Salt of the Earth: Scarborough Valkyries captain Sam Knight talks about her rugby 'family'

Since January, our Salt of the Earth campaign has celebrated people who support others in the community.

Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 5:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 5:53 pm

We’ve met people raising money for charity, people who help to educate others and those who arrange trips and outings for the people around them.

We’ve introduced you to people who have helped each during lockdown and we’ve met those who encouraged others to get fit and stay active.

With the government currently encouraging people to focus on “Better Health”, we meet Sam Knight, captain of the Valkyries, Scarborough’s all conquering ladies rugby team.

Sam Knight at training

Sam, 32, originally became involved in team sports by playing football, but after breaking her knee, she began to play rugby and quickly became hooked.

She has played for the Valkyries for five or six years and has recently been appointed captain.

Sam, of Seamer Street, Scarborough, regularly undertakes any tasks that need doing and is the first port of call for players if they have issues.

She said the team acts as a great support network: “We’re like a proper rugby family, quite a few members have made lifelong friends playing rugby, we all have each other's backs.

Grinning and bearing it

“We focus on each player individually, and win, lose or draw, we play as a team.”

The women take part in a number of team-building activities, including trips to ladies day at York Racecourse, sessions at Alpamare and a tour trip away to Newcastle.

Sam said: “ We train twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, currently 6pm-7pm, we have lots of players furloughed at the moment, so depending how it goes, that may change to 6.30-7.30pm. Games are normally played on a Sunday.

“Last year, we finished top of the league, but we had some big injuries which hindered recruitment and we struggled to field a full team. We’re currently looking to add numbers and give more experience to the newer players.”

Sam with team coach Brian Garbutt

“We’re not looking for people to play any particular position, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to take part to come down.

“We welcome everyone, of all shapes and sizes, it doesn’t matter if they have never played before, we welcome all abilities and sizes, fit or not fit, they just need to be 18 or over, there’s no top age.”

Emily Ashford, 24, has been playing for the Valkyries for three years. She said: “Sam has been playing for years and is one of our best players. She is a brilliant forward and is always so patient and welcoming when it comes to new players.

“Rugby has been great for my health, both physically and mentally. I can let off the steam I need to and all the girls are just like one big rugby family.”

Putting your back into it

Valkyries team member Hayley Scholes spends her days teaching rock wall climbing, ziplines, and surfing on a cruise ship.

She can go away for months at a time, but said Sam stays in touch while she is away: “I’ve just returned from working abroad for seven months. Sam has been keeping in touch and messaging me, letting me know the team is looking forward to working out when I get back. The girls on the team have greeted me with welcoming arms.

“She’s always been very driven for the team, getting people to turn up. She’s very supportive, It’s nice to have the support that you need.”

“She’s got that bundle that brings us all together, and not just as a team

“When I began playing last year, it was a shock to the system, with so many different rules, it was going to take time to learn! To be honest I still don’t understand all the rules and I mess up.

“But the team is helping me to learn, and if you make a mistake it’s fine. It was quite scary but they eased me into it. It’s easy to be a team in a sport, but everyone is pulling together as one big family as well.”

Working hard, but everyone is smiling

Team coach Brian Garbutt said: “Sam is a very hard working individual who is not afraid to lead by example. She is our third captain in the last four or five seasons and her confidence is growing.

“She has always been my pack leader, she’s a natural, progressive, consistent, strong player. She studies hard and offers suggestions and has a good way of working with people.

“After predominantly coaching young males, it has been quite a refreshing thing to coach ladies rugby, they bind like a family, if anybody comes who has anxiety or issues with self confidence they quickly realise how friendly and welcoming the Valkyries are and that others in the team have the same issues.

“The team age range is from 17-50 and for all age groups to get on and mix together is really nice. There are no preconceived ideas of what you have to be. They enjoy it for what it is.

“There is a great sense of mental as well as physical wellbeing. It’s a great relief from everyday stresses.”

Brian said the team is always on the lookout for new players: “I’d like to have more people who play in the backs, not the forward, I’d like someone who has played scrum half, but we have a very open policy.

“I don’t care if they have experience, we can build their confidence up slowly and surely.”

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Yorkshire Weeklies