Working through Corona - with Kelsey Gentles

Posted: Tuesday 14th April 2020 - 2:25 PM

By Seb Sternik

In 2019 Gentles enjoyed one of her best seasons to date. The winger reached two major finals with Castleford Tigers, lifted the league leaders shield, represented England in the World Nines, was part of a history-making England tour away in PNG, broke the internet with an incredible tackle in Australia and, she was one of the three nominees for the Woman of Steel trophy.

2020 was meant to be the year that the 20-year-old took her career to another level. However, due to the ongoing situation with Coronavirus, the England international is currently working full-time for a Co-Op food store in Leeds.

“I normally work there two days a week around training, uni & Rugby AM but since the Coronavirus outbreak I now work full-time,” said Gentles. “It’s a bit crazy at the moment.

“You have one perspective when you go into the supermarket and see nothing there but, when you’re working there it’s just so much more stressful. Since Coronavirus has happened, all day long it’s just become so tense.

“Recently a customer threw a basket at me because we didn’t have any flour. They just don’t understand stockpiling. There are obviously restrictions in supermarkets and you say to someone ‘you can only have two of each item’ and it’s just not going in. It’s just stressful at the minute.”

Despite working ten hour shifts six days a week, the player is also trying to keep up with her university deadlines.

“All our assessments are still due so it is a lot at the minute to try and balance it all,” added Gentles. “A lot of the stuff we’re doing at the minute are group-based projects. When you’re not at university it’s hard to discuss things as a group, especially when you’re all in different parts of the country. I could be doing a nine/ten-hour shift, coming back home and trying to do a bit of uni work. Hopefully it will calm down in the next few weeks.”

When asked about the precautions she has to take while working in the Co-Op store, Gentles said: “We’ve all been given hand sanitiser all over the store now. We’ve got a procedure to follow.

“We’ve been given gloves and masks too but I’m not wearing the mask. I just can’t breathe. I’ve got the gloves on my hands, I keep washing my hands. I’ve been cleaning my till after every three customers.

“Because it’s all so busy we’re juggling a lot of plates at the minute. Trying to keep the place clean and tidy. Then you’ve got the social distancing which some people are taking on board and some are not. We’re trying to limit the amount of people that are in the store. We’ve got someone manning the doors so no more than six people can come in. We’ve got the announcements every five minutes saying listen to the social distancing.

“It’s the hardest job ever. I would rather play rugby, ache everyday of my life, than work one shift in a supermarket. It’s that stressful.”

The 20-year-old also told us about that incident which saw one customer throw at her.

She explains: “We just got a delivery in the store. All the hours have changed because we basically need more stock. The customer came in saying ‘you’ve got no flour, you’ve got nothing in the aisles, you’ve got nothing in the store.’ Bear in mind its 7pm. We’ve just had a delivery; you need to give us time.

“Now we started to close the store at 8pm instead of 11. We changed all the store hours to try get the delivery out and the customer was like ‘go look in the back, go look in the stock’! I went to look for it, I came out, we didn’t have any so I suggested to look in another supermarket and she just threw the basket at me. I’ve got rugby to thank for my good reactions so I just caught the basket in my hands. If I didn’t have hand eye coordination I would have been done for. But that is just a typical thing to happen to you at the moment.”

Despite having to juggle work and her studies, Gentles still finds time to keep up with her fitness programme.

“It’s been a bit difficult but I’ve been trying to keep up,” she said. “I can’t do any of the video sessions with the girls which I’m gutted about because of the time. I’ve just been following the home programmes that Stacey (Strength and conditioner) has given us. Doing a bit of fitness. This week has been hard, I’ve been working every single day for long 10-hour shifts.”

The player also admitted she does miss her teammates saying: “I miss the girls so much. It’s just not the same. The girls are my best friends and I’m used to seeing them two, three times a week. To go from that to not seeing any of them has been a bit underwhelming. It feels very isolating. I guess this gives you a glimpse of what life would be like without rugby, and I don’t like it!

It is unclear when the 2020 campaign will get underway however, we will continue to update fans via our social media channels when there is more information.

Castleford Tigers Women would like to give a big shoutout to all the main shirt sponsors: Hillside Childcare, GMB Union, Tracked Spider Solutions, Yorkshire Flight Simulator, Anthony Higgins Transport, Castle Commercial Cleaning Limited, B&J Goulding, Marra Falcons, Pizza Prima, SB Paving, D&M Family Butchers and the Wakefield Council.

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