From rugby novice to passionate player: Nicola’s journey
In the small town of Troon, nestled along the picturesque west coast, the women’s rugby scene is undergoing a transformation.
Marr Rugby Club has been a huge catalyst for this. Their endeavours to grow the game now sees a pathway for girls and women developing at rapid pace.
For one player, Nicola Bonsor, in the space of just three months, rugby has gone from an unknown sport to a hobby she loves.
A mother of four, Nicola has never considered herself a rugby enthusiast. Those in her life have always played and followed football. Nevertheless, a casual chat between her husband and one of the Marr Rugby coaches about the formation of a women’s team changed everything for the 32-year-old.
“My husband works with one of the coaches who mentioned they’d started a women’s team and asked if I might like to come to training on a Monday night.
“I’m not even sure why I decided to go, but I thought I may as well give it a try, and I haven’t looked back.”
For someone who had never ventured into the realm of team sports, Nicola’s introduction to rugby was met with a mix of confusion and curiosity.
“Running forwards and passing backwards,” she said. “It felt so strange to start with, but once I got used to that, I really began to enjoy it.
“Learning how to tackle, how to ruck and about the laws of the game has been really enjoyable and something I would have never imagined I’d be able to do before.”
What makes Nicola’s journey particularly remarkable is the timing of her entry into the sport. She was only six months post-partum when she started playing, having undergone a C-section to give birth to her son, Leo.
Initially, Nicola had some reservations about playing a contact sport after childbirth, but she soon found strength she didn’t know she possessed.
“Because of my C-section I hadn’t done much in the way of being physically active beyond walking. I was quite scared about my scar to start with, but rugby has helped me put myself out there and realise I’ve actually healed really well, and my fitness has improved a lot.
“The coaches are amazing, they let you take it at your own pace and do what you’re comfortable with. That really helped me build up my confidence and get to the stage where I felt my body was back to its best.
“Even if you just want to play touch, that’s fine. We’re able to build up all the elements of the game bit by bit.”
Marr are now playing in the women’s Aspiring League, a steppingstone for new teams and players to hone their skills, and this environment has played a pivotal role in Nicola’s development.
Its round-robin format allows for shorter games, providing a platform to learn and enjoy the sport at a less competitive pace.
“The Aspiring League is so good. We’ve been able to make a day of it, playing and watching other teams play, and have some food and socialise at the end. It’s really great.
“Because the games are short it means you can give it your all. You don’t feel a big pressure, you just get to enjoy yourself and learn as you go, and it’s good to be able to test yourselves against other new teams.”
Even more critically for Nicola, the environment of the league has allowed her to be both player and mum. She hopes the inclusive and adaptable nature of Marr’s setup will allow other local mothers to get involved in rugby.
“When Marr has been the host club for Aspiring League days, my husband has been able to bring Leo along so between games I’ve been able to feed him. The support I had from my teammates to do that has been amazing. And for me, that’s just what I do, I’ll play rugby, feed him and get back on the pitch, but it’s nice to have that support from them to do both.
“I really hope other women my age or who are mum’s might see this and decide to give rugby a go. I’ve had quite a lot of people from school who are now mum’s messaging me about coming along because they’re seeing that I’m playing. I think it’s going to become a big thing for mum’s, playing rugby in Troon.
“It’s just taking the courage to go to the first training session. I know so many people who have said they want to come but they don’t think they have the confidence to. But I know once they come to that first session and get over that hurdle, they will enjoy it. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I love it!
“One of the biggest things is that I love being part of a team, and I’ve never really had that before. The atmosphere within our team is amazing and it’s been a big reason for why I’m enjoying it so much.”
Nicola, once a rugby novice, now stands as a passionate player and an inspiration to all those who dare to take that first step onto the rugby pitch.