OM Hanna Gildam-Clark shares her journey from swimming to rugby and the psychology in between

OM Hanna Gildam-Clark shares her journey from swimming to rugby and the psychology in between

As part of our Girls in Sport takeover week, we chatted with OM Hanna Gildam-Clark, where she provided valuable insights into her sports journey and various aspects in between.

"For as long as I can remember I have always had a passion for sport, whether it be participating, watching, or even working in the field.

"My hunger and drive for participating in competitive sport all started when I was selected for my primary school’s swimming team in Saudi Arabia. I swam competitively for many years and qualified for the national swimming championships on numerous occasions. If you had asked me back then what my dream would be when I grow up, my answer was always the same, to be an Olympic swimmer.

"By the time I got to Millfield, I had started to participate in various other sports at a competitive level, such as netball, athletics and football. I still swam but I would say I was more of an all-rounder at Millfield, willing to try anything new especially if it was active and sporty. This mentality definitely followed me to university where I took up a new sport and joined The University of Edinburgh’s water polo team, whilst studying for my undergraduate degree in Applied Sport Science.

"After completing my bachelor’s degree, I was lucky enough to be offered an internship at Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar, which is world renowned for promoting sporting excellence. This gave me a fantastic insight to what goes on behind the scenes in the world of sport, and although I was already thinking about going down the path of Sports Psychology, this really made me aware that this was the route I wanted to pursue.

"It was in Qatar that my passion for rugby started. I initially joined the local rugby club to meet likeminded people my age, however, it didn’t take long until I was taking the pitch for the women’s sevens team. There was something about rugby that got me totally hooked, and as my mum said at the age of 22 “I had finally found my sport”. Shortly after my first club season I was scouted for the Qatar Women’s Rugby National Team which I accepted with great honour. I have since then played at various tournaments and have recently gained my 9th cap for the team.

"My playing career hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Sadly, I suffered a major injury to my collarbone during one of the tournaments, which meant I was out of action for nearly two years until I returned to the pitch. It was during this time that my focused switched back to sport psychology. I had completed my master’s degree in Applied Sport Psychology from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London, prior to breaking my collarbone and used the tools I had learnt to help me overcome this injury and come back even stronger.

"Unsurprisingly I now use the tools, knowledge, and experiences I have gained from being an international rugby player within my career as a sport and exercise psychologist, especially within the work that I do as the Performance Psychology Programme Director for England Touch Rugby.

"I think it is evident that sport plays such a vital role in my life. Athletes often talk about “the feeling” they get when they play sport, a feeling which is indescribable but one that continues to pull you in, and you never want it to go away. Everyone strives for that feeling and it has the power to bring people together no matter their background. That is what makes sport special and why I personally could not live without it."

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