Caroline Boujard – « My double life »
While the men’s Rugby World Cup is taking place in Japan, Caroline Boujard, rock of the French and Montpellier XV’s opens up about her astonishing life. It is a life that is found somewhere between the aisles of a Montpelier-based Decathlon sporting-goods store, and being the elite sportswoman in the country.
I would so like to be a professional. There is no bitterness in what I say, but I will not hide my feelings. To be able to live off the sport that I have played for fourteen years now would be the ultimate accolade. Maybe it will happen, maybe not. In the meantime, it’s all good.
My story: it’s the same as many other high-level sportsmen and women.
My name is Caroline Boujard and I am 25 years old. Within the France rugby squad, they call me “Babyliss,” in reference to my hair. At the Odysseum branch of Decathlon in Montpelier, it is just “Caro.”
Yes, I am a French international rugby player and a ‘team-sports’ shop assistant at Decathlon. This has been my life for more than three years now and I would like to welcome you in to my life.
Everything started with a job interview that was completely ordinary. I explained my situation: I was a high level sportswoman that was finding it hard to secure a job. Why?
Could you imagine applying for a job at a company and explaining that you will have to leave for three months for a tour here, a World Cup there and that the following week you’ll be playing Scotland in the Six Nations and therefore, you might be late for work on Monday morning? It’s terrifies them. And, despite the frustration that it causes me, I can totally understand where they’re coming from.
Regardless of all of that, Decathlon offered me a trial period, then an indefinite work contract. They are a company that looks favourably on working with high-level athletes and that accept to be flexible with our schedules. They know that it’s a difficult challenge, but they play the game. Plus, I have to say; I’m pretty well versed in sporting goods!
In the beginning, I tried to only work 15 hours per week. At that point, the central contract with the French Rugby Federation did not exist; I just wanted to have more time to train while sacrificing a little bit of money. Since November 2018, it’s different. The central contract is a sort of indefinite work contract through which one is paid in order to train. It enables us to give a lot more time to rugby than before when we used to do regular 35-hour workweeks before going to the stadium to train in the evenings.
In general, my days go a little something like this: in the morning, I go to work at Decathlon. In the afternoon I can take a little bit of time to have a rest before going to training. This gives me much more time than before to look after my body which is, after all, the main tool for my work that allows me to live this ‘business’ life that I cherish so much.
As I said before, obviously I would prefer to be able to live off my sport. To be pro. However, today, I am fantastically happy. The fact that I can be ‘Caro’ from Decathlon as well as a rugby player, to be able to talk to my colleagues about anything other than my sport, it all contributes to my personal development. Plus, being able to prepare for what comes after my career also motivates me. I tell myself that when I finish playing rugby, I will already have some real credentials and education. However I think the thing that I enjoy the most right now about Decathlon and my way of life is the fact that I can do it all whilst playing rugby.
These days, the more time goes by, the more I am recognised at Decathlon. There are many people – at last – that come to see me or take a picture with me. Apart from that, I try not to talk too much about it; I really try to hide all that. I don’t want to brag. I’m a salesperson at Decathlon, that’s all. Despite all that, I do use my experience in order to advise customers for certain products, but I am a totally different person when I’m at work.
I grew up in Massy, in the Essonne. When I was small, I didn’t really have a role model – I was more the kid that would get into mischief, the joker. I was a pain in the arse, really! Back then; I wanted to be a fire fighter. Then, destiny dealt me another hand.
At certain points, it was really tough. When you ask yourself how you are going to pay your rent at the end of the month while you are giving your body and soul for your passion, you reflect, you think hard about the situation. I told myself that it was all worth it. I would rather tighten my belt somewhat in order to live some unbelievable experiences rather than pack it all in and live in comfort and have a bit more money. I didn’t go shopping, I stopped going to restaurants and I paid real attention to my everyday spending while remaining very aware of the fact that there were many who were far worse off than I.
Now, with the central contract and my job at Decathlon, I can’t complain. I know the value of money and I know that people struggle. However I think that considering what we do, we are not paid enough. Obviously, I would like for us to be more comfortable, and I know that most of the girls that play rugby ask themselves these questions every day. The most startling example for me is that I am about to get into a real-estate project, something that for me, even in my dreams, was inconceivable. It was just impossible.
All that remains is my personal life. I won’t lie; I have to put it to one side. It is difficult to combine work, rugby and a personal life. But it’s very tricky.
I think there are only two other countries where the girls are able to get by. In New Zealand, they have professional contracts that are 100% rugby. The English have semi-pro contracts but they are together three days a week in order to train. The others have nothing.
For the next tour, the next Six Nations or the World Cup in 2021 I am taking unpaid leave. I have not yet spoken to my boss. Beforehand, when I left I would do zero hours weeks and then work for 25 hours upon my return. Now, I lose money when I leave with the French squad, but now at least, I have stability.
Furthermore, when you have a little bit of money, you can think. You think about November 2018 when you beat the world champions New Zealand in front of 17,000 people. You remember that and you forget the rest.
Winger of Montpellier Rugby Rlub and XV of France
Winner of France Championship
2015, 2017, 2018, 2019
Winner Six Nations Tournament
2015, 2018 (Grand Slam)
Third in the World Cup