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#ThisGirlCan Play Rugby – Rui’s Story

"Rugby is not an intimidating sport, and it is not only for the big girls who have played it for over 5 years. It is inclusive and empowering, and it is never too late to get started."

“For those years in school, I used to be a chubby girl making excuses to skip as many PE classes as I could. In year 12, I was sick of the insults about my body and I somehow believed I can only be happy and be loved by getting skinny. For a person who never passed any of her PE tests, for me, eating less food was way more practical than doing exercise to lose weight. This poor decision made resulted in me losing 20kg in 4 months, and coming to university with an eating disorder: eating nothing for two days following with 10,000 calorie meals.

The way I looked was literally the only thing I cared about. I had even started doing exercise by then just to keep losing weight. With some friends’ help I realised how unhealthy my relationship with food was, and had started taking medication and going to see consultants. However, I still felt very self-conscious about my weight and continued to be restrictive with my diet. Doing exercise had become a part of my life by then, but it was all to keep myself looking a certain way – not for enjoyment.

Finally on a cold Saturday morning in March, I was sitting in the college dining hall when a few girls walked in and drew my attention: they were all wearing the same shirts, shorts and socks, and were covered in mud. The girls looked cold but excited, they were glowing in those muddy shirts. I was empowered by just watching them walking in.

After chatting to them, I got to know that they had just got back from a college rugby match. What was more important was that none of them had played rugby before coming to university. This was the determining factor which made me start rugby, because before that I thought all the rugby girls had been playing it for ages. I couldn’t even tell the difference between a Rugby ball and an American football (they are both ‘olive ball’ in mandarin)!

Rugby helped me fix my relationship with food and more importantly, with myself. It switched my focus from how I look, to how I feel and how I perform. I train hard for a better fitness level instead of for attaining a certain look. I have learnt to feed myself well and take good care of myself. I feel happy and valued when I see every tiny step of progress I make. Within rugby, people of different body shapes function in their own position, but always go up together as a team.

Rugby is not an intimidating sport, and it is not only for the big girls who have played it for over 5 years. It is inclusive and empowering, and it is never too late to get started.”

RUI ZHANG, DURHAM UNIVERSITY STUDENT.

Rui began playing college rugby last year, before joining the Durham University team this year. She has worked hard and continuously shows her determination to improve. This has payed off – she is already in the 2nd team!

Are you wanting to try rugby? Durham City RFC have started running a weekly women’s training session, Thursdays, 7-8pm at Durham City Rugby Club, DH1 3JU. No previous experience is required, the sessions start from the basics! Females from age 13+ welcome!!