My First Inclusive Rugby Experience – Jordan McGhee
I’ve never been one for sports, when I was younger, as a gay man it never fully appealed to me, probably like many others. I always shied away from a ball if it was thrown or kicked at me, hoping it wouldn’t come near me as previously attempts failed. I would kick the ball away from me in another direction or miss catching it, causing embarrassment in front of others.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve seen many people getting involved in sports, from all ages, genders, sexual orientation and so forth. I’ve met lots of great people through many LGBT+ or inclusive teams in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. I usually speak to local teams at Pride events through the summer and generate great conversations about how sport has made such a positive impact on their life.
Recently I found a local Inclusive Rugby Development Team training programme via Grindr (I know, out of all the places to receive the invitation), something new that was being trialled. I thought ‘wow’ Dunfermline has had LGBT+ nights before, but never had anything sports related, I thought, why not.
I was really nervous and apprehensive about attending the first session, as much as I keep fit from the gym and swimming, I’ve never been part of a team or let alone run towards someone with a ball. I reached out to a few other local people I know in the LGBT+ community who might be interested in trying something new, even if it was just to have the 8 week physical fitness programme, it was still something new that could encourage more people like me to try something and meet new people.
My nerves got the better of me for the first session, I didn’t know anyone who was going. I’ve never been to McKane Park before, I didn’t even really know the ins and out of rugby at the beginning, so I couldn’t face going. In fact, if you’re reading this Robert, I owe you an apology because I couldn’t face telling you the truth and said I was held up at work because I didn’t want to admit my own defeat inside.
I attended the second session with friends and it was such a relief, everyone I met in the team was great and so welcoming. As the weeks went on, I got to know the team better too. I got to learn the game of rugby better and I even managed to learn to catch a ball (the school days of butter fingers had disappeared). All these things can make such a difference to a person’s confidence, especially when trying something out you haven’t done for years.
As the training sessions went on, we developed a team name ‘Dunfermline RFC Knights’, we played our first game against the Glasgow Alphas on the 20th of October, which was very successful for us. I’ve never felt aggression, energy and enthusiasm all at the same time!
I tried to put the little training I had into this game, while my parents and friends stood at the sidelines watching. I’ve never shared an experience like this with my Dad before – he went to my brothers football or basketball games but since I never played sports, we’ve never had an opportunity to share something like this together.
Some people might be able to relate to that and some might not. When you grow up gay, it is sometimes harder for your Dad to engage and make a connection, as you might not have a lot in common and unlike the connection he had with my brother who was into sports.
I have this connection now, even if it was just this one game, it made my day. It made me proud to be part of something new, it made my proud to be included into a team sports game that can be very physical.
I loved the buzz of my first game, I loved getting to know my team mates more and also getting to know the Alphas. It’s great to hear how rugby has made such a positive impact on everyone’s physical and mental health, made them feel part of something and included.
There are lots of sports out there which are inclusive for everyone – I’m a firm believer that you’re never too old or unfit to try new things, you should always believe in yourself and go for it.