‘Rugby helped me fight homophobia’
“I am a rugby player. I am a soldier. I am an Officer. I am a brother. I am a role model. I am also gay.”
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week and International Day against Homophobia, former soldier and rugby player Richard Cann has explained how sport helped him admit to his deepest secret to his friends and family.
This years’ Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 16-22 and focuses on relationships and how strong social networks support and improve mental wellbeing.
To see the full blog go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/36311346
I’ve played rugby union since I was eight years old and over the years I’ve played for 10 or so different clubs.
At 16 I left Cornwall and joined the British Army, starting a new chapter in my sporting career. I was lucky enough to be selected to play at a semi-professional level for the Army academy at under-21 level.
Growing up isn’t an easy process for anybody but rugby for me was a way of venting frustration, focusing energy on competing and proving myself on terms that I could understand – something that academia could not offer.
It also gave me a sense of belonging, of almost safety when I was playing as part of a team. My early years of playing rugby also helped me to gain a sense of discipline and control that would later help shape the man I was to become in later life.
I have always been struck by the way rugby, and other sports in general, have the ability to view people on their merit or skill, and gathers people in camaraderie and passion regardless of skin colour, age, gender, disability, religious belief or sexual orientation.
I believe the importance of understanding and accepting that people have multiple identities is crucial. Treating everyone with the respect that they deserve is only manners.
Through sport, children are given the opportunity to better understand and interact with people and cultures that are different to their own, and through cultivating a safe environment for children and adults alike, we have the power to continue to shape the world for the better.