Blog by Captain Rich Cann RLC, Sports Rep of the Army LGBT Forum
“I am a rugby player. I am a soldier. I am also gay”.
Fitness and the Army go hand in hand, and like many a good double act, the relationship between the two constantly develops. Over the years the Army has had to change with the times and their understanding of what fitness is and how it is manifested in different individuals is a continuously fluctuating notion. 15 years ago when I first joined the Army it was all about how fast you can run the 1.5 mile annual fitness test, today however, there are more advanced methods by which the Army can assess the fitness of its soldiers, including lower impact bike based Alternative Aerobic Assessments. One constant has been the Army’s reliance on sport, for both team building, as well as another weapon in the fitness arsenal.
I’ve played in the Rugby Union since I was eight years old and over the years I’ve played for ten or so different clubs. From Newquay Hornets in Cornwall aged 8, through to when I joined the British Army, when I was lucky enough to be selected to play for the Army academy at U21 level.
The importance that the Armed Forces places on Sport, Health and fitness really cannot be understated as they really do underpin everything that we do. We have to be fit to carry out our roles under pressure whilst on operations as well as back in the barracks. Sport also has an important role in military life in regard to competition and also from a team building perspective. If you cannot trust your team mate playing sport then how are you to do so on operations. Some people when they join the Army have played little team sports, teamwork may not come naturally, however by the seemingly innocent introduction of a football or rugby ball in a group of recruits whilst in training, staff are able to nurture these traits in to the soldiers with relative ease.
Coupled alongside the obvious physical benefits is the understanding that there are clear links to mental health and the benefits keeping fit and active has on us. For me in particular it was Rugby in particular that was the key to keeping me in the right head space. Growing up isn’t an easy process for anybody but rugby for me was a way of venting frustration and 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 being part of a team.
As Sports Rep in the Army Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Forum, I was also enabled to establish an LGBT inclusive rugby team, which has helped people who may otherwise let sport pass them by get involved. Being able to play rugby in an inclusive team, in or out of the military, enabled me, and others, to engage people from the LGBT community, providing a mutually supportive environment through sport, which has certainly improved the mental as well as physical health of many involved.
Sport also enables opportunities to engage with people from all sorts of backgrounds, I might be able to convey the unique and sometimes added pressures involved with being gay in sport, my hope is one day I won’t need too.
I am proud to be part of the British Army and proud of the opportunities it has afforded me, not only to play the sport that I love, but also for the support that it has afforded me over the years as either a sportsman or as a soldier; developing my physical fitness, my mental fitness and my exposure to a bigger, more diverse world than I knew previously. That is why I encourage everyone to get involved with National Fitness Day – the benefits fitness has for you could be life changing.
If you’re interested in Army fitness visit 100% Army Fit, perhaps give the Army Fit App a try.