good game. Most importantly, rugby allows me to be myself, no questions asked. This has been invaluable to me, and is worth every step outside my comfort zone.
Through my team and my club, I can give back to the rugby community for everything the sport has done and continues to do for me.
Rugby teams are not yet as widely available to girls and women as for boys. It’s how it’s always been – and that’s the most dangerous turn of phrase. It is not how it will be going forward. Liverpool Collegiate Women’s are part of changing that and you can be too.
Lancashire Rugby has an incredible target for women and girls' rugby: by 2020, no girl or woman will have to travel more than 30 minutes to play rugby in Lancashire. We want women’s teams to be established and strong to give young women a team to continue playing outside and after school and university. You can be part of that, part of reaching that target. You can make changes to your life now that could resonate for generations – how incredible is that?!
Safe to say, I am rugby, and rugby is me. It is said that rugby is like the Mafia; once you’re in, you’re in, and I think there’s some truth in that. I am Liverpool Collegiate RUFC, Blue and Blue through and through, and I invite you to join us. Join us, and see how different your life will be at the end of 2017, just for a bit of running and throwing a funny shaped ball around.
This is what my inner warrior looks like. How about yours?
Updated 15:38 - 28 Jun 2017 by Helen Polley