Introduce yourself to us, and how you know about The Influence Room
Hi, I’m Rachael Burford, I’m a World Cup winner and Harlequins rugby player and I’m really pleased and proud to announce that I’m going to be an ambassador for The Influence Room. I came across the Influence Room through a very good friend of mine Alex Payne who is also one of the founders of the company. It’s a really great company - a platform that connects brands and influencers together to ultimately get the best out of brands, products and help spread the word about campaigns effectively!
How did you get into rugby?
I started at the age of 6 at Medway rugby club. I started there because my mum played, my dad played and my sister played, so it was kind of following in their footsteps and wanting to be just like them! I picked up the rugby ball and ran around, and I've not looked back since.
What is it like playing in a primary mate-oriented sport?
I've been playing rugby for a number of years now and a lot of people would say that it’s a male-oriented sport; it can be really difficult and there are lots of barriers to overcome but I think what was really key for me during this whole time is having role models and having people that Inspired me. When I was younger I saw them playing rugby and I didn't think they were playing with the boys, I just thought they were playing rugby. So I think having people in that environment makes it normal and the more we can have women involved in what is called or seen as a male-oriented sports industry the better. My career has come with its challenges but the rewards have always outweighed those difficult boundaries to overcome. I think with anything, if you work hard something it's worth it in the end.
Is there any advice you would give to young women looking to go into rugby professionally?
You have to treat it like any career progression, you're always driving to be better than you were the day before. There’s no hard and fast way of getting to the top, it takes a number of years. Giving an example, I was really fortunate in my international career in how many years I was at the elite level, but my elite journey started at the age of 12 and I was representing the county and then went on to regional and then it took until I was 19, just turning 2O, to get into the senior side and that’s a long time to pursue and keep working at something. But if you have the work ethic, the belief and the determination to keep working at something then keep at it. I would just say also, that it is never a smooth ride there are always ups and downs no matter who you are, no matter how talented you are, you are going to go through tough times. But those tough times just test you and actually what you can do on the back of them and how you come out of them will be really really important to how far you can go with your international career.
What is the importance of working closely with young women to develop their confidence?
It’s something that is really really important to me and I'll share a story with you about why I think it's important. So growing up I struggled at school, I didn't feel confident in what I did, I felt like I was stupid because I didn't learn in the same way that other kids could and couldn’t remember things. I couldn't do math very well, couldn't read out very well and I guess all of that kind of really knocked my confidence. And where I thought I was really confident was rugby, I thought rugby was the sport that I loved and I enjoyed. I thought that's where all my confidence was stored. I remember, when I was 13 years old and I'd been selected to go to an England under age group training session and it was in Leamington Spa, so it was about three-and-a-half hours drive from my house to that place and my dad was driving. As we were pulling up, I was dead set that I wasn't meant to be there, I was like, “are you sure I’m meant to be here, are you sure the letter was to me?”. My confidence was so low when it shouldn’t have been in that time, I should have been celebrating, this was the one place where I could be creative, I could be me, I could express myself and nobody was judging me. I also began to feel confident there, so I think it's hugely important that we keep developing these skills in young women and young girls to be confident with who they are, what they can go on and achieve and what they believe in. It will be vital to their development, their growth and ultimately where they get to, but not just where they get to, where they then push their boundaries to the next level as well.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
It will 100% be the 2014 World Cup, where the team went on to win the Women's Rugby World Cup in Paris. It was one of the most phenomenal days. I was really really proud and when the final whistle went I was up and down, my emotions were all over the place. I was really proud of the whole team and we had a really hard four-year journey to get there, on the back of 2010 when we lost in England by three points to New Zealand. So to swallow that and to hang on and dig in for 4 years and then pick up the cup was the ultimate, and it will be something that I will never let go of in years and years to come.
If you enjoyed this Q&A we are proud to say that Alex Payne will be interviewing Rachael Burford live on our Instagram, Wednesday 8th at 12.30 pm.