Maria Nolan is a personal trainer and director of South Bucks Rugbytots, a children’s rugby program in the UK, which is now an international business. Before she was a mother of two boys, she trained as a stuntwoman.
What is Rugbytots, how did you get involved, and what is your role with the company?
Rugbytots was started in 2006 to fill a gap in the child development sector by using Rugby specific skills to aid in the development of young children.
Our programme has been designed to develop your child’s physical, psychological and social attributes, as well as gently encouraging rugby specific skills such as running with the ball, finding space, kicking, catching, scoring a try and much more.
The success, popularity and growth of Rugbytots across the UK demonstrates the quality of our programme and the coaches who work so hard to consistently deliver. It is therefore no surprise to find that we are the most established, fastest growing and most innovative Rugby play programme for children aged two to seven.
I am the Director for the area of Buckinghamshire. I run over 40 classes a week with more than 400 children. I started 3 years ago just before I had my first child. Prior to running Rugbytots I was a Personal Trainer- I realised the hours that I did would be very difficult with a young child but I still wanted to be in the fitness industry and I liked the idea of being able to get my little one involved as he grew.
Why do you think it's important for kids to be involved in programs like Rugbytots?
I think its very important to get children involved in sports from a young age. Its great for their coordination, confidence, interacting with other children and learning many skills that they will use throughout their life. It will hopefully mean they continue sport as they grow and and have an active healthy life.
How does being a mom help you succeed in your position with Rugbytots?
I feel it helps me understand children a lot better, I have a lot of patience when I’m coaching my little ones and with my personal training background I have the ability to change my coaching skills to bring out the best in all my children. It’s also great to just bring yourself into their world and become a child too. If they see you’re having fun, then they want to join in too!!!
What's been your proudest moment with Rugbytots?
There are soo many little moments each and every week- a child scoring a conversion for the first time / getting a little one who has always been shy to finally come out of their shell and join in with the best of them / a child coming and giving me a hug at the end of class and telling me I’m the best. (makes my heart melt)
We have recently done a Charity Try-Athlon event at our classes where i introduced the children to ‘Charity’. I gave them each sponsor forms so they could go and get sponsorship from their friends and family. They all had a great time at the event. We raised a great amount of money for charity and they all received certificates. I received some truly touching emails from the parents afterwards about how much fun the kids had and what a great way to get the children to what fun you can have and raise money at the same time.
What/who inspires you most?
My Family- My boys, My Husband, My parents- they have all supported me in everything I have done/ want to do, and encourage me throughout. It was very hard at the start, with my first small baby, he had colic and reflux and sleep was a total thing of the past!! But my husband has been my rock and supported me even when I thought I had made the biggest mistake taking this on, he pushed me to carry on and I’m so grateful to him for that.
My parents and sisters have always been there for me to help with the kids or just take them for an hour so I can take a moment to clear my head.
Don’t know what I would do without them all.
What does your perfect day look like?
Sleeping in till 9am, waking up to a sunny day. Having breakfast with the family and going to the farm or beach and enjoying some magical moments together. Finishing up with a lovely meal with my husband and maybe a cocktail or two.
Now, what does a typical day look like?
Being woken up at 5am by my 11month old, followed by my 3year old at 5.30am- (make myself a coffee (very important!!).
Getting them dressed and breakfast, followed by me, sorting out a few emails while I do their breakfast.
Take my eldest to nursery at 8.30am, taking my little one to the childminder.
Come home- do some more emails and phone calls.
Train a couple of clients- i still personal train a few clients in the week.
Do a bike ride- i am doing a 350 mile Charity ride in 6 weeks!!!!
Come home, have a shower, do some more emails and phone calls.
Go to a school or nursery and do some taster Rugbytots sessions- need to keep building the business and promote it.
Go home- Cook dinner for kids
Collect eldest from nursery and baby from childminder.
Play some games and do some arts and craft with kids.
Attempt to feed them dinner which is normally a hit and miss event.
Give them a bath, read them stories and put them to bed.
Have dinner with husband.
Carry on with work and sort out my coaches for the weekends classes and reply to more emails.
Fitness and nutrition are important to you. Rugbytots takes care of the fitness part, but how do you keep your kids healthy nutrition wise? What struggles have you worked through? Do you have any tips or advice for parents who want their kids to eat and feel better?
Food has been a nightmare with my eldest, he was a great eater up to about 15months when he had a really bad bout of tonsillitis. He started reducing everything he ate to the point where he would only eat -Bread/ toast, yogurt, Oat bars, breakfast.
I took him to doctors, specialists, tried everything i could but eventually I gave up on all of them and just keep trying my hardest.
I put as much as I can in his breakfast as he doesn’t know what is in it- porridge, fruit, nuts, goji berries, cod liver oil.
I wish I had advice for other parents but all I can say is they will eventually eat at some point in their life, don’t stress too much as they can sense it and that only makes matters worse. Keep introducing new things but don’t get upset if they refuse- just keep an eye on their weight and as long as that is healthy then the food will come at some point.
My 11 months old just wants finger food, whenever I try to feed him with a spoon he blows raspberries at me so I’m a lot more relaxed this time round and just go with the flow.
Your kids are still pretty young, but do you have a game plan to try and limit their exposure to technology like tv and smart phones?
No plan as such, I am a very active person so I always take the kids to the park with the scooter or bike or we run around outside in the garden as much as we can. Yes, there are days when I am just so tired that I put the television on and sit with them but the puzzles are out and other games all the way through.
At some point my boys will discover that the phone has games on it but for now mine is ‘Mummy’s work’. My boy tells me to put my phone down and stop working so I’m happy to encourage that response.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hopefully see myself and my husband as a very proud parents of 2 healthy, happy boys.
I hope my business is flourishing and Rugbytots is doing brilliantly.
I also hope I have more time for myself and my family – its very hard to give myself time to stop when you are running your own business.
In addition to all of this I am doing a charity bike ride at the end of August. To celebrate England's hosting of the Rugby Union World Cup this year, a group of Rugbytots staff, franchisees, coaches, parents and friends will be embarking on a 350 mile charity bike ride from the 27th to 30th August from Millennium Stadium to Twickenham via World Cup host stadiums Kingsholm and Brighton. We will be undertaking this challenge to raise money for our chosen charity partner Wooden Spoon, the Children's Charity of Rugby.