Women's rugby in New Zealand
The simple secret of New Zealand rugby’s success (in my opinion).
New Zealand is the only country to win gold at all the rugby world cups – men’s and women’s, rugby 15’s and rugby 7’s. They must be getting something right with regards to their coaching approaches.
So, to explore this, I set out to study the Bachelor’s of Sports Coaching degree from Unitec, New Zealand. It is my second bachelor’s degree and an important one to empower me on my journey of becoming an effective rugby coach and to seek first hand experience in the rugby environment.
After a year of study, which has involved practical experience in coaching rugby and my involvement in playing the sport, I have come to realise that it is not so much their advanced sport coaching research and practices, nor their naturally athletic gene pool of Māori and Pacific Islander communities, nor is it their holistic physiotherapy support, latest strength and conditioning practices and sports psychology protocols that propel the nation to the top.
It is something which starts with the incredible love of the sport that is embedded so deeply within the New Zealand culture that it churns out athletes who are so passionate about the game itself that they don't play for mere representation. New Zealanders, I feel are literally born with a rugby ball in their hands into a rugby culture, and they only get better from there.
Rugby is a religion in New Zealand and no one is left untouched by its wonderful presence.
Women in Rugby
New Zealand women’s rugby, though not as developed, has been more successful than their male counterpart. “Rugby is for love” I have heard so many of them say, which implies that they play the sport for the love of it and not for eventual glory and the money that comes from representation but that only the top get to taste.
These women are unstoppable! Most of them representing at the top levels are in their 30s, an age where women in India give up sports to support their children and families. It was only after coming to New Zealand that I realised that my journey at 26 had not even commenced yet and that I could potentially play even after crossing 40. This was truly an eye-opener for me and made me rethink my life goals. The rugby women’s love for the game is apparent as they play through injuries, motherhood, sickness and age.
“It’s all mental”, said one of them who has dislocated her shoulder almost 21 times now and still straps up to play just because she cannot wait on the sidelines and watch. It is truly inspiring!
Team a.k.a. Family a.k.a. Whānau
In New Zealand, your teammates are your ‘sisters’ and the team is your ‘family’, right from a club level to the elite Black Ferns. This concept of ‘team’ though very unusual, especially in a competitive environment where each one is competing with the other for their place on the team, is seen to work beautifully in New Zealand.
The sense of family and belonging strengthens the bond for the sport. It makes me want to play just to be able to share that sense of sisterhood with the others. Maybe it is this socially driven structure of the sport that could be the key for how New Zealand performs at the top levels. What an absolute treat to be a part of it all!
If you have a rugby dream, there is nothing better than experiencing New Zealand rugby – apply for your visas and book your tickets now.
About the contributors
Ketaki Khare is the first Indian woman recipient of a rugby playing scholarship to New Zealand. Ketaki is a former member of the Indian women's rugby team and is studying for a Bachelor of Sport - Coaching at Unitec with the objective of changing the face of rugby in India. Highlights of her study include practical and industry experience that has helped her to develop relevant contacts.