The art of resilience. Similarities in sport and business. 

Former professional rugby player Holly Wood joined us for a Q&A at this morning’s Club-Wide Online Meetup. Holly talked us through her rugby career, what can be done to improve equality and her current role as Partnerships Manager at LAPS (Life After Professional Sport).

Thank you to Bark Like A Big Dog for sponsoring today’s meetup!

Q&A between Bradley Hatchett and Holly Wood

How did you get into rugby?

My mum started playing rugby at 36 years old! So naturally, me at 14 wanted to copy her. I lived in Dubai from 7-18 years old. There wasn’t a rugby team there so I rallied the sports people at school together to start a girls club side.

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What are some career highlights?

There’s a big difference between professional and elite. Women’s rugby is heavily underfunded. 

Owen Farrell – England international – will get the same amount for one fixture as a woman’s international will get in a whole year.

I’ve always had to work alongside playing. Which in hindsight I feel fortunate for as it meant I already had a career path laid out for me.

I started playing for Richmond in the Premiership in my second year of university, that’s where I got scouted to play for England in Rugby League. I then played in the 2013 World Cup. 

I then went out to Australia to play while also working as a checkout girl at the airport! I had to do something to play rugby on the side.

I came back to the UK and won the Premiership title with Aylesford Bulls, then to Harlequins for a couple of years before heading out to the South of France to finish my career playing for Toulouse.

What’s your view on equality in rugby? What more needs to be done?

Mens rugby became professional in 1995. It’s all relatively new for women. You need the commercial and sponsorship backing for it to grow.

Women’s rugby is in a vicious cycle at the moment. We’ve got great athetles, but until the TV rights come in the women aren’t going to become professional athletes. The game has to grow.

I’ve been super lucky. England girls started getting professional contracts three seasons ago. 

It’s all about raising awareness and changing the mindset of an everyday rugby fan. Yes it’s a different brand of rugby, but ultimately it’s still sport.

It’s only going to grow from here like the rest of women’s sport.

Let’s talk about your transition out the game. What was your journey?

I went to France at 26 as I knew my career was coming to an end. Yes, 26 is old in rugby!  I wanted to finish on a high. 

But that didn’t happen due to Covid. My contract at Toulouse got cancelled. 

The reality of it was that I had to come back to the UK in the dark like a lot of people. I joined LAPS as a platfor looking to go into a commercial role in sport. They advertised roles for new partnerships managers which was perfect timing for me.

We fully believe athletes make fantastic employees. 

What skills have you identified that were used in sport that you use now> What do you see as the top traits from sport into business?

Majority of athletes have been through hardship. Resilience is key. To come back from injuries and setbacks to compete at the highest level is an art.

In the business world there’s transferable skills. As an example, I could message someone on LinkedIn and they come back negatively. You need to pick yourself up again and not let anything get you down.

Teamwork as well. Even individual sports are part of a team. Also interpersonal skills. Talking your way out of a paper bag and know how to talk and relate to people on different levels.

How can people get involved with LAPS?

We recognise the important of getting athletes at the start of their career as well at the end. They might get career ending injury at 21. Our job is to prepare them for the business world.

As a platform we’ve got over 4,300 members so we’ve got so many athletes at different points of their career looking for work.

A lot of sports people have gone to university or had to work alongside playing. LAPS is the only free career platform for athletes.

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