Over 40 Cumbrian women gathered at Upper Eden Rugby Club for a unique fitness and social event inspired by the Cumbrian Girls Can campaign.
#EdenGirlsCan was the brainchild of Eden’s only women’s rugby team – the Upper Eden Eagles. After attending the Cumbrian Girls Can Summit earlier this year, they wanted to support and encourage other women in their community to get active or try something new, with a free event which would be accessible, welcoming and fun.
To help deliver some of the activities, they enlisted the help of local fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer Wiz Lees, who was keen to support the cause having also attended the summit back in July. She said: “Women in fitness and women encouraging women is something I’m really passionate about. As I believe in real life training and FUN exercises you can do pretty much anywhere, this event was something I really wanted to be a part of. Starting a new class or sport can be scary but the strangers in the room are just friends you haven’t met yet.”
Cumbrian Girls Can is a community led initiative hosted by Cumbria Rugby Union and overseen by a steering group. The aim is to bring the national ‘This Girl Can’ campaign to Cumbria and celebrate Cumbrian women of all abilities, shapes and sizes as they get active and do their thing. Project Lead, Katie Harper, attended the event to deliver an engaging talk about the campaign and show two inspirational films featuring empowered Cumbrian women.
Following this, attendees were taken outside where they took part in circuit training with Wiz Lees Fitness and rugby drills led by volunteers from Upper Eden Rugby Club. After over an hour of fun, fresh air and some exciting team games, everyone went back inside for a buffet and raffle, where Upper Eden Eagles Team Captain, Bianca Cousin, delivered the closing remarks.
The event received overwhelming support from the local business community, keen to help promote both the women’s rugby team and the Cumbrian Girls Can message. Hosted by Upper Eden Rugby Club, the evening was sponsored by Taylor & Braithwaite and Out of Eden and supported by a number of other businesses who generously donated raffle prizes: Another Place Hotel, The Health Barn in Askham, North Lakes Hotel, Westmorland Limited, Momentum Jewellery, Wooden Horse Clothing and Stables, Thompson & Briscoe.
Upper Eden Eagles member and one of the organisers behind #EdenGirlsCan, Laura Kay, who started playing rugby aged 30, said: “As a team, we were deeply moved by the Cumbrian Girls Can campaign which really struck a chord, as we have all overcome, or are working to overcome, our own barriers and anxieties around playing sport; whether we’re good enough, fit enough, fast enough, young enough, tough enough, coordinated enough. Whether we’ll fit in, what we look like in our kit (or out of it!).
Women spend too much time worrying about what people think and doubting themselves and we wanted to use #EdenGirlsCan as a way to reach out and prove that playing sport isn’t as scary as it might seem!
There are so many women out there that would absolutely love rugby if they could just fight their fears and have a go, and there isn’t a better family to be part of. We have women and girls of all shapes and sizes, aged from 17 to 47. It’s never too late to start (or restart!) and it’s a great way to get fit, gain confidence and just have fun with other women who will support you all the way
The hardest part is just turning up! Many of the women and girls who attended on Friday night tried something new for the very first time, and we are so grateful to them for coming along and giving it their all, and to absolutely everyone else involved for their help in making the event a success!”
Upper Eden Rugby Club were keen to welcome new players to their club, but also acknowledged rugby isn’t for everyone and promoted where you can find a wide range of sports and activities to get involved in across Eden, using Active Cumbria’s online Activity Finder.
So if you are thinking about running a similar event – these are questions that might help….
Why did you hold the event?
We knew there were more women in our community who were more likely to engage with us as a rugby club if we put on events that are less to do with rugby and more about general exercise and well being. Making the event free makes it attractive and accessible and gets people over the threshold, which then gives us a captive audience with which we can engage with. We’ve found it to be a really successful way of both engaging with our local community and recruiting players.
What was different about it to what you would usually do?
Our training sessions are usually held on a Wednesday evenings and attended by those already interested or involved in playing rugby. This event was held on a Friday night with food afterwards, making it a social event as well as a fitness event, encouraging people to bring their friends and make an evening out of it. There were mixed activities (not just rugby) including talks, and different forms of exercise.The event was free with no expectation of membership, we had a high-value raffle and the fitness session only lasted one hour (rather than an hour an a half) which may be more appealing and manageable for some people. We attracted people who had no prior interest of experience of rugby.
Can you share any key tips that helped with planning it?
- Getting it over the line in terms of approval from the rugby committee took some time and ideas evolved over the planning process which required further consideration and approval. In hindsight we would have started planning earlier and had a more concrete plan to pitch from the start.
- Local businesses were really keen to support and we would also have engaged these earlier if we had the time. With their contribution and help promoting the event we could have had a much bigger audience, attracted more people and created more of an offering.
- One thing we did want to do was have some #ThisGirlCan event frames printed but we didn’t have sufficient time or money (we were quoted £80 per frame). However, if we had more time, one of the local businesses would probably have helped with this.
- Eventbrite was an excellent tool to use and has allowed us to communicate with and keep a record of those who attended and allows us to continue to communicate with them if they are happy to be contacted.
- Get someone who knows what they’re doing to take good pictures to really make the most of the opportunity!
- Partnering with others in order to deliver the event (i.e rugby club, Wiz, CGC) helped with more evenly distributing tasks and also broadened our reach (by sharing audiences), providing mutual benefit and incentive to all parties.
What benefits were there?
- We grew our audience (public/community awareness, social media followers)
- It generated some positive and significant media coverage and gave us something to talk about on social media
- We generated a greater interest and understanding of women’s rugby from those who attended
- We attracted new players
- We attracted support and interest from the local business community
- We had fun and got some exercise!
- The event appealed to a broad age-range
What did you learn?
- Free events encourage people to try something new.
- Women will engage with competitive sport more willingly if the introduction is less direct i.e. ‘rugby-themed’ bootcamp. This is less intimidating and can give them a confidence boost when they see they can do it.
- There are many women who would really enjoy rugby but have never considered it. These events are good for highlighting activities that people may not have accessed before or for a long time, i.e. since school.
- An event where people can bring their friends is less scary!
- Engaging with people in person is more effective than over social media, which tends only to attract people with an existing interest or connection to the sport.