"Everybody belongs in rugby" - Nikki Simpson
Scottish Rugby is delighted to be celebrating Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week, 25 - 31 October.
Speaking to Scottishrugby.org, Nikki Simpson (23), shares her experiences as a player from Fifie in the north-east of Scotland, and talks about creating new opportunities for young girls to engage with the sport in her new role as a Development Officer with Garioch RFC.
“Rugby wasn’t available to me growing up, so I started off playing football but I was always really interested in team sports,” said Nikki.
“By the time I was 17, I decided that either wanted to get back into football or join a rugby team. I was signposted towards an U18 rugby team at Ellon and from the get-go I just absolutely loved it!
“The physicality of the game was something I had never experienced before and I found I really enjoyed tackling people, the contact side of the game didn’t faze me at all.”
Nikki played a handful of games at U18 level with Ellon before passing her dispensation to play senior rugby for Garioch and in 2015, she was selected for Scottish Rugby’s U19 Seven’s squad, competing in the Sainsbury's Schools Games in Manchester.
Nikki stayed with the Inverurie-based side for four years before moving on to Cartha Queen’s Park for the 2019/20 season where she also took part in the Scotland Futures pathway programme.
Whilst Nikki has continued to work hard on her own personal development in the game, she admits her sights have always been set on supporting the future generation of the game, especially young girls.
“I always wanted a career relating to rugby, but I didn’t really know how to make it happen. I’d studied Sports Fitness at college, but I was struggling to find a job which could tie the knowledge I gained there with my passion for rugby. So, when I saw this Development Officer role come up at Garioch, I thought ‘Yup, this is it. This is the job for me.’”
Whilst Nikki’s role focuses on the development and delivering of rugby to both boys and girls in local primary and secondary schools, she is particularly enthusiastic about being able to engage with young girls.
“A lot of the time, especially where I’m based, women don’t recognise rugby as being a sport for them until they’re older – late teens, twenties and even into their forties. And whilst that’s great, these women have missed out on years of developing their skills because they didn’t have the opportunity to engage with the sport whilst at school."
“I’m really excited to create new opportunities for girls in local primary and secondary schools in my role as Development Officer. To be able to give them the kind of experience that I wish I’d had at their age is ace!” Nikki Simpson
Whilst Nikki looks forward to developing skills and creating sporting new opportunities, she also hopes she can show young girls and women that everybody belongs in rugby.
“I want to show young girls that in rugby you can be whoever you want to be. I gave myself a really hard time when I was younger about how I looked. Looking back now at photos, I realise it was ridiculous, but I wish I had the mentality I have now back then – that actually, going to the gym is cool, and that being strong and having muscles doesn’t change me as a woman.
“Equally, playing rugby doesn’t mean you have to be big or muscly. Some of the best tacklers I know are petite. It’s a game for all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to fit in to a specific category to play the game, and you definitely don’t have to compromise your feminine side either.
“I really hope that I can get across to all the young people I work with in my new role that there’s no such thing as being too big or too small, or not fit enough or too old because doesn’t matter in rugby!”