International Women's Day: The women behind the women's team
With the celebration of International Women’s Day underway, we look to recognise some the women working behind the scenes with the Scotland Women squad.
Rugby is a game for everyone and it is clear that same sentiment also applies to the roles off-the-pitch. During the recent Rugby World Cup 2021 Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai, eight out of 14 of the squad’s backroom staff were women, working in various roles across team management, medical, analysis, media and marketing.
As this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’, we caught up with some of the women working behind the scenes who ensure that the players receive the best support, preparation and treatment possible to make it out on the pitch and return safely.
Scotland Women’s Lead Physiotherapist, Karina Leahy, played a vital part in preparing the players ahead of their recent win against Colombia, with Scotland earning the final spot in this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Leahy said: ‘’This squad works incredibly hard and they put in so many hours both on and off-the-pitch. They’re just such a close group and we all have a fantastic bond. I can’t explain it, but I just love working with them as a group and on a one-to-one basis.
‘’To watch their development over the years and being able to help them in any way to achieve their goals is an absolute honour.
‘’It’s wonderful to be a part of a team and help players stay on the pitch. I found rugby in particular to be extremely rewarding for me as I’ve made so many lifelong friends through the game.
‘’My favourite thing is match-day. I love the energy on match-day and that power of adrenaline in the tunnel before heading out onto the pitch. You just can’t get that anywhere else.’’
Leahy advises those seeking to make a start in sports physiotherapy to keep an eye out for junior posts that are currently available and to also head down to their local rugby club.
She continued: "‘There are some fantastic junior posts available now in sport and that just wasn’t the case when I qualified. So if you know sport is where you want to work then I would look for these in the first instance as you’d have great senior physiotherapists above you helping and guiding you through your development, otherwise volunteer as much as you can. I spent all my weekends on side lines and in mid weeks down at clubs helping out at clinics. The main thing I would say is make sure you have a good mentor, so that you can ensure you have time with an experienced physio to guide your development.
"If it's rugby you want to be involved in, World Rugby have great online modules for pitch side and first aid training and is complimented with their in-person training sessions, but the main priority is to make sure you’re getting out and volunteering in rugby or any sport that your particularly like working in just get involved.’’
Team Doctor, Victoria Campbell, believes her successes throughout her career have come from the those that she has shadowed, as they’ve helped her learn and gain experience in the field of sports medicine.
Campbell said: ‘’For me I think it’s about getting experience from others, being open to working and trying out different sports. Don’t be afraid to ask to shadow someone, but definitely try start at your local sport or rugby club because that’d where you gain your most experience.
"You might want to specify in rugby but it’s pretty good to try different sports to get an overall view on how people work behind the scenes, and the different demands of each sport, because I definitely think you can take the learnings from one sport into another as I definitely did and that was from the people I shadowed.
‘’I love working in rugby to be honest, every day is different, games are really exciting, and they go by in a blink of an eye. They’re pretty exhausting for everyone but they’re really good and fun, and it’s a really cool sport to work in and the people are great to work with.’’
Speaking about what makes working in sport a special and unique experience, Campbell continued: "I love the team element of it, as working as a GP can be quite isolating as a lot of the time you’re working and making decisions on your own when in a clinic. So, I really enjoy the team aspect and meeting lots of different people and the collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach that we take towards all the players and how that works to get them on the pitch to produce their best performance.
"And I really like working with all the players and the staff, I think it’s a really special group we have at the moment, there’s a real sense of camaraderie and everybody wants to work towards that same goal, and there’s not a single person within the players or staff that I wouldn’t sit and have a coffee with, so I feel really lucky to be apart of such a special team.’’
Four years ago, Gillian Wilson was appointed a role with Scotland Women as a Performance Analyst, she is now Rugby Lead Analyst for the Women’s National Team, Women’s 7s, Women’s Age Grade Programmes and supports the Women’s Premiership in Scotland.
Wilson seeks to encourage other women to consider a career in sports analysis, as she believes there is an opportunity to have more representation in this sector of sport.
On advice to those looking to get involved, Wilson said: ‘’Persevere! It can be hard initially to get into the analysis field and gain employment, but don’t give up. Doing an internship was vital in my analysis career and was a great way to experience the role of an analyst hands on and the demands of the role.
‘’When I started with Scottish Rugby there were only two females in the analysis department, which has since increased each year. I also now meet more and more female analysts working internationally with both male and female rugby teams which is really exciting.
"Scotland Women are an inspiring group of individuals both on and off field and I am grateful to be in this role working alongside them and supporting their journey. In the past 9 months Scotland Women 7s have qualified for their first ever Commonwealth Games and Scotland Women 15s have been on a rollercoaster journey to qualify for the World Cup – it is a special group of people achieving great things."
‘’In terms of working in sport I enjoy the fast-paced nature and the challenging and dynamic environments. Working in sport has been greatly rewarding on both a professional and personal level and I have also been lucky enough to travel a lot in this role too.’’