Women’s Sport – Redefining the Role Model

Below is the first ever guest post on this site which is really exciting. Tickle is an absolute sports fanatic, and regularly plays netball. Below is an interesting post on her take on growing women’s sport. You can follow Tickle on twitter @60hourNetball. Enjoy reading!

Women's Sport - Redefining the Role ModelThere has been an awful lot of chatter in the media recently on the topic of female role models in sport. London 2012 of course brought them to us in abundance; Jess Ennis, Nicola Adams and Katherine Grainger, to name just a few of the golden girls who helped put women’s sport in the UK firmly back on the map. I am strongly in agreement that we need these ambassadors to promote women’s sport on a very public level; lobbying for greater coverage, greater funding and greater participation. However for me, these very visible role models are by no means the most important.

The “who is your sporting hero or role model” question is an oldie but a goodie and has come up frequently in the sports media and talk show interviews I’ve witnessed recently. I like this question as it always gets me thinking about mine.

I love sport. It contributes hugely to my life both in terms of playing it and watching it and it has probably helped shape my personality more than anything else. So then I ask why? Why do I love sport? Why do I love playing it and watching it?

And this brings me to my point. I, like everyone else this summer, was inspired by the female sporting heroines the Games produced but I believe for us to secure the next generation of Ennis, Adams and Grainger, female role models in sport need to be closer to home. That’s why my sporting role model is my Mum. OK so she spent most weeks goal hanging as a centre forward for her local hockey club before the offside rule even existed (and scored a lot of goals might I add) but that’s not really my point and if you can get past the cheese, I’ll explain why.

It’s not rocket science that kids learn from the people they spend most of their time with and for me, that was my mum. Some of my earliest memories were of me being wrapped up warm and nestled in amongst kit bags on a Saturday morning watching my mum play. This was often followed by an afternoon of Grandstand and then maybe a Sunday bike ride or kick about in the park. My dad was a professional rugby player but it was never even a question that mum wouldn’t continue to pursue her love of sport and she was still involved in first team hockey aged 37.

Lucky I am to have had this and I’m not so naive to assume it’s as easy as that for everyone but my point is that as well as promoting female sport via the upper echelons, we should be championing it at a rudimentary level too and encouraging women to begin, continue or return to sport, not only for themselves but also to secure the sporting legacy we all seem so keen to maintain.

I play for a netball for a local club and we have recently gone through what you might call a ‘baby boom’ and it is often the case that these players don’t return to the game despite having years left in the knees! I appreciate that priorities change and family rules, but I hate the idea that some women feel that once they have children, their involvement in sport has to end. We need to look at why this is the case and look at what can be done to avoid the exodus. There are some great “Back to Sport” programmes out there which should continue to be funded to give women easy access to sport which can fit around and even alongside family life so it’s not a question of either/or. Schools and PE departments should encourage mums to be involved in sport so that it can be viewed as a positive reinforcement to family life and not just a nice to have.

So whether it’s Ennis or Adams or Grainger who inspired you this summer, I think we also need to look a little more at what we can doing on a much more basic level to help inspire young sportswomen to pursue their sporting ambitions. I for one will be wheeling my kids out to watch me hobble around a netball court whether they like it or not…


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