Dan Nevison, director of rugby at Old Isleworthians Rugby Club in west London, champions the physical and mental benefits of a weekend scrum with like-minded friends.
As a police officer, I need something to not only break up my week but also to help release all the tension of the working week. Rugby is exactly the physical challenge I need. I was taught rugby in school and have never looked back. It’s a welcome distraction from my work for a whole 80 minutes. I get to enjoy myself without worries, and if we win, then it’s even better!
I’ve been playing with Old Isleworthians (OIRFC) for 11 years now – and counting – but the team was founded in 1957 by the teachers and players from Isleworth Grammar School (now Isleworth & Syon School, which counts Olympian Mo Farah as part of its alumni). We play in the Middlesex Merit Table and get together with the team every Wednesday evening to train, and we might train on Saturday mornings before a big game.
Everyone in the team gets on really well – and everyone is welcome here. There is a real sense of family here. When we get together, we just rip into each other, bringing up old tour stories, tales of silly shenanigans from our nights out. Even the veteran players still come to the club to socialise, attend rugby socials and support us on the side-lines at games.
These boys are not just my rugby mates or my teammates, they are my real mates – we can go from opening up to each other if something is bothering us, to taking the mick out of each other in a heartbeat. If I wasn’t playing rugby, I’d still be at the club hanging out with the guys. Out of season, some of us might go for a round of golf, go to the local foodie festival, and in the evenings, we’ll go and see our head coach Dave play bass in his band called Blacklight.
But I’m happiest when we are actively training and playing. I love the physical challenge and testing my limits once a week alongside my mates, knowing we can all sit and enjoy a drink afterwards. I have been lucky enough to make supportive social connections here that have positively impacted my mental health.
Grassroots sports like OIRFC are crucial for men today. They promote physical health, build social connections, enhance personal growth and contribute to mental well-being. Engaging in sports at this level helps men lead happier, healthier lives. It’s true for me.
Dan Nevison is a police officer and director of rugby at Old Isleworthians Rugby Football Club
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