Rugby runs in the family for Karen Mitchell, so it is perhaps no surprise that she has jumped into her new role as Trust Rugby International (TRI) Rugby Development Officer with real gusto.
Karen’s father – who is now 63 – still plays the occasional match for Cupar outfit Howe of Fife and, when she was younger, she remembers being down at Glenrothes watching the prop in action.
“It was more dragged along than heading down to the rugby club in those days because at first I didn’t really enjoy it,” Karen recounts of those times when her dad was turning out for Glenrothes.
“Rather than the rugby one of my abiding memories of those times was the smell of Deep Heat coming from the changing rooms, but I learned to love the game and began to realise how sociable it was.
“Around 16 years ago I started a women’s team at the Howe and although we struggled to get a full squad together those who did get involved really loved it and it planted a seed in my mind to try and stay involved in the sport if I could going forward.
“A couple of years ago there was a big revamp of the facilities at Howe of Fife and at the time the club put out a message on social media inviting people from the local community to get down and get involved.
“Due to my dad’s connections with the club, the previous ladies section that I had created and the fact that I used to work shifts behind the bar I wanted to be a part of the club again so went along.
“I got involved doing a few ad hoc shifts behind the bar again and slowly but sure became more involved there once again.”
At the time Karen worked for the Inclusion Team at Fife College and her passion for the promotion and celebration of difference and diversity helped support students to gain achievements they may not have previously considered.
“The club’s women’s section was now up and running again and stronger than ever and I wanted to look at how we could get other people from all backgrounds involved,” Karen , who started playing again and managed to take to the pitch for Howe Harlequins with her daughter, explained.
“I had a very supportive club support my plans to further develop the introduction of inclusive rugby at Howe of Fife and indeed in Fife in general.
“Based on my background, I began researching how we could encourage players with disabilities to join in the game.
“Although there are a few variations of mixed ability rugby around the world, I found Trust Rugby International who had introduced the concept of unified rugby in Scotland.
“Thanks to the help of Jamie Armstrong from TRI and the Howe Knights, the Howe of Fife RFC veterans team, we set up the Fife Clan and it was great to see everyone down at the club training together and enjoying themselves.”
Jamie and the rest of the TRI team were impressed with the work Karen had done to get the Fife Clan off the ground.
A few months she joined the TRI team on a full-time basis and is now fully focused on getting more people around the country involved in unified rugby.
“It has been a busy time as I have been undertaking some coaching badges and just getting a feel for which areas of the country need more work and help than others, but it has been very enjoyable,” she said.
“I am meeting lots of people and making contacts while I will be really looking to grow the women’s side of TRI and that is exciting because there are a lot more females taking an interest in the sport now. I’m looking forward to getting my boots back on and competing again with a Scottish Women’s Clan!
“People sometimes make assumptions that rugby is not for them, but as we say it really is a sport for all and I would say to anyone that is keen to give it a try just get along to one of our training sessions and see for yourselves. Unified rugby uses modified rules and a visual identification system [coloured scrum caps] which ensure that vulnerable players are safe.
“I am so passionate about what TRI do and I am very excited for what 2019 has in store.”
To contact Karen, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit www.trustrugby.org