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