How Playing Rugby Helped My Anxiety

I had never really enjoyed sports. I disliked taking part in P.E. in school and I hated that my family lived and breathed sport. I was more of a thespian as I’m naturally over dramatic and consider myself the less-talented reincarnation of Whitney Houston (yes I was born before she died but that’s beside the point).

However I was given advice to try something new to help with my anxiety, perhaps starting a new hobby that would force me out of my comfort zone. I thought about it and realised that it would have to involve sports. But which sport?

The idea of joining a football team made me a little sick in my mouth and I didn’t fancy anything aquatic as I would have to increase my hair maintenance on a regular basis and I wasn’t about to take on that commitment. Then my friend suggested rugby. We laughed for a long time afterwards but later at night I did think to myself “Why not?”. If I was going to make an idiot of myself I might as well do it and add breaking a limb to my funny stories.

So that’s what I did… and I honestly will never look back.

You don’t have to be experienced to join a sports team

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a good rugby player. This isn’t an inspiring story about how I found out I was amazing at a sport I had never tried and then became famous inspiring younger rugby players. I spent my first three months as a member of the club trying to remember the main rule: run forwards, pass backwards. Honestly, it took me that long.

I have found it’s not about experience, it’s about passion and hard work. If you enjoy playing and show willing to develop and progress, then you can do just about anything. Joining a new sport or club doesn’t have to be all about being amazing at it, it can be about starting something new and running with it. You don’t have to be an experienced sportsman to join a sports club.

An inspiring movement, This Girl Can encourages women to exercise how they want to exercise and keep active whilst also feeling good about yourself. No matter your age or ability, exercise should be judgement-free and allow you to just get sweaty and gross in peace. They are awesome and made feel less like a fool when I was starting as a newbie.

“Women come in all shapes and sizes with all abilities and from all backgrounds. Some of us are expert sportswomen, some of us are a bit rubbish. It doesn’t matter.”
This Girl Can

I never realised how sport can affect you mentally. No wonder there’s so many people obsessed with it.

After every training session I felt elevated, even in the freezing cold winter months or when I was covered in mud. Every Tuesday gave a reason to leave the house other than to go to work. As the weeks went on I began to feel more comfortable turning up for training sessions and allowed myself to relax. Don’t get me wrong you feel battered and bruised at times, but if you learn how to tackle and take tackles safely then this can reduce.

I knew I was hooked when I began watching the matches. I had never been able to sit down and watch sports so this was a whole new experience watching a full rugby match. Our team had a great season this year and it was wonderful to be able to cheer them on and see each individual develop as a player.

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport, child, stripes and outdoor
Photo taken by Steve Carlisle. Image taken from Manchester Ladies Rugby Union’s Facebook page. This image is not my own and belongs to Manchester Rugby Club.

I noticed a massive difference in my confidence and anxiety levels at work, I felt encouraged to do regular exercise outside of the training sessions to develop my fitness levels which also made a massive impact. I can now run a mile without having to sit down for a long time. Yes, I’m extremely proud.

The other side of sport I have been able to discover is the community spirit.

The feeling of being part of a team, like you belong, is magical. I remember on several occasions where I made mistakes or literally ran the wrong way, my team mates kept me going, encouraging me to learn from the mistakes and steer me in the right direction (sometimes literally). Being a part of a sports team gave great opportunity to leave the house and socialise with people I may not have usually spoken to. You suddenly find yourself going to more events and pushing back those anxieties.

Today I have a long way to go developing my confidence and actually understanding what on earth I am doing, however I am looking forward to returning for the next season hopefully once lockdown finishes(???).

I encourage you to do something for yourself this year and take up a new hobby, even if it’s something you originally think is a ridiculous idea. Exercise can be a massive help when living with anxiety and joining a community like a sports club has made a massive positive impact on my mental health.

Emma x


Thank you to Manchester Ladies Rugby team for welcoming me into their family. You can follow the team online for match updates. You can also follow Manchester Rugby Club or visit their website for information about their other teams. The team are recruiting new members now – you can get in touch via their social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

9 thoughts on “How Playing Rugby Helped My Anxiety”

  1. I love what you said about how being part of team sports brings about a sense of community. We need a lot of that these days, to get us through the toughest times. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s