The countdown continues to the first IRFU Women In Rugby Network event next month. Registration remains open for the free launch event taking place on Sunday March 5th at the Johnstown Estate in Enfield, Co. Meath.
Ahead of the launch, IrishRugby.ie caught up with Volunteer Network Lead, Sorcha Mac Laimhín. Sorcha is herself an experienced player and volunteer, but is very much looking forward to meeting, greeting and supporting new volunteers next month.
Sorcha can you tell us a little bit about the launch of the IRFU Women In Rugby Network next month?
Sorcha: So, on the fifth of march, we’ll be bringing together 100 women who are volunteers in rugby from around the four provinces. It will be a mix of coaches, referees, governance volunteers and women who are just generally involved in the game.
There will be lots of opportunity to meet and chat on the day, including a speed networking event where we create small groups based on their area of interest.
The idea behind the network is to bring women together so that they can share connections, best practice, and hopefully empower each other to make a difference within their clubs and communities and branch structures. Ultimately, it’s about raising standards and improving the game women, girls and everyone else.
What level of volunteer experience should you have to attend this event?
Sorcha: There is no level of experience required. This event is for any woman who is volunteering in rugby. It could be your first season or your 40th season as a volunteer. It might also be the case that you haven’t started volunteering yet and this could be the help you need to get you active in your local club.
What is your own role?
Sorcha: I’m lead facilitator on this event as part of my role with the IRFU Spirit Of Rugby Committee.
I took part in the Spirit Of Rugby Leadership Programme in 2018 and off the back of that, I’ve been involved in helping to create more initiatives and leadership opportunities for women in rugby.
Plans for this event have been months in the making, but it was interesting to note that one of the key recommendations from the Women In Rugby Action Plan Review in December was to create a Women in Rugby network to facilitate learning, development and peer support.
Who else is involved?
Sorcha: We’ve got a network facilitator from each province. Liz Brady is looking after Connacht and we’ve got Meadhbh Lewis in Munster along with Jacinta O’Rourke in Leinster.
We’re all at different stages of our volunteering in terms of leadership and experience which represents the diversity we’re looking for in this network.
The network isn’t just a one-off event, either. Each of us will be focusing on a provincial network that will allow us to meet more regularly and build connections across the province.
Why should someone consider registering for the event on March 5th?
Sorcha: Giving up a bit of time to come to this will definitely be worthwhile – not only for the individual but more generally for volunteers across the four provinces.
We are constantly hearing how difficult it is to get women to volunteer and take on leadership positions.
We have women who are competent and capable, but if an environment is male dominated it may not feel accessible for them. Establishing networks like this helps us to change those environments. It will help empower women to take on leadership roles and to balance out some of these environments so that we are more accessible.
In addition to supporting women on a leadership pathway, what about those who simply want a deeper experience in their current role?
Sorcha: We’ve got women who are volunteering in different capacities at present in their own clubs. Wouldn’t it be great if we could connect them to women fulfilling similar roles in other clubs and provinces?
On a human level, just to share what worked in a blitz they ran or what worked in getting more volunteers on board. That kind of sharing can be hugely impactful at a local level.
It’s not just for people looking to get involved at the higher end of the committee structures – this is for every female who is volunteering in rugby right now.
How important is it to see new faces at an event like this?
Sorcha: The environment we’re creating here is made for women by women. It’s a safe space where we can discuss things, try things out and not be afraid to make mistakes.
We have established volunteers who are doing some amazing work and who are blazing a trail as leaders. But getting 100 people in a room who are new to volunteering is actually a hugely exciting prospect. It’s as much about making their lives easier as it is looking at ways to improve.
I’ve been the only woman on a committee of 50 men and it can be hugely intimidating to feel like everyone in the room knows more than you do, whether that’s true or not.
This will be a welcoming and open environment where we are all here to support anyone who wants to make an impact.
Sunday March 5th 2023
IRFU Women in Rugby Network Launch
The Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co. Meath, A83 V070
11:00 – 15:00