Maggie Alphonsi is one of the most well-known names in women’s sports teams and has an astounding record to prove it. Before retiring in 2014, she’d represented England on The England women's national rugby union team 74 times, including a Rugby World Cup win. During her career on the team, Maggie scored 28 tries and helped England win a record-breaking 7 consecutive Six Nations crowns.
With a background like that, it’s clear we have a lot to learn from Maggie. She came on the Tough Girl Podcast to share her experience as an international rugby player and the incredible lessons she learned from it. These lessons can be applied to whatever challenge your facing in life on an expedition or at home.
Embracing Shows of Strength
Today, one of Maggie’s goals is to get more women and girls involved in playing Rugby. In the past decade, women’s rugby has come leaps and bounds from being a sport that girls rarely had the opportunity to play.
Part of the reason rugby was seen as a male sport was the physicality of the game and the sometimes ferocious tackling. Maggie reminds us that rugby athletes are trained to deal with tackling. In fact, the tackling aspect of rugby is one of Maggie’s favourite things about the sport. It made her feel invincible. She shared that tackling doesn’t make the game dangerous but instead highlights the skill and strength of the players.
Working Toward a Major Goal
Many, many girls eventually drop out of sports. What helped Maggie continue to play Rugby and work toward playing for England was having people who believed in her. Seeing other women compete in the Olympics also made a huge difference to Maggie and fueled her commitment to make it happen for herself.
At 14 years old, Maggie set her first big goal to compete for England in rugby. She achieved that goal at the age of 19. Getting her England shirt made Maggie feel like a superhero. “When you finally get it on, you don’t want to take it off,” she shared.
At her first game, Maggie loved the fact that she was a newbie. She was determined to take on the challenge and prove she wasn’t as inexperienced as people thought she was. Maggie channelled her emotions to drive herself forward. She learned that you don’t let pressure be an issue, but use it to become a better athlete.
Processing the Wins and Losses
Throughout her rugby career, Maggie represented England an impressive 74 times. How did she keep a winning mindset all that time? Maggie noted that while they won a world cup and plenty of titles, they also lost a lot as well. Losing in the World Cup Finals several times ended up pushing Maggie and her team toward success even more. “Losing is a good thing to have because it makes you appreciate what you really want to achieve,” Maggie related. The losses are what made them a stronger team.
When the English rugby team lost the World Cup in 2006, half the team retired. The remaining members had to try to move on and learn from their mistakes. Maggie said that what tends to happen is an element of grieving and an element of review. The next step is to create a strategy and put actions into place based on what you learned looking back at the loss.
Being a Team Player
Becoming the best athlete you can be while thinking of the athletes around you on your team can be a challenging feat. “You learn to put your ego aside because it’s better for the team,” Maggie said.
One of the biggest things Maggie learned was that you can be a really good follower. The way you play and act on and off the field is how you set a good example for others to follow.
Maggie also learned that failure isn’t a bad thing. In the corporate world they talk about fast failure because if you fail, you learn. Maggie recommends identifying areas you need to work on and focus on those. She noted, “Everyone has the ability to be the best they can be in whatever sport they choose, they just have to find the thing that suits them.”
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