Social Return on Investment: Garioch RFC mums returning to rugby

Social Return on Investment: Garioch RFC mums returning to rugby

A new Social Return on Investment report has, for the first time, demonstrated the value participating and volunteering in grassroots rugby delivers for society and the economy.

One of the three key pillars shown in the Social Return on Investment (SROI) report is social, of which volunteer contributions make up a large portion.

Throughout society, there has long persisted the myth that motherhood and sport are incompatible. Whilst it cannot be denied that it’s a tough gig, an increasing number of women are proving that motherhood and sport can go together.

Sammy Ross, Sam Sutherland, Jess Silcocks and Chloe Matthews discussed how Garioch RFC and their partners have supported them to continue and thrive in the rugby community.

After captaining Garioch to Premiership promotion last season, the 31 year-old was ready to pursue another dream, motherhood.

“I’d been ready for a few years to have kids, but I didn’t want to hang up my boots”, said Jess, whilst feeding 12-week-old Lucy.

“I found it very, very tough. But there came a point where I just thought if I want to do this, I need to set a date, set a season and said that was it. We were obviously then very lucky we got pregnant straight away.

“Making that decision though was incredibly hard. You have to pluck up the courage to stop playing, and it’s obviously amazing to have a child, but for me that choice and decision to give up rugby which is such a huge part of who you are, so you can have a baby, it’s hard.”

For 26 year-old Chloe, she found that stepping back from rugby when she was pregnant with Sandy was hard on her social life.

“Socially, before having Sandy, rugby was everything. It was tough going down to training and not being able to be as involved with drills, and then stepping out of playing was hard too. It’s like you’re in the team but you’re not. The girls were great at staying in touch and keeping me in the loop though.

“What I missed most was everything that comes with a game-day. Even just running on water or the kicking tee, having a drink, you can’t exactly do that. But of course, it is totally worth it,” she adds, as she bounces six-month-old Sandy on one knee.

Sammy, mother of one year-old Harper, was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for an emergency c-section, which left the utility back concerned about how her body would hold up in contact.

She returned to training in the summer of 2022, just three months after having her daughter, and began playing just shy of seven weeks later.

“I’d been back to training for a while, but in terms of going back to play a game I just decided to go for it. My only concern was ‘is my stomach going to split open and will all my guts fall out?’ Of course it was fine, but you always think the worst,” said Sammy.

There was an added challenge in Sammy’s return to rugby as the team stepping up to play in the Premiership League.

“Going into Premiership level was hard. Playing against new teams who were so much fitter and faster than you, even before pregnancy.

“But having seen Sam come back to rugby after she’d had three kids and come back even better than she had been before, it gave me that motivation knowing I could do it too.”

Sammy’s team-mate, Sam has already made a comeback to rugby once, after giving birth to twins, Alistair and Hamish five years ago, followed by Merida a year later. Now with 13-week-old Finlay in her arms, Sam is on her next return to rugby journey.

Sam’s first return to rugby was initially overshadowed by feelings of guilt.

“But I think at least for me the more children I’ve had, I realised that taking the time for myself to do something I enjoy, which is rugby, is better for them.

Jess found her journey with pregnancy along with seeing her team-mates enter motherhood, opened her eyes to some of the unintentional barriers women were facing at the club.

“The club is such a welcoming, family-orientated place but there’s been wee things I’ve been able to change and make things a bit easier for us mums. But prior to getting pregnant I didn’t realise these things were missing.”

With backing from the committee, the club now has highchairs, better changing facilities including hooks on the back of the doors for hanging up the all-important baby bag, and they even have baby bouncers in the gym, meaning the players can complete weight training whilst their child is safely entertained.

The women had some final words of wisdom to share for expectant rugby-mums, parents who are considering getting into the game, and food for thought for other clubs.

Sammy’s advice is for women who have had a c-section: “There isn’t a lot of information out there on how to return to sport, and I didn’t get much support from a medical point of view other than a recommended timeline.

“I did something called a ‘Mummy MOT’ with a physio and that was really helpful. It just helps you know you’re in a good place to go back to physical activity.”

Chloe wants to encourage more mothers into the game: “The thought of getting back to rugby after you’ve had your baby is hard, but honestly, just do it. I know it’s easier for me to say that now that I am back at training, but you have to remember it’s only a wee break you’ve taken and as the other girls have said, getting the exercise and socialising through rugby is so important for you as a person and parent.

Jess believes more clubs should embrace changes to make their facilities more inclusive, saying: “Make your clubhouse as accessible as possible for parents. It’s important that the clubhouse is a welcoming, supportive environment, equipped to support families. It’s not just about supporting players who are parents, it’s about supporters and partners too.”

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