How the Letchworth Girls Continue to Rule …

Updates from our friend in the UK, John Birch … I love this speech.

“How Rugby Changed My Life” … a speech by Letchworth captain Katie Alcock at the awards ceremony for her team’s “Modernisation” honor from the England RFU. Here’s her speech:

“In March 2004 I wasn’t a sporty person. I definitely wasn’t a rugby player. In fact, I’m not even sure that I knew women’s rugby existed. I was the kind of person who always got level 4s in P.E. when everyone else was getting level 6s. I was short, I wore glasses, I had terrible hand-eye coordination and I took a long time to get changed! By the time I finally got out onto the pitch, I just wasn’t any good. I tried my little heart out but I just couldn’t do sport. Rugby changed all that.

This isn’t true of everyone here at Letchworth – some of the girls are born sportswomen; for some sport is their life, for others it’s their hobby. We have tall girls, short girls, big girls, small girls, girls who dress differently, like different music, come from different towns and have different friends. Through rugby, I have met people from as far away as Canada and been on tour with people whom, without rugby, I probably would never have met, let alone talked to.

And rugby has given us here something much more than friendship, we are a team and we support one another. If I’m having a bad time at the bottom of a ruck, I know one of these girls will come and help me; if I’m injured or I’ve been fouled, I know someone will be there to pull me up and, if I make a bad decision out there (which I admit happens sometimes!), I know that one of these guys will be there to pat me on the back and tell me to forget about it.

When John first mentioned his blog idea, I suppose I thought the same as everyone else – great; no more having to store a screwed up newsletter in my kit bag and hope it doesn’t get too muddy; no more texting people the night before a match to say, “Please say you were listening at training because I can’t remember what time to meet!” but in reality the blog has become so much more than that. I mean, yes, we do get our information, dates and times, maps and directions, but we get much more than that, too. There are bits full of nostalgia and comedy, articles which have nothing to do with rugby and some which have everything to do with rugby, not just for us girls but for boys, men and women, too; and not just in Letchworth but around the world. The blog gets over 2000 hits a month and has global recognition; people comment on it, contribute to discussions, advise us and congratulate us – what we’ve created is no longer merely a means of online communication; it’s an online community in itself.

And that’s what rugby is – a community – and it changes people. It’s changed me. That little girl who first came here to Letchworth Rugby Club in March 2004 holding her Dad’s hand and looking scared is a completely different person from the one standing before you. I’m still short, I still wear glasses and I’m never exactly going to be Miss Sportswoman of the Year, but I can now consider myself a sporty person. I wear my rugby shirts to school with pride and bore my mates to death with blow-by-blow accounts of the last match, I’ve learned not to judge people by what they look like and have been taught how to communicate with people from all walks of life, all cultures and all cliques. I’ve become a person who is confident in herself, confident enough to stand up and talk to a room full of people. Rugby gave me that.

I even learned to be confident enough to approach MPs …… which leads me on, conveniently, to our next speaker – our local MP, Mr Oliver Heald.”

• And they’ve also got a highlight video!

The video is more than just a keepsake for the season – it has a more serious purpose, as team manager John Birch explained:

“The biggest problem we face when attracting girls into the sport is that – even if they have seen rugby – they have never seen girls play the game. They may not have even thought of rugby as being an option.

“Most girls associate the game with what they see on TV – a male-only world full of huge, muscular blokes crashing into each other. Even if you visit schools its hard to get past this because you cannot show them what the girls game is really like.

“So this video is not full of images of highly toned adult professional (and probably male) athletes being improbably tough and athletic, but it does show a fast and exciting sport being played by teenage girls like them – possibly girls they may even know. It captures the speed and excitement of the game, but also makes it approachable and accessible – and real. It says this is a game that ordinary girls like YOU can play”

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