Breaking from tradition

The recent Girls’ Schools Association survey shows rugby gaining momentum among girls

The Girls’ Schools Association represents UK independent girls’ schools and recently conducted a survey about the provision of rugby in a representative sample of 35 GSA schools and how many girls take part in the sport.

Around two-thirds (60%) of those surveyed said their girls play either tag rugby, rugby league or rugby union on a regular basis, involving an average of 76 girls per school. A further 14% said they have plans to introduce rugby.

Half of the schools surveyed provide rugby or tag rugby as part of the curriculum and girls at 11% of the surveyed schools play rugby fixtures, such as rugby sevens tournaments and city tag rugby league. 

Some schools have partnerships with local rugby teams giving access to specialist facilities and training, while others have their own pitch and in-house specialists. Around 11% of surveyed schools have links with the Rugby Football Union and a further 34% are considering pursuing them.

Commenting on the survey, GSA president Alun Jones says: “The range of sporting activity in GSA schools is astonishing and the growing popularity of girls’ rugby is another indication that not all independent schools are stuck in the dark ages of tradition.

“The nation’s women’s teams are doing well internationally – arguably better than the men’s teams – which helps girls to see rugby as a sport for them. And, of course, when rugby is available in a girls’ school, by default it means that girls cannot be excluded.”

GSA schools have an active sports programme and stage one of the few annual sports conferences for girls, rather than adults. Those who attended this year’s Girls Go Gold conference were inspired by a succession of world-class sportswomen, including two members of the England team that brought home the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014, captain Rocky Clark MBE and team mate Katherine Merchant.

One case in point is Sherborne Girls in Dorset, which has joint training sessions between girls at the school and girls at the local rugby club. They offer rugby union and tag rugby as extracurricular activities for girls in years 9-12 and have recently ventured into friendly fixtures. The school also hosts the Dorset and Wilts u16 and u18 county trials and evening training and is planning to stage a girls’ rugby summer camp in 2016.

Housemistress and rugby coach, Bex Brown, says: “Girls are keen to do rugby. They enjoy playing a ‘different’ sport. More schools should be playing it as it tends to promote a healthy approach to appearance and size, as well as being good exercise. It also helps girls to realise they are just as capable as boys.”

Newcastle High School for Girls, meanwhile, has a relationship with Newcastle Falcons, who offer free coaching and access to training for staff. Girls play rugby union and the school offers tag rugby to years 9-12 as part of the curriculum. Director of sport Jackie Atkinson adds: “We offer rugby as a choice and believe that a broad depth of experiences is vital if girls are going to find activities they enjoy and can be good at.”

The Girls’ Schools Association w: gsa.uk.com

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