How to be a rugby mum

rugby in the mist

I’ve stood on cold rugby touchlines for more than five years. I’ve done my time.
I  have experience in the field, so to speak.
I have groaned at the thought of hauling myself out of bed early on a Sunday morning to stand in the cold and cheer on my boy.
I’ve felt my shoulders sink as I get yet another mound of horrendously muddy kit to wash.
I have winced at not being able to actually feel the ends of my fingers.

Dan started playing rugby at the age of 7 and has loved every minute of it.
And here’s the best thing about it; sport has brought measurable benefits to him. Huge.
It’s shaped him as a person, built his confidence, helped him get into the school he wanted to join and he as – I hope – built friendships for life.

Last week I read the Guide to Being a Football Mum at Mumof3 World and I did one of those ‘yes, yes, yes!’ moments you do when a post totally resonates with you.
So, as she shared her insights from years of being a footy mum, I thought I’d share my  version for rugby parents.

minis rugby player

Get used to the mud
It doesn’t matter how bad it gets underfoot, the game is unlikely to be cancelled. It doesn’t matter  how much you praaaaaay, unless the pitch is solid enough to crack quartz or so waterlogged you could swim in it, a rugby match will go on.
And, as this is a game where, once they’re playing contact rugby, they spend an awful lot of time on the floor, get used to there being so much mud you can barely tell what colour their kit is.

How muddy you ask? This muddy:

Don’t be too precious
Those £50 rugby boots you bought your player? They will never ever look anything approaching new again. Live with it.


muddy rugby boots
Invest in a vest
It’s a winter game so you will get Cold standing there watching. And yes, that capital C is there for a reason.
You will stand on the sidelines of pitches and wonder how the heck it can be this cold when you left the house and it was so mild you’d toyed with the idea of leaving your coat behind.
Rugby pitches are windswept and exposed and rarely have a stand to protect you from the biting cold. Wellies just won’t cut the mustard; the cold creeps up your feet and up the back of your knees. No one cares that you own the latest Hunter wellies. No one.
I once stood next to a mum at a match and she was wearing high heels. Bet she didn’t ever make that mistake again.
So buy vests, mittens (ski mittens are best), thermal socks, a hat, a thick scarf. Heck take a big fleecy blanket and wrap that around you – no one cares what you look like they’re too busy being cold.

Rugby to the core
Take the time to read the rugby core values. It’s why I got my son into the game in the first place: Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship.
All traits I want my young man to have.

minis rugby

Never travel lightly
Take warm tops, blister pads, Vaseline, a towel, water, snacks, a chair.
The number of times a new player has turned up just in his kit only to sit shivering in a heap at half time because he hasn’t brought anything to keep the warmth in.
Also they eat like locusts. When I say eat, I mean devour, so bring high energy snacks.
Also a flask. It’s up to you if you add something a bit stronger in that hot chocolate to see you through.

Resist the urge to come over all mother hen
It’s rugby, they get injured, their coaches are there to tend to them.

It’s important to lose
Yes it’s lovely to bask in the warm glow of victory and do a fist pump or two, but children need to learn how to lose, how to be gracious in defeat, how to lift themselves and find ways to improve.
There are some clubs we play who really don’t understand this and I think they’re all the poorer for it. You will not win everything in life and learning to roll with that is an important life skill.

Pay attention
Try to pick up some of the rules and NEVER miss a try or a try-saving tackle that your player makes because you will be quizzed on it at length later.
If you missed the action because you were off getting a hot chocolate from the club house, get the other parents to fill you in on the details.
You will earn some major brownie points for this.

The coaches have enough to contend with, herding a team of boys around, coaching them, organising kit, doing up laces, refereeing, marking out the pitch.
Don’t be the parent whose child leaves their water bottle/hoody/trainers/boot bag every week. It’s another job for the coach to do.

Don’t dismiss rugby for girls
My daughter played tag rugby for two years and adored every minute of it.
Every single photo I took of her she has this smile on her face.
She gave it up when it was time to start contact rugby. I think she thought all the wrestling she does with her brother at home was enough for one girl to take.

girls rugby

Set a good example
Be respectful at all times. Welcome a visiting team and their parents to your club. Clap when the opposition scores. Don’t shout at the ref/their coaches/the players. It’s OK to have a grumble but keep it to yourself. When visiting another club, be a good ambassador for your own.

They will likely make friends for life
My husband was a rugby player back in his youth. He’s now a coach and the passion he has for the game has not diminished.
He still keeps in touch with his old playing buddies. You also find there is a worldwide rugby ‘club’ in that if you’ve ever played you’re very very welcome into it with open arms no matter where your allegiances lie.

rugby friends

Show commitment
The coaches are volunteers. They give of their time freely and readily. So if you child can’t play, let them know. Pay your subs on time. Offer to help if they need it. Have sympathy for their spouses who have to put up with them planning coaching sessions, organising matches, volunteering to clean up at the clubhouse. Yes, I am one of those spouses!

Above all, remember . . . 
I saw this posted on a sign at a Welsh rugby club and it should be at every club when there is a minis and juniors rugby match on:

Please remember:
These are kids
This is a game
The coaches are volunteers
The referees are human
This is NOT the 6 Nations

kids rugby signThe Rugby World Cup comes to England in 2015: there has never been a better time to get your kids into the sport.


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25 Responses to How to be a rugby mum

  1. My son is interested in Rugby at the age of 4 but a friend of mine, who has a son playing for a local feeder club to one of the big teams experienced that awful moment where a scrum collapsed and he was at the bottom. He fractured a vertebra and incredibly fortunately, after he's been wearing a frame for a few months, he's expected to make a full recovery. He's 15 and is desperate to get out onto the field.

    It would make me feel sick to watch my son playing now. I know they start off and it's not too bad but there is an age they suddenly get adult bodies but are actually still kids who think they're invincible. If he wants to do it, I won't stop him, but I'm not going to encourage him even though I love watching rugby.
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    • Tara says:

      Oh my goodness, that's awful. My husband played all his life and only got really badly injured when he was too unfit to play! Then even after surgery he wanted to go back.
      I guess as my husband is now a coach I can see how careful they are on the pitch, how safety and teaching the kids how to play safely is paramount and how teaching them that if they learn the right techniques and keep fit, they will be just as safe as anyone else who plays a different sport

  2. Melanie Brammer says:

    This is a really great post, especially how you remind about the need to respect the opposition, the ref and particularly the volunteer coaches. I'm not involved in team sports at the moment, but as a student I used to coach junior hockey, my dad's been involved in Rugby all his life and my sister used to play. Good to see that good manners on the touchline (as well as how to stay warm!) have not been forgotten.
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    • Tara says:

      Ah hockey, my son's other love!
      I think it's a team thing. He tried tennis and swimming but he just loves being part of that team camaraderie
      Manners and respect are a big thing for me; I cannot abide teenagers without any so I'm doing all I can before we get there!

  3. sarahmo3w says:

    Love this post and thanks for the mention. I was doing the nodding thing too – as we're a rugby family on a Sunday and a football family on Saturday! (Thankfully we don't get involved with the coaching and management for rugby though, one sport is enough for that!)
    My daughter is desperate to play rugby, but she would be straight into full contact now. I've seen girls play full contact and some of them have been brilliant, but I'm just not keen on letting my daughter do it. She should have started at tag and worked up to it.
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    • Tara says:

      Dan has played against teams with girls in and they are really good! Really fast and they seem to have the technique sorted really quickly
      They are starting to be thinner on the ground now he's in the Under 12s. The boys are growing so much now and it becomes a whole different game

  4. witwitwoo says:

    This is spot on Tara! I was a rugby mum with Ben for 5 years – I was that dedicated I even went on a rugby tour with them, and we know what they're like! I'm now a football mum with Dexter and I'd say all of the same principles apply. Looking at the smiles on your kids' faces, it looks like it's all worth it 🙂 x

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  6. chrisps says:

    That’s both a practical and moral manifesto for parents at any outdoor junior sports event. Love it.

    Touchline Dad

  7. Bury Family Life says:

    goodness, a lot of cold days spent sat next to a muddy field huh? I do like rugby though, there seems to be a much nicer atmosphere about it all than football in general and anything that teaches them teamwork and that you can't win everything can only be a good thing.
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    • Tara says:

      I've found that rugby is much more of a social thing. More families go and people like getting together to watch a match (and share a fleece blanket!) We didn't really have that when Dan played football, but then some of the teams he played took is WAY too seriously and brought along their Competitive Dads 🙂

  8. Sally says:

    I am a rugby mum. Both my sons play in the minis and my husband is a coach so I agree with everything you have written except as I am often reminded they are Rugby Laws not rules.

  9. Tina says:

    I felt emotional reading this! So much resonated with me.
    I love rugby and my son and husband have the same passion you describe. It is an amazing game and community.

  10. Jo says:

    This is spot on!
    I am a rugby Mum of 2 boys – our team is in the background of one of your pics 🙂 – they have both been playing for 5 seasons now, and my eldest is just moving up to under 13s.
    I have been helping out with kitchen duty for a while, and for the last year have found myself named as the official Fundraising Manager!!!!!

  11. Laura says:

    Thanks for this post. I am from NZ and my two sons have played rugby since they were 3 years old. My sons first year of tackle was at the age of 7. They absolutely love it and because he starred young he has a lot of experience. You have some really good ideas… Thanks for sharing

  12. Tom Winfield says:

    Hi Tara,

    Hope all’s well.

    I’m currently working on an English rugby photography project, and so I wanted to get in touch about the possibility of licensing 1 or 2 of your images for digital use.

    There’s a few really nice photographs on your site (in particular a couple of tag rugby shots, and the image of the two young boys covered in mud). Do you perhaps have any other ‘grassroots’ shots in your own personal collection/’back catalogue’? It would be fantastic to see them if so.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you. I’ve left my email address in the fields below.

    Kind regards,


  13. Kurt watson says:

    Great blog me and my wife take our son to play rugby he never got into football, he plays for morley rfu under 13s one thing springs to mind the rugby ball is not passed by a team mate,but a friend.kurt

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