Interview with Pip Bryant of Worthing RFC

Rugby is Inclusive.

Interview with Pip Bryant of Worthing RFC

For our women’s rugby section, we spoke with Pip Bryant from Worthing RFC Ladies. Pip took up Rugby at the tender age of 28, she volunteers at the club and has even been known to dance with Ashley Banjo – although apparently it was more ‘interpretive’ than ‘street’. Pip’s experiences of the game are genuine and she really epitomizes what the game stands for – we were even treated to an afternoon out down in Worthing, so we’re happy and willing to say many nice things!

For anyone who isn’t aware of Ashley Banjo, he’s the tall guy from Diversity. He’s like a mix between Michael Jackson (the 80’s version) and LeBron James. Basically he’s a better dancer than you. Unless you’re Andy Goode. Goode is great at everything.

I digress. In the slightly red corner, NU-Gen took up the virtual mic duties. In the yellow and blue Worthing-coloured corner, Pip gloved up to answer some questions.

Womens Rugby

Name: Pip Bryant
Occupation: Part-time Tight-head Prop;
Occupational Therapist
Current Club: Worthing Rugby Football Club
Age: 34
Egg-chasing Experience: 6 years
Team/Nation: Harlequins as they are the most local team! And I support England!
Rugby Idol: Martin Johnson is my utter hero; I would be a gibbering wreck if I ever got to meet him.

NU-Gen [NG]: We want to hear a bit about your background. Can you tell us who, or what, originally got you interested in Rugby?

Pip: A girl joined my team at work and she played rugby for Hove. We started talking and she made it sound like such good fun (the socialising more than the rugby) so I thought I would give it a go. It took me a few weeks though to get the courage to turn up to training, but I was glad I did.

NG: Have you played continually over the years, or, have you taken any breaks from the game, for any reason?

Pip: I played my very first game on a hot September Sunday when the ground was very hard. I got tackled and stupidly put my arm out to save myself. I ended up breaking my elbow and couldn’t play for the whole of the first season. Oops!

NG: Do you have a first memory of watching rugby?

Pip: My first memory about rugby was when I was dragged to a motorbike show at the NEC in Birmingham in 2003. When we arrived there was a huge screen showing the World Cup. There was a real buzz around it, so I thought I’d stand here and watch for a bit. I absolutely loved it, and after that really got into watching and following local rugby more.

NG: From your personal experience, have you found rugby to be an inclusive sport, open to all?

Pip: It took me weeks to build up the courage to attend my first training session. I was overweight, unfit and never really did any exercise. I was so worried that I would be left behind everyone else huffing and puffing and let the team down.

On my first night one of the ladies took me under their wing, they stuck with me and made sure I wasn’t left on my own. They made me feel part of the team and that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t fit as I could improve on that. At the end of training one of the ladies had recently got married so bought out her leftover wedding cake. It was at this point that I realised this would be the sport for me!

NG: Have you faced any barriers to participating that you’ve had to overcome?

Pip: There are still unfortunately some prejudices about ladies playing rugby. I will hear comments from people stereotyping our sexuality, or, saying that we will never be as good as male players. Luckily I have the confidence to confront people who comment, and that usually shuts them up! I also remind them about how well the England Ladies have done compared to the men and they tend to not really have any comebacks!

NG: Grassroots Rugby is the foundation of the game in England – and all over the world. If you were asked describe the benefits of participating in rugby to children and their parents, what would you say?

Pip: I have nephews who are 15 and 7 who both play rugby. Through playing I have watched them grow in confidence. They are excited about going training and seeing their friends. They have huge smiles on their faces whilst running around having fun, no matter how cold it is! Its keeping them fit and increasing their hand eye co-ordination skills. I can see how proud they are to be part of a team and that their team mates need and want them there.

pip1NG: Can you explain what the game means to you, what you take from the game and why its great for children to get involved at an early age –

Pip: Rugby makes me feel included and accepted for who I am. Within a rugby team there is a position for any size, shape and level of fitness. When its pouring down with rain and I’m struggling to get round the pitch, all it takes is a pat on the back from one of my team mates, or the shout of ‘Go on Pip’ from the side lines, and it gives me that boost to work harder. Its not all about me on the pitch, its a team effort, and the game is only won by the whole team working together and supporting each other. My only regret about playing rugby is that I didn’t start sooner. I really wish it had been introduced to me at school or at college, as I feel I’ve lost out on many years of friendship and good laughs that come with playing rugby.

NG: You mention that you wished the game had been introduced to you earlier – the opportunity to take part in female rugby has been growing, especially at grassroots level with quite a rapid ascendancy lately, but it wasn’t prevalent at all 20 years ago.

Do you think, or at least hope, the Women’s game will compete with the Men’s game in the future, in terms of airtime, sponsorship, etc following recent growth?

Pip: If I look back over the 6 years I’ve been playing, I feel that the women’s game is so much more in the public eye than it used to be. I’m seeing more clubs start women’s sides, we are getting more spectators to games and international games are being shown more on TV or on the Internet. There is still a long way to go until we are at the same level as men’s rugby when it comes to sponsorship and air time, but if we keep promoting and playing as we do then we will get there.

NG: What more can be done to promote and increase participation in the game? Do you think it’s the responsibility of the Unions, Clubs, Schools or the Media – or is there a collective responsibility?

Pip: I feel participation in most sport starts at school; this is where you get your first taste of sports. Promoting that girls can play sports like rugby should start at school, and then the school link in with local clubs who support girls and ladies teams. I feel the media plays a massive part in the promotion of sport and encouraging people to take part. If they showed more women’s rugby on TV I do feel this would impact on the amount of women who would want to play.

NG: You’ve spoken about the perception of women in the game and that there appears to still be barriers to female participation, but do you think these barriers have reduced recently?

Pip: The main barrier I feel would be the lack of clubs who have girls or women’s teams. If you’re male in West Sussex and wanting to play rugby, I can think of at least 15 clubs you can go and play for. If you’re female in West Sussex, I can think of 4 clubs who have girls or women’s teams. It’s unrealistic to expect people to travel far for a hobby, which then puts people off playing. It needs to be accessible to more potential players.

NG: Can you tell us a bit more about Worthing Rugby Club?

Pip: I believe the club was founded in 1920, but this wasn’t at the ground it’s based at now. The club has sections for minis, juniors, colts, girls, women and senior men. The Women’s team play in National Challenge 1 and we train on Tuesdays and Thursdays (always looking for new players so come along!). The Raiders are the clubs 1st XV who play in National League 2 South (Tier 4). The Raiders have produced England players such as Joe Launchbury and Joe Marler.

NG: We love a Big Joe Marler name-drop.

Why did you choose to play your rugby at Worthing?

Pip: At the time Worthing was the closest club to me that played women’s rugby, I was limited with where I could go without travelling a long way.

NG: Can you describe the social scene and clubhouse atmosphere on a Saturday?

pip2Pip: I love Saturdays at the club. When the Raiders are playing at home, I volunteer on the gate taking the money from spectators to watch them play. There is a core group of volunteers who do this and we have such a laugh. We get to know all the regulars who come to home games and have good banter. I like talking to people who have never been to the club before or never watched rugby before. I ensure they feel welcome and have a good experience so they will come back again. It’s also a good chance to suss out the opposition when they arrive!

NG: Have you noticed whether the game and diversity of playing members has grown since you joined the club, and has participation increased with girls/women section of the club?

Pip: Well, I’ve definitely noticed that the players have got younger! I’m one of the oldest players on the team now, and am struggling to keep up with the youngsters! I’ve really noticed that we’ve had a lot more women take up rugby who have never played before and just want to give something new a try. We’ve been promoted through the years so I’ve noticed a real change in the speed of the game and the fitness and strength of the opposition.

NG: That sounds great. So, how do you try and help girls/women in the Worthing area get involved at the club?

Pip: We do a lot of promotion for our team via Facebook, Twitter and handing out leaflets. We get involved with community initiatives to give our support and in return can hand out leaflets about our team. We often run taster sessions for people who have never played to come along and have a go, without the worry that it’s a full on training session.

NG: Well it’s clear to see that Worthing are investing in the Women’s game and the club has a fantastic atmosphere – we caught the final game of the Raiders season and the club has a lovely community vibe to it. And a bar, of course.

You’ve spoken to us about some of your personal thoughts and feelings, which have been really insightful, however, we now have some incredibly important, possibly game changing questions for you in The Quick Fire Round.

If you were marooned on a deserted island and you could pick three players to be lost with, who would they be (and why)?

Pip: Martin Johnson to keep me warm when it gets cold, Joe Marler to make me laugh and Claire Purdy to be another level headed female on the island!

NG: Which front row has the best lid: Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard or Joe Marler?

Pip: Would have to be Joe Marler as he’s one of my favourite players, and an ex Worthing player.

NG: 2 from 2 for Joe Marler! Do you have any claim to fame?

Pip: Myself and some other women from my team once appeared on Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew. We had to learn how to street dance in secret, and then surprised a packed Worthing Rugby Club with our dance. We have never danced that routine since that day (probably a good thing).

NG: Apparently a clip is still doing the rounds on YouTube… Anyway, Maggie Alphonsi and James Haskell both invite you for a pint after a game – you can only go for one, who is it with?

Pip: It’s got to be Maggi. She is an ambassador for women’s rugby and a machine!!

NG: I’d expect pints are too mainstream for James Haskell, so that’s a good call! And yes, I am inferring that the Hask is slightly Hipster.

Do you have any unusual pre-match habits or rituals (like putting your socks and boots on in order or a certain bit of kit you can’t play without)?

Pip: It’s not a pleasant habit, but I never shower before a game. There is also a particular pair of pants I wear just for rugby game days.

NG: I think it’s subjective to when your last shower was. If it was a few days before, I’m sure you’re okay… If it was after the last game, then a bit less so!

Do you have a set pre-match meal?

Pip: It’s always 2 bits of brown toast, with 2 eggs (scrambled or poached) and plenty of ketchup.

NG: That trumps my leftover Chinese! Have you had any surreal run-ins/meetings with a pro player?

pip3Pip: I won tickets to go to the movie premiere in Leicester Square of Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson. I misread it and thought it said I’d won tickets for breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson! I did however get to have a photo with Lawrence Dallaglio who was there.

NG: Shame about breakfast, but a good win meeting Loz! So, you’ve been given power to select a World XV, who’s your first pick, from the Men’s or Women’s game?

Pip: Well, obviously Martin Johnson, but a close second would be Claire Purdy who played prop for England Ladies.

NG: I can’t argue with either choice – however, I’d make a strong case for the dream team lid-duo of Richard Hibbard and Joe Marler.

It’s now time for the finisher. The big-kahuna-question. Your Usain Bolt, Beijing and London Olympics Gold Medal questions:

Can you describe rugby in a word?

Pip: Inclusive.

NG: Can you explain why you’ve chosen this word?

Pip: Rugby is a sport for everyone. Whether you’re big or small, male or female, fast or slow, there is a place for you on a rugby team. If you’re injured or retired there still many ways to be involved, whether it’s volunteering at the club, or lining up the drinks for the post match boat race. There is no better feeling than being included in a rugby team and belonging to a rugby club.