Sarah Kilmister

CG5 founder and trustee spoke with Sarah, one of last years awardee who was awarded a Rugby Grant towards Kit as she was starting at Hartpury College

Hi Sarah! Great to catch up with you – How’s everything going?

Ermmmm, well, not great to be honest!!! I’m injured! I’m currently facing no (Rugby/running) training for up to 6 weeks, due to suspected stress fractures in both ankles!

Originally they thought it was Shin Splints, so they backed me off of training just before Christmas, I had 2 weeks of physio and rehab, which included Massage and Acupuncture, and some downtime over Christmas/NY, but nothing much changed and after Christmas, I was back to physio, then referred to the GP for X-rays 🙁

At the moment, is just a case of resting and staying off my feet, so all of my training is off feet stuff, to give you an idea –

  • Mon – Gym, Spinning Bike session.
  • Tues – Watt Bike Interval Session.
  • Weds – Gym, Ski Erg Conditioning Session.
  • Thurs – Spinning Bike Session.
  • Fri – Gym, Handling Skills

It’s frustrating, but I’m trying to manage myself and stay positive, we have a tour to Japan in 4months time and I’m still hopeful that if I do everything correctly and heal well, I could be in the mix for selection for that! Fingers crossed.

So, you started Hartpury College in September, How are you finding it?

Ah, honestly – It’s AMAZING!! I’ve loved every minute of it. My roommate is awesome; we’ve become such good friends. My diet and organisation has improved massively. I have another friend Abi, who is just across the hall from me, she’s really helped me focus on the nutritional side, she does

cross fit and plays rugby, and I’ll admit that before I came here – diet wasn’t something I paid much attention to, and when I arrived at Hartpury my skin fold measurements weren’t great, but I’ve already lost over 23mm of body fat! This is something I am really proud to have achieved. This is all down to the positive environment here, we all get on so well and help and encourage each other, we have a food group in halls, so we shop/cook together and this has really helped me stay on track. It’s just awesome here.

And how are you finding it balancing the studies and sport?

I’m doing Maths, Chemistry and PE at A Level, as well as playing AASE rugby here at Hartpury, and it has been a bit tricky to adjust to the workload, it’s definitely a step up from GCSE’s. It is just about getting the balance right, and for me, organising my time. It was difficult at first, but I find it easier now I’ve settle in. Again – as I said earlier, it’s such a positive environment to be in and such good people to be around, that helps a lot.

If I take you through an example day, you will see it’s pretty full on…..

So, for example a Monday looks a bit like this:

  • 30 – Up – Breakfast
  • 30 -12.30 – Lessons
  • 30-1 – Lunch (now pre made to keep track of my nutrition)
  • 1-2 – Training
  • 2-3 – 1:1 session with mentor/coach Kevin Moggridge (TDG coach, RFU) So this session could be working on my Lineout throwing and I often do this with other hookers at Hartpury.
  • 3-4 – Gym (Monday leg day – which is tough!!)
  • 4-5 – AASE Session – which might be Nutrition advice, Timetable management, improving rugby/video analysis, Finance advice, Life skills as well as Sporting really, whatever is good for us to work on from an individual perspective
  • 5 – Back to room, generally have tea with the girls, then go to study if needed.
  • 30-8.45 – To the library to study
  • 10 – Back to room and bed!!


As you can see – its pretty full on, but good. Academically, things are going well, I had mocks and got A/B in Chemistry, A in Maths and A in PE, so all good there, and Sporting wise, bar the injuries, rugby is going really well, I’ve seen huge improvements there too.

It’s just great being on site all week, there’s a lot of work but the social side is good too, then I tend to go home to see the family or go to Bristol to see the boyfriend.

Again, I keep mentioning it, but the environment here at Hartpury is just brilliant – because there are so many other athletes from all manner of different sports, and you can learn from something from everyone, they all have differences/similarities. I have another good friend who does modern pentathlon and they just have an absolutely mental schedule because they have to practise all of the different disciplines – so she’s helped me with scheduling too.

Ah great stuff, well that all seems very positive! And if we rewind a bit, how did you first get into rugby???

Family! Mum and Dad have always been big rugby fans and always taken me and my brother along to watch games, then my brother started playing and I just followed in the same footsteps I guess!

I started playing when I was 5/6 years old and I loved it, I haven’t stopped since then. I used to play with the lads up until U12 at Malvern, I grew up with that team and many of the guys are like family to me, we still speak regularly, and that’s one of the big things I love about rugby – the bonds and the friendships you form. I then moved to Worcester Ladies/Valkyries to play in the U15’s.

You mentioned there about the Bonds/Friendships in rugby, what else do you like about the game?

I think a big part of it for me is the Discipline and Respect.

You give your all on the pitch, but are all friends off it. For me personally, I tend to be a bit more feisty in nature, so it’s having a channel to control those emotions and that aggression and use it in a productive way.

Then its just – that being part of a Team Environment. That makes me push myself harder, not just for me, but for others, my teammates, coaches, family etc. The team work side of rugby I think is something really special, for example, I’m not the quickest running on the track in fitness sessions, but there’s always a teammate there encouraging and pulling me along. But in the gym, where I’m stronger, I can then encourage and push others. It’s about using your strengths and working on your weaknesses but there’s always help and support there.

Have you learnt anything about your own endurance or personal limits?

Yeah definitely, I previously underestimated just how far I could push myself, but I’ve learnt to push harder, not just for me but for others and for the team. I now have a mindset of – Dig Deeper, I think to myself in any tough situation – I can do this, being at Hartpury has helped me so much with this, and lots of other areas of life as well. I feel that already in a short space of time – I’ve improved so much as a person.

What about your highlights or stand out rugby moments so far?

Definitely playing for the England U18 development side against Canada last year was amazing, it was a phenomenal atmosphere. We played down at Bicton College in Devon, I loved the experience, learnt from the Canadians – different country, different, culture, different approach, I made new friends and socialised, that was just a brilliant experience.

And another highlight more recently would be, my Coach; James Cooper, who’s another Talent Development Officer, suggesting I have the chance to be put forward for trials for the U20’s! I’m still young at this age group so that would be a big confidence boost that they think I’m capable!

And what about future aspirations?

The ultimate goal? To represent the Rose! Play senior International Rugby for England is my aim.

To get to play like my idols, people like Heather Fisher and Rocky Clarke would be amazing.Then I’d want to become an idol, become someone who young girls are inspired by, be someone who people look up to, not only as a rugby player but as a person.

You applied to CG5 for a grant to help towards the cost of kit needed to start at Hartpury, how much difference did getting the funding make?

SO much, we need to have quite a bit of Hartpury kit to start the year in Sept, the money we were able to save on kit, meant we had more to go towards my accommodation, it was a huge weight off of Mum and Dads shoulders, it eased the burden!! Thank you!

Finally, do you have any advice or words of wisdom for any other young girls looking to start/take up rugby?

Just be you! Rugby provides a great way of expressing yourself, learning about yourself, and also teaches you a lot about your limits and how far you can go – so push yourself.

Its great fun and the enjoyment/buzz you getting a part of a team is overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because those mistakes are what can make you develop as a player and that is important.

Just basically, get involved and have fun!!!!