When we met Karen in January, she had a lung condition called COPD which was gradually getting worse. She was a heavy smoker and was rarely active. Karen had also just been made redundant and due to the fact that she had been in her previous job for such a long time, was out of practice in terms of applying for new roles. When one of School of Hard Knocks’ course facilitators handed Karen a leaflet at the job centre she was volunteering at, her interest in the course was immediately piqued. 

“I wanted to try the rugby. I quite fancied it because I was a wee bit unfit. I needed to stop smoking and I needed to get out the house more. On the days I wasn’t volunteering I was just sitting in the house and smoking loads.”  

Karen had played some football and tennis before, but she had never tried her hand at rugby and thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new whilst getting fit and searching for a new job. Upon starting the course, Karen fell in love with the rugby. She found the drills exciting but challenging and took note of how the morning rugby sessions put her in a positive state of mind and informed her thinking in the afternoon classroom sessions.

“I felt like I was in a better state, like my mind was more organised.”   

Karen knew why she was finding it so difficult to find paid work. As she had been in her previous job for most of her life, she had never actually needed a CV and so had never created a one, She found the one-to-one mentoring sessions with our facilitators invaluable and the end of course mock interviews were also extremely helpful for her.

“I hadn’t done an interview in such a long time so that was one of my main worries, but the guys at SOHK really talked me through it. I was so nervous during the mock interviews but once I sat for a while I felt more comfortable and as though I could actually do it – and it worked because I got a job straight after that!”

Upon completing the course, Karen not only found a job that she now loves but also found an incredible passion for rugby. She decided to further explore her newfound love for the sport and took part in a homeless rugby initiative where she played at Murrayfield stadium during half-time between Edinburgh and Ulster in front of 5,000 fans no less! Karen then went on to represent Scotland in the Homeless Rugby Championship during the summer, and if that wasn’t enough, she then took part in an eight week rugby boot camp with Edinburgh’s inclusive rugby team, The Caledonian Thebans.

“I knew nothing about rugby before I joined – now I’ve just spent the last month shouting at the television for the Rugby World Cup!”

Whilst helping people into employment is one of SOHK’s primary aims for the Adults Programme, we know that this is not always the most important thing for an individual. For Karen, the most important thing was that she gained her health back. Since discovering her passion and aptitude for rugby she has almost completely stopped smoking and has been told that her lung condition is remarkably better than before. Karen is constantly out and about keeping active, and when she’s not working with the elderly, she’s out on the rugby pitch making everyone at SOHK unbelievably proud.

SOHK has been brilliant. I feel more motivated, more confident. I’m physically fitter, smoking less, exercising more and I’m so happy that my COPD has improved so much.”