Southern Knights scrum-half Doug Crawford on supporting young Borderers through rugby

27-year-old is passionate about the benefits sport can offer in helping people who face mental health and wellbeing challenges

Doug Crawford in action for Southern Knights versus Boroughmuiur Bears earlier this season. Image courtesy: Simon Wootton / SNS Group / Scottish Rugby
Doug Crawford in action for Southern Knights versus Boroughmuiur Bears earlier this season. Image courtesy: Simon Wootton / SNS Group / Scottish Rugby

DOUG CRAWFORD has been adjusting to new challenges on and off the pitch in recent months and he is loving testing himself at Super6 level as well as working with Borders clubs to support the mental health and wellbeing of young rugby players in the region.

In terms of his own rugby, the 27-year-old scrum-half made the step up from playing with Melrose in National League Division One to playing for the Southern Knights just before the Sprint Series kicked-off back in April.

Sadly, an injury picked up at training prevented him from playing in that competition which ran until June, but since the FOSROC Super6 Championship started in August, Crawford has been a key man for the Knights.


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He helped them to their first win of the season away to the Stirling Wolves on August 19th and although they have struggled with injuries and unavailability, the team has managed to stay competitive.

“To get the win away at Stirling a few weeks ago was massive for us and gave everyone a boost,” Crawford said. “The Sprint Series was tough for the guys while we hadn’t started this season too well before we beat the Wolves, but the squad is working very hard together and we all set ourselves high standards.

“There is some serious young talent coming through in the squad while although I am a bit older than them I am learning all of the time too, because playing scrum-half at a part-timer professional level is quite different to playing nine at club level.

“I wasn’t really looking to play at the Super6 level because of work commitments and other things, but when the opportunity came about it was something I could not turn down. I like to test myself at as high a level as I can and hopefully the team can kick on now in the second part of the campaign.”

So, how has Crawford’s rugby journey brought him to this point?

“I am from Melrose originally and came through the minis and then the youth section there into the Wasps which is the under-18 team and every time you play at The Greenyards it is a thrill,” explained Crawford, who doubled up playing for the youth section with turning out for his school Merchiston Castle.

“As I was coming through at that stage I was lucky enough to be coached by the legend that is Jim Telfer while we all looked up to the senior 1st XV players then and wanted to be in their shoes one day.

“I then went to Sydney in Australia straight out of school and played for Eastern Suburbs Colts and worked over there which was brilliant. Next up was a move down south to study at the University of Bath and I played rugby there before playing half a season at Belsize Park in London.

“In 2019, I was living back up here again so I finally got the chance to play for the Melrose 1st XV and I played pretty regularly that season in National One. I had played for the Storm [2ndXV] before when I was in my sixth year at school and when I’d been back during university holidays, but never the firsts until the start of 2019-20.

“One of the main drivers to get back up to the Borders and play regularly in the firsts was that my older brother Donald [29] was also around and, during that season, we played nine and 10 together for the 1st XV quite a lot.

“That meant a lot to us and our family, our grandparents loved seeing us play together which was special, and there is quite a lot of history with the Crawfords and the Melrose club.”

 

He also played for the club post-pandemic in 2021-22 before Super6 came calling while, away from the pitch, psychology has always been a field of interest for Crawford.

He studied the subject at an undergraduate level while he was in Bath and then completed a masters degree in sports psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

Crawford then started a doctorate in sports psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University last year which he has now put on hold because an opportunity which peaked his interest arose at Quarriers.

Quarriers is one of Scotland’s leading social care charities who provide practical care and support for vulnerable children, adults and families who face extremely challenging circumstances.

“Sport has always been my thing, and not just on the pitch, but sport off it and the way you can use sport to learn lots of different lessons which will serve you well in life,” Crawford said.

“I have been fortunate that a lot of the positive experiences I have had in life have come from sport or from the people I’ve met via sport and sport helps you stay connected with others.

“In June this year a role as mental health practitioner at Quarriers supporting young rugby players in the Scottish Borders came up and I thought it sounded like something I was keen to get involved in.

“I managed to get the job and have put my studies on hold to really pour all of my efforts into this for now.

“At Melrose, I have worked as wellbeing co-ordinator and helped coach the under-18 team before, so I felt that I could really do my bit to try and help youngsters who love the sport that I love navigate mental health and wellbeing and everything that comes with it through the help of Quarriers.

“The project I’m involved in has just been launched at the minute in the Borders and it is part of the wider school-based service that Quarriers offers in the area.

“It is a ‘resilience for wellbeing’ service and Quarriers were finding that typically young males aged 16 to 18 were not really engaging with the school-based practitioners.

“A lot of these young males were facing challenges around their mental health and wellbeing, but were not seeking out support and that is where I come in.

“Quarriers feel that if the males mentioned can be offered support in an environment they enjoy – so in this case at rugby training – then they may well open up more and benefit from some support.

“My role is to liaise with the rugby clubs in the area and really support and supplement the great work that development officers and coaches are already doing in this area.

“I can help them set-up a real clear pathway to support if one of their players is struggling while I also go along to training sessions and can offer one-to-one support, group workshops and provide the clubs with resources and materials.

“We are only just getting started here, but it is something I am very passionate about.”

As well as helping young males, the project also helps young female rugby players while, in time, Crawford and Quarriers want to be able to help the rugby community in general when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

  • If you are involved in rugby in the Borders and would be keen to chat to Doug Crawford about the important work he is doing with Quarriers you can get him on douglas.crawford@quarriers.org.uk

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About Gary Heatly 320 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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