Former Black Fern rugby player, Claire Rowat, says that parents should enrol their children into as many sports as they want when they are young to encourage them to find the sport that they love.
"One dash on to the field can be the moment" she says, adding that she didn't start playing rugby herself until she was 15. "Netball was my thing before that, rugby only came into play when I went to college". Claire believes that this proves that it doesn't matter what sport you play, it is simply about children being active, learning the rules and developing the "hand and eye co-ordination, sportsmanship and endurance, they are skills you use in every sport". She calls herself lucky, saying that "Mum and Dad put us into heaps of sports and gave us those options", and encourages more parents to do the same.
Claire grew up in Stratford, attending Stratford Primary before going on to New Plymouth Girls School, where she discovered the love of rugby. From there she went on to play rugby at a regional and national level, with one of the highlights having been wearing the black jersey as a Black Fern on tour in England.
Claire says that one of the great things about sport in New Zealand is that "you get to play with your idols" adding that as a teenager her idol was Farah Palmer.
"So to find myself playing against her and even with her was just amazing" she says.
To girls watching their brothers on the rugby field, Claire has some simple advice; "get out there and give it a go" saying that the best thing a parent can do is "give them a mouthguard and let them run on to the pitch". She says that despite its rough and tough image, "rugby isn't any more dangerous than other sports, you are playing on grass not a hard concrete netball court after all".
Claire's enthusiasm for the sport has seen her take to coaching as well as playing, and the trained primary school teacher spends her weekends coaching an under-seven rippa rugby team as well as training with her own team and preparing for her upcoming trip to the USA to play sevens in an Independence Day tournament in Washington DC.
"All my best friends have been made on the rugby pitch" says Claire, adding that there are so many great role models to be found in sports like rugby, yet another reason that parents should encourage their children to get involved with a sport. With players like Claire willing to spend their time coaching the next generation of All Blacks and Black Ferns our children are certainly not going to be short of inspiring role models to admire.