We had the pleasure of speaking with Maud Muir, an England rugby rising star with an impressive career at such a young age. Maud has reached the pinnacle of her profession, representing her country at the highest level. During our chat, we had the opportunity to dive deeper into Maud's journey as a rugby player and how she manages to deal with the pressure of competing as well as advice for young aspiring athletes.
What got you started in rugby?
"I started when I was 5 when my siblings were playing. I love the aggression, I played with the boy’s rugby teams up until I was about 11 and then moved to a girls’ team and went through the stages of progressing up to when I was a teenager.”
Did playing with the boys present any challenges was it difficult to adapt?
“I actually really enjoyed playing with the boys, I got more attention from the parents, and they all loved it. As I was moving up, I really didn’t think about playing for England, I just simply loved rugby and it wasn’t only until I was about 16/17 that I was like “I can do this” and to hopefully one day get far with it”.
Is there a real driver or moment behind your passion to play to such a high level?
“There wasn’t a particular moment, however when I went into Wasps Centre of Excellence, I feel this was a big jump to a competing prem club that taught me that there could potentially be a profession within the sport.”
How do you manage your time between being a high-level dedicated athlete and running successful coaching classes?
“It’s not too difficult to be fair, it’s only when I’m in camp which means I can’t coach so that can be frustrating, there’s four of us (Gloucester Hartpury teammates) on that coaching team and we are all international players so during that time it can be difficult as some are competing in finals/semi-finals of tournaments like the Six Nations. When we play in Gloucester, it’s very easy because the coaching can be done in the morning at 8am-9am and then train at 7-8pm so it works well timing wise. I mean not ideal for sleeping situations because it’s top and tailed, but it works well.”
What have you learned from both areas of your life that have helped you in the other area?
“Coaching has helped me speak more confidently; I feel like I’m not the best speaking in bigger groups, but it definitely helps in that sense. And because I am of a similar age to the girls that I coach, I think it helps me to be able to form close relationships where they can then relate to me.”
Has it been a challenge to manage juggling between the two?
Muir jokes that, “It’s quite easy because in the day I don’t really do anything... We don’t start training until earliest 3pm so I have got a good chunk of time to chill out and relax.”
The women’s game is growing at a fast rate with participation levels at grassroots level increasing. What advice would you have liked to have received at a young age as you were starting out? What advice would you give young players now?
“I think just taking the time to yourself, for example today we have an off day to do stuff that isn’t to do with rugby so that’s not all we talk about (Muir laughs) a lot of it ends up being talking about rugby. I personally don’t do any psychological or deeper mental skills, but I think just taking the time away helps.”
Rugby is an extremely exerting sport. Decisions need to be made in quick time under extreme pressure. What do you as an individual to cope with the physical and mental pressures away from the field?
“I think mine very much coincides with injury and that’s when I’m at my lowest mentally more because it can be quite isolating, but I think I find when I’m doing that, I try to hang out with friends outside of rugby and do things I would not have been able to do if I was playing.
I also love doing creative things, not to be on my phone the whole time. I love to do pottery making and paintings. Anything creative really and that coincides with filming and editing as I like to do that a lot.”
What does a typical day-off look like for you?
“I currently have a busy day off. Outside of this interview I’ve got to do some bike work for 45 minutes and then off to do some hand rehab (currently nursing a wrist injury). So, it’s not a full day off (she laughs). And then I’m meeting my friend for an hour or two then I’ve got to go do some reactionary (a type of rugby agility training), so I’ve got quite a busy day off.”
Maud then flips the camera over to show the communal team area where some of the current England players are icing their injuries using an ice machine called ‘Game Ready’ which is a rehabilitation cooling & compression therapy, which ices different parts of the body.
It sounds like you’ve not forgotten that fun aspect despite dealing in a high-pressure environment…
“I think having fun, you can’t play well if you’re not having fun and enjoying yourself. Making relationships with teammates and coaches. I think being able to enjoy your time while you’re playing, that’s the most important thing especially when you’re younger when it isn’t quite as serious yet and being able to bring that mindset into a professional environment really helps you to develop in the space. And that’s what at least I try to do is to inject a bit of positivity and energy into the team and I think people enjoy my presence.
Of course everyone wants to start and push to be the best they are and I definitely have that mindset as well but when you think about it actually I’m playing the sport that I love with my best friends and that’s all that matters and obviously the winning side matters but if you have that in the back of your mind and just keep going you can slowly chip away with learning to deal with the pressure.”
Maud Muir is an exceptional young athlete who has achieved a lot in her career already. She has shown that it is possible to balance being a high-level athlete with running successful coaching business. Through coaching, Muir has been able to improve her communication skills and form close relationships with her clients. Muir's advice for young aspiring athletes is to take time away from the sport and do things they enjoy. She also emphasizes the importance of having fun and enjoying oneself while playing.
Muir has demonstrated that it's possible to juggle both running a business and pursuing a career as a committed professional athlete. Good luck to Muir and the England team for their upcoming fixture vs Wales in the Six Nations on the 15th April!