Rugby in the veins with Rachael Burford | The Hard Yards Ep.1

Rugby means everything really it’s been
kind of the driving vehicle and steering my life in the right direction it’s
helped me stay on track it’s helped me be disciplined and it’s given me a
family outside of my immediate family. And the community spirit is amazing and
you know to do what I do playing rugby is the ultimate dream. It’s so funny when I bump into like my
friends from school and they’re like you still play rugby I’m like yeah still doing
it and they’re like wow you must really love it and I’m like course I do absolutely love it and you know the opportunities that it gives and the friendships that I have you know
I’ve got friends that will be my best friends forever. I think sport and
fitness means like a variety of things. I think you know obviously your health and your mental well-being as well it supports that but it’s also really
sociable it’s a real community feel when you’re involved in something.
It’s really empowering as a female and how I see sort of being hot and sweaty
is not a bad thing I think it’s actually really strong image and yeah
I absolutely love being involved in it. I think it was always inevitable that I
was gonna play because my mum my dad and my sister all played here at Medway
and so I was always down at the Rugby Club if it there’s even a picture of me
as a little child as a little baby crawling with a rugby ball so I
think it was always natural for me to be able to get into it but I did toy with
some other like athletics and dance but I was really gravitated towards rugby. Two of the the biggest people were probably my mum and my sister without probably realising because they were both female and playing I always wanted to be like them
and go on and play in the same team as them. But in terms of visible and
on TV and things like that within rugby it was Mickey Skinner, he was
an England international and played at Harlequins and actually from Kent so yeah
I really looked up to him and wanted to be like him and that he was kind of
my first real rugby role model. At that age I was just focusing
on playing at Medway and then there came a stage where I had to move to the
Premiership Club and when it comes to who you play for you
to look at what works for you in terms of travel what they can do support wise. My family like they’re everything they’re
the ones that have provided that all the opportunities for me growing up you know my dad taxied me around everywhere for rugby and they’re always so supportive
and to say that I’ve played in the same team as my mum my sister’s is a
huge legacy that I don’t think there’s another story like that out there which
is really really special to me and I made sure that I did play one season
with them here before having to move on to a Premiership club and we will
talk about the Academy in a little while but that’s part of the legacy as
well it’s when I walk away from the game you know I still want to have my family
name involved in it somehow because of all the opportunities they gave to me I
want to be able to give something back to them. I’ve definitely had my fair share of
setbacks whether that’s injury, not getting selected, all those types of
things they happen in everybody’s career but I think over the years you know
probably in my early years I didn’t really understand how to overcome them
but then recognising that just because you’ve been dropped or you’ve got an
injury actually there’s still so much you can control, so massively with
injuries I learned that just because my leg was injured actually it meant that I
had lots of opportunities to do other things in terms of you know work on a
weakness or do some more analysis or it’d be really good for my nutrition
there’s still so much you can control. I think too many people think because
they’ve had a setback there’s nothing else to to be able to do you just kind
of focus on that and we kinda live by a motto of you know it’s ten percent
what happens you and then ninety percent of how you deal with it and and having
that mindset allows you to overcome those things and get past them. We’ve just come out of, the 15 a side have just come out of 15’s contracts after the World Cup so
at the moment where we’re back to being amateur but our clubs are trying to
provide the most professional setting and you can really see players excel so
for myself as an England international you know I get looked after very well
in terms of medical in terms of strength and conditioning and in terms of
analysis but say my club mate she doesn’t get all that support, whereas
that’s happening now so it’s almost like the club game has all the sort of
foundations laid there for professionalism but you know to be able
to be fully committed and to be the ultimate professional you need to be
able to do it full-time because you know if you go let’s say a nine-to-five job
when you get back at five o’clock you’ve got probably have something to
eat get to the gym come home and it’s a really difficult to balance your life
you know your social time is very limited and you don’t get much
opportunity to spend with family and friends because you’ve got to prioritise
training and and it’s tiring you know you do a whole day at work and then
you’ve got to go and put like 100% effort into a training session and it has a big impact on you physically and mentally and socially you know and
I’d like to think hopefully you know full-time contracts that are domestic and
international level will be coming in because it does make a big difference. In 2014 when we won the World Cup there
was a huge influx of girls wanting to play rugby and for example we were
at a signing opportunity at Twickenham and a university team came up to us and
said we can’t believe how many girls came along last week after watching your
final you know when you’ve got 2.6million watching on terrestrial TV
you’re going to get an influence of new participation levels and and it’s so
great to see so when I grew up I was the only girl for six years with the boys
teams and now you go along to rugby clubs and there’s four or five in each
age group and it’s just so wonderful to see. I had a tweet after the final this
little girl came and had her picture taken with me and the dad had written she used to want to be a referee like her dad, but now she wants to be like you. yeah so I think setting up The Burford Academy was really important to me and I wanted to make sure that there was a legacy of me and my family name still in the game you
know eventually when I hang up my boots but I thought it’s really important
to pass on what I know and to give you know girls the opportunity to learn
earlier that instead of when they get into an international setting or into
a club setting that they don’t really know what’s going on so try and give
them a bit of a forward step but the other side of it is I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that rugby has provided me with you know it wasn’t
academic at school it was all through sport and you know to say that I’d be
running my own business and doing lots of other things you know travelling the world having great friendships that’s all been from rugby and so all I
want to do is try and show young people that rugby can give you so many
different opportunities as can any sport but I really want them to try and
get them the opportunities that I’ve had because they’re phenomenal
and without rugby I wouldn’t be where I am today and I think if I can pass on
you know a little bit of knowledge and support using the Burford Academy
to young girls out there that they’ll pick up a rugby ball and want to play
and then you know go on and have as many as amazing experiences as what I’ve had. One of the important roles of a captain
is to make sure that everybody feels valued and included and we’ve got a
really big squad so it’s trying to make sure that everybody feels a part of it
and whatever team you’re in whether you start or whether you finishing that you
feel really valued and also it’s about delegation and working with you know
other strong leaders within the team because I don’t think any good side can
captain alone and so I get a really good strong group of leadership around me and
then it’s kind of you know because there is such a big mix of different people
and personalities that you need people that can kind of link with other people
so there be a group of players that you know might not necessarily we might not
link but they will with a different leader so it’s trying to you know capture
everybody and using the right people to do that and I think that ultimately
everybody has to take responsibility and knowing that you’re accountable within
the side is a big thing for us we make sure that everybody you know whatever
your actions are you accountable to the whole team and that kind of motivates
and inspires people to do the right thing and to join ship and to make sure that
we’re all you know working towards the same goal. You know you learn so much
from when you lose games and but the important part of it is that you
go and you learn you learn why what went wrong how you could do it differently
and and then you need to put that into practice It’s all when a good saying
oh we needed to cope better under pressure well actually then you need to
go and train under pressure and make sure that you find strategies
and coping mechanisms to deal with that it’s all about kind of taking individual
responsibility as much as it’s a team sport you need to look at your own game
or your own self were you mentally in the right state were you physically
ready had you done all your prep work that you needed to do and then collectively
as a team we’ll get together in unit so in the backs and the forwards identify
what we did well and what we didn’t and then kind of park it and then move
on because you can’t dwell on stuff too much you know sometimes it’s just one
decision gone wrong or one mistake that’s ended up in a big loss that you know ultimately 90% of your processes and
what you did is probably right it’s just those 10% and that’s the difference at
the top of the game that it’s marginal and you’ve got to make sure that you
learn from them and then move on and put it into practice

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