Rugby Union: Sophie Cox coaches introductory women’s session

Date published: 07 February 2019

Wet, cold and muddy conditions did not deter 30 girls, and their coaches, from turning up for a coaching and training session delivered by double judo Olympian and twice BJJ world champion Sophie Cox on Tuesday (5 February).

Sophie was invited to coach an introductory session around managing contact at Rochdale Rugby Union club where a cluster session took place, involving girls aged 13 to 18, from Sedgley Park, Oldham and Rochdale clubs.

Scrabbling, crawling and grappling on the pitch gave the girls a whole new viewpoint on the ‘grassroots’ of sport.

Sophie said: “It was really enjoyable and engaging, both physically and mentally. I was impressed with the girls’ enthusiasm and their willingness to attempt different physical movements.

“There is improving awareness across all sports, of the value of coaching and developing the physical movement, evident in an early specialisation sport like gymnastics. You can’t just assume youngsters will acquire these skills as they go along.

“I have delivered judo and MMA modules geared to rugby before, but this was the first time I had coached managing contact to rugby girls. Further challenges ahead for girls and coaches will be to adapt to tackling, rucking, mauling and scrummaging in rugby.

“Confidence in contact is the key to girls really enjoying the physicality of contesting possession in a game, the RFU’s first Principle of Play. I remember saying in the Blue Peter feature about my Rugby League Wembley appearance that what I enjoyed most was tackling – it was my top strength in rugby. I wanted to show other girls what fun it was being involved in contact situations.

“Let’s create excitement about attacking and defending.”

Rochdale Club officials Oli Zebedee-Howard and Simon Pendlebury expressed how delighted they were with the outcome of the evening.

Oli said: “This evening was a real pointer to what we are trying to do for the future.

“The number of girls playing at Rochdale, Oldham and Sedgley Park is limited at the moment. We want to promote the girls’ game and a cluster approach is one way forward. 

“The RFU stresses that the game is for all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and beliefs. We hope to encourage their idea of a ‘rugby family’ by developing mixed club training and fixtures on a regular basis.”

Simon enthused: “New contacts, renewal of old acquaintances, exchange of ideas and the prospect of arranging meaningful, competitive games with players of similar ability was a valuable result of the session.”

Sophie summed up the evening by referring to England’s recent victory over Ireland in the Six Nations, proving again that tackle, tackle, tackle is the way to win at rugby, adding: “Mark Wilson (Newcastle and England flanker) said ‘I love to go up and hit things and do it again and again. What fun it was taking the physical challenge to Ireland’. 

“I’ve experienced that fun since the age of six in judo and rugby. The smiles, the giggles the laughter from the girls last night was proof of their desire to embrace the joy of contact sport.”

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