Sunday, 30 March 2003

In training with Susie Appleby; Your fitness

Susie Appleby is scrum-half with the England women's rugby union team Before taking a career break from the police force, I worked full-time and played rugby. Training was difficult to fit in, because I was juggling so many things at once. The national lottery now pays my salary, and I am one of the few professional women rugby players.

In the past five years, my training has become more rugby-specific and more focused on improving my game. Sport England supplies the England team with personal trainers. I see mine for an hour each week, but he guides me through the rest of my training regime.

Rugby is a contact sport, but even though I am a woman, it does not cross my mind when I get on the pitch that I could get hurt. I do what comes naturally. If you are scared of going into challenges, that is when you will be injured.

Training is essential to prepare yourself before a match; if you are not physically fit, you are more likely to be injured. If you train hard, you can play hard and take all the knocks.

There are a few women in the England team who have had babies, but it has not stopped them from getting back into the sport. Preconceptions about women's rugby still exist, but things have improved over the years Weekly routine Monday: the day after a game, we have a recovery session in the morning, which includes swimming, running and a massage Tuesday: with my personal trainer we focus on speed endurance, speed agility, my reaction to the ball and sprinting. In the evening I have a two-hour rugby session at Clifton Ladies rugby club which ends at 9pm Wednesday: weight training in the gym, focusing on the legs and upper body.

Playing at scrum-half and occasionally fly-half, I need quick speed off the mark.

In the evening I have another session with my club Thursday: speed endurance session in the morning, followed by a swim in the afternoon Friday: back in the gym, but will begin to ease off, with a game so close. In the afternoon I focus on individual skills, such as passing and ball control with a partner Saturday: rest day Sunday: match day. Just have a light snack before a club game at 2pm Diet: My intake consists mainly of carbohydrates and protein - pasta, chicken, tuna, for example End of the season: the season runs from September to May. When it ends, we play a lot of touch rugby. In the gym we use heavier weights and work for longer hours, to maintain strength and stamina, because we are not playing.

The England team travels to Canada in June to play in the Churchill Cup. It will be the first time that the men's and women's teams have toured together

Sunday Times (London, England) (March 30, 2003): p31

Monday, 17 March 2003

Backstage: Janette Shaw: Assistant manager of the England women's rugby team.

Janette Shaw

Although I'm only 24, doing something usually carried out by 30-year-olds and upwards, I regard myself as team mum, which is odd because I'm younger than most of those I'm managing.

My own time playing rugby came to an abrupt end at only 21. By then I'd already been in the England A team as a centre, but I had to retire after sustaining serious cruciate ligament damage during a university match. The lowest point was my entire left leg turning black and the doctors talking about amputation; at least it didn't come to that.

A few months later I got the chance to manage the England students side. For a while, if I saw someone falling over after a tackle, I'd think, "Oh God, she's hurt her knee", and avert my eyes. Then I'd look again and see she was all right.

Although there are full-time staff in team England, being assistant manager means combining it with my career as a PE teacher. I'm at a girls' school in Manchester and had to seek permission to apply for the role with England because I need to take a day off to travel to a fixture or up to three weeks away for tours. But my head teacher was just brilliant.

The current team manager is Heather Stirrup and the plan is for us to work together so I can learn the ropes, as preparation for when she eventually steps down. My age helps me to really understand where the newer players are coming from and I've been around long enough to know how the established ones are feeling, too.

We'll get together on Friday, the day before the game against Scotland. Pre-match nerves tend to surface about bedtime, with anyone who starts to doubt her ability just needing a little reassurance. Calming them by pointing out they wouldn't have been selected if they weren't any good can be enough to put them in a more positive frame of mind.

In the changing room as the kick-off approaches, I'm there to look after the little things for the girls: distributing chewing gum or hot water for gumshields. If I can help out then I will. I often hear: "Janette, will you look after my ring?" So I have all this jewellery on my fingers during the game and have to constantly check to see it's all still there.

We're not as fortunate as the men in kit arrangements. They have a few shirts for each appearance, whereas collecting ours after a match is another of my tasks, because they will all be laundered and worn again.

The women's aspirations are the same as the blokes': wanting to play at the peak of their ability and staying as fit as possible. There are 44 in our elite squad and each has lottery funding. You couldn't question their commitment: many would happily over-train and so they all need to be monitored.

If there is a downside to playing rugby at this level, it's that the players are always under pressure to perform. That's why I don't think it's so easy being a player in this era - they're under greater stress than I am in management.

Occasionally people ask me if I'd rather be out on the pitch. That doesn't bother me: I've been there and enjoyed it, but I love what I'm doing now. And it isn't as if I'm missing out. Win or lose, I'm with the girls and part of it all.

The Guardian (London, England) (March 17, 2003): p31