Sunday, 30 March 2014

girl on fire

I'm ashamed to say I did no exercise or fund raising for Sport Relief last week. These days dragging my unemployed ass to the gym takes all the effort I can muster. So as I'm chopping crisps and watching Davina, John Bishop and a gaggle of other celebrities sweating for cash, I thought back to the days when I could run miles in my sleep.

Yes, this lumpy mama used to be a svelte middle distance runner with her sights set on Olympic glory.  I refer to myself in the third person because there is little of her left in the wheezy, uncoordinated woman that bumbles through Zumba on a Tuesday morning.

 Ushered on by FantasticoDad I pursued a youthful athletic career spanning about 6 years at school, club, county and country level. The first time I saw my name up in lights at Crystal Palace - albeit misspelt - I knew what I wanted to do. Also I figured that if I continued to run the 400 metres, I might grow up to marry Roger Black, coz you know he ran the same event n 'all. Oh the naivety of teenage dreams!  Athletics was my life - training, race meets, cross country seasons, injuries - I lived a breathed spikes and personal bests.
 But I took a wrong turn just before things could have started to get serious and opted out.  Looking back, I must have broken FantasticoDad's heart.  He had planned a future for me going to a sporting university and making the time for distances that were under-represented in Britain. And then I just let it all go.

I get the pain, annoyance and disappointment FantasticoDad must have felt, although he never voiced - well maybe he did but I didn't her. And I get it because I'm now on the other side.  Urged on by GeordieLad, BigL has been playing rugby for about 3 years now.  It started well, but being only one of two girls in her team I think she found it hard. And getting up to run around a wet, freezing field on a Sunday morning is no-ones idea of fun, especially if your younger siblings are dancing to Justin's House on CBeebies as you head out the door. As we entered this season, there was a definite lull in her enthusiasm; they are now playing touch rugby, not tag.  For the uninitiated of you, they are no longer pulling strips of plastic stuck onto their backs, they are pulling strips out of each other. Yeah, she's a girl but she's strong and she's quick.  Yet she was lacking in that drive and fight that the boys seemed to throw around the pitch with ease.

Not ever wanting to be a TigerMom or PushyParents, we suggested that she saw the season through and if she wasn't enjoying herself then she could give it up. This choice was heavily disguised in the opportunities and benefits of playing a team sport. February half term rolls around and GeordieLad surprises us by announcing that BigL has won a competition to be the sole mascot to run out at Twickenham with the England Rugby Women's squad against Ireland in the 6nations.


After watching the England men beat the Irish team with her daddy, our (little) BigL was dropped off by a very proud GeordieLad to meet all the ladies from the squad.  Without her mother by her side, she then ran out with Captain Katy Mclean (who's a primary school teacher donchaknow) in front of a noisy Twickenham crowd and sang every word of the National Anthem.  She has been on cloud nine since that day.  Thanks to an amazing bunch of people at England Women's rugby, including the players, BigL has been given a much needed boost of confidence and a renewed love of this wonderful game.  In a season which we thought started with her about to finish her short lived rugby career, has ended with her telling me that she wants to be a teacher like her mummy, and play rugby for England. 

So thank you to the England Women's team for sparking a light in my daughter (and her mum), and well done GeordieLad for entering her into the competition in the first place (even though I'm sure it was just for the free tickets to the men's game!!).

Oh yeah, and well done BigL. You were smashing.

Goodnight London, wherever you are.

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