A Worthing rugby star of the future has seen an inspirational video she created go viral on social media.
Nine-year-old Mackenzie Ford, from Ford Road in Arundel, started playing rugby in September but became disheartened during a trial game when the boys would not pass to the girls – rugby teams are mixed gender for under-13s.
She decided to create an inspirational video, set to the song This Is Me from The Greatest Showman, challenging stereotypes and encouraging more girls to get into the sport.
The video was tweeted by Worthing Rugby Club and had retweets from rugby legends such as Will Carling and Brian Moore, and top clubs including Saracens, Wasps and Harlequins.
Mackenzie said the message was that ‘girls can too’.
“The video did really, really, really well, I didn’t expect it to do so well,” she said.
“I think girls should play rugby because most people assume it is a boys sport, which it’s not.
“I was usually like ‘I can’t do this’, but now I have got rugby I feel like I could do it if I try my best. Before, I couldn’t, I would give up, but now I don’t.”
She has credited the sport with boosting her confidence and giving her another family, but said her favourite bit was letting out her frustrations by tackling the boys, which she said was ‘quite satisfying’.
Mackenzie’s mum, Ellen, said she was ‘overflowing with pride’ for her 'rugby obsessed' daughter.
She praised Worthing Rugby Club for encouraging and supporting girls getting into the game, and credited the family atmosphere with changing Mackenzie’s attitude.
It was praise echoed by the headteacher of Mackenzie’s school, Arundel CE Primary School, Andrew Simpson.
He said she had become a ‘champion’ for girl power in the school and her confidence and leadership was rubbing off on her classmates.
“I think the sport has really helped her with her confidence, her self-esteem and ability to persevere when things get challenging,” he said.
“She has really developed her attitude and ability to work in a team. I love the fact that she’s pushing girl power in school and the rugby field.
“In school we can see her encouraging the girls around her and bringing them up. It’s great to see someone of Mackenzie’s age taking that leadership role.”