The work of a development officer at Garioch Rugby Club has been highlighted in Scottish Rugby’s Annual Report
Nikki Simpson (23), shared her experiences as a player in the north-east of Scotland, and talked about creating new opportunities for young girls to engage with the sport in her new role with the Inverurie team.
She said: “Rugby wasn’t available to me growing up, so I started off playing football but I was always really interested in team sports.
“By the time I was 17, I decided that I 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.
While 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.
She added: “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.'”
While Nikki’s role focuses on the development and delivery 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.
She said: “A lot of the time, especially where I’m based, women don’t recognize rugby as being a sport for them until they’re older – late teens, 20s and even into their 40s.
“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.”
While Nikki looks forward to developing skills and creating new sporting opportunities, she also hopes she can show young girls and women that everyone belongs in rugby.
She added: “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 realize 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 muscular. Some of the best tacklers I know are petite. It’s a game for all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to fit into 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 it doesn’t matter in rugby.”
Scottish Rugby’s Annual Report outlines the significant work carried out by communities throughout the domestic game as rugby continued to make its return post-pandemic.
It highlights in detail the continued delivery of the Wellbeing, Women and Winning strategic path, with Scotland Women’s Rugby World Cup achievements spearheading a list of such examples.
Scottish Rugby’s Women and Girls’ Strategy announced recently is designed to build on Scotland’s qualification and create a legacy for aspiring players of the future.
The report shines a light on the dedication shown by grassroots rugby communities throughout the country.
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