As Scotland prepare to take on Canada today, in the fifth place semi final at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, training has continued apace for the squad in Surrey. But with five international matches in sixteen days, some variety has been thrown into the ball skills mix, with rounders, basketball and a full-on version of dodgeball all featuring over the last few days.
For prop Heather Lockhart, who will win her 45th cap this afternoon, it’s fun and games with a meaningful edge – and a nod to many of the sports she’s grown up around and played herself, in a family with an international sporting pedigree.
Says Lockhart, of the alternative training: “The other games we play when we warm up are good for ball skills, hand-eye co-ordination and getting you tuned in. And it’s team work – everyone has to work together to support each other. It’s a bit of light-heartedness but it's very transferable to what you’re doing on the rugby pitch – a good warm-up and preparation for the game.”
Despite her tally of caps, rugby wasn’t the first (or even second) sport that Heather played at international level.
“First of all, it was tennis. I played for Scotland – though never full time – at four nations and for British Students at international level. Interestingly when we played Holland, at the European (rugby) championships last year, the girl who played at tight head for their side used to play tennis at a high level as well – again, it’s hand-eye co-ordination.”
Heather started playing rugby at university, initially in touch tournaments, as she’d always wanted to have a go but the training was at the same time as hockey – which she was also playing at a high level! After being persuaded to join the university team, her first game turned out to be against Treviso, in Italy: “That was my first ever game of rugby – a trip to Venice and we lost!”
She went on to gain her debut cap against the USA, at an autumn international at Murrayfield in 2004, before taking part in her first World Cup, in Canada in 2006.
Says Heather: “It was fantastic and the standard in Edmonton was pretty incredible; this year, I think it’s gone up another level. The fact that everything is on site means you can speak to the other players and you’re totally embedded in the rugby. It’s just a huge learning experience for everyone involved.”
Like many of the Scotland squad, she’s enjoyed great support from family and friends during this tournament. “A couple of girls I used to play hockey with – who had never seen me play rugby before – have been along to the games and really enjoyed them. I think anyone who has come to watch – and I’ve spoken to the other girls about this as well – is quite bowled over by the support and the interest; as an advertisement for women’s rugby, this has been fantastic.”
There was more than one sport – and sportsperson – vying for attention in the Lockhart household, however, when Heather was growing up. Dad, Brian, played scrum half for Glasgow Academicals and Glasgow’s district team; mum, Christine, played hockey for Scotland and is currently in Great Britain’s over-60 tennis team; brother, Dougie, plays cricket for Scotland; brother, Richard, was a hooker at rugby and played county squash; and sister Abbie, who also played hockey at a high level, is a Cambridge University tennis blue.
Says Heather: “When we were growing up there were bats and balls lying around the house – and we were lucky in that we had a strip of grass in the garden that acted as a tennis court, rugby and hockey pitch so we were always out there playing sports. Mum still plays tennis competitively, now that all four kids are off and away.
“I’d like to still be playing some sport when I get to that stage in life – I think sport just gives you so much; I’ve certainly loved every minute of it.”