First of all – Happy International Women’s Day! Last week I was lucky enough to attend an event called Women in Sport : Taking on the World at the University of Leeds. Forming part of a recent campaign named Uni Girls Can, the event consisted of a panel q&a discussion amongst five very inspiring women all from the world of sport.
(Photo copyright of Sport England UK, This Girl Can)
Uni Girls Can
Uni Girls Can, run in partnership between the University of Leeds and Leeds University Union aims to inspire female students and staff to engage with sport and physical activity in a way which is right for them. Inspired by the nationwide This Girl Can campaign by Sport England, the Uni Girls Can campaign launched in October of last year with a bumper week of events including a catwalk run and talk by Dame Sarah Storey – who can I just say is the loveliest woman alive! This type of campaign is the first of its kind in UK higher education and in addition to promoting activities on offer encourages mental well-being, nutrition, leadership roles within sport, voluntary work and networking.
Women in Sport : Taking on the World
The event included a discussion then Q&A with the following panel….
Stacey Copeland – Boxing European Silver Medallist
Sarah Speers – Synchronised Swimming Coach
Non Stanford – World Champion Triathlete
Alison Rose – Physiotherapist to Jessica Ennis-Hill
Emily Freeman – 200m Runner
The panel started by introducing themselves and telling us a bit about their journey. They obviously went right back to the beginning and started with their childhood – where it all began and each one of them mentioned a family member. Whether it was Stacey’s father who was a boxer, Sarah’s mum a PE teacher or Non’s mother who was a gymnastic coach, they had been brought up with sport playing an integral part in their families lives which made it normal, they didn’t know any other way. This definitely made me reflect on my experiences of sport as a child but that’s a whole other new blog post so keep an eye out for that!
I was shocked to hear that Stacey had to cut her hair short and pretend to be a boy when she younger so she could play football and box. This to me sounded like the 1950’s! I think what was scary was the fact that it wasn’t socially acceptable for a woman to play football or box only 25 years ago. Women were in fact banned from boxing until 1996 when I was 4. I found it hard to believe women were banned from any sport in the UK during my lifetime, which just goes to show the progress made recently by women such as the panel pushing for change.
Here in the UK whilst it’s not perfect we are lucky in comparison to other countries but it makes me sad because we shouldn’t have to deem ourselves ‘lucky’ we aren’t asking for a lot are we? Why is equality a luxury? Female participation in sport should be the norm. Female athletes shouldn’t be judged on their body images – labelled ‘too muscly’ or ‘manly’. Female athletes should be judged on performance as Alison Rose rightly said not by what they are wearing to the Sports Personality of the Year awards.
There is honestly so much more I could say which I took away from the evening but this will turn into a very very long blog post if I do – so keep an eye out for blog posts surrounding women in sport this month 🙂
What I do want to say is that the biggest lesson I came away with from the evening was to stay determined. These women have not only worked extremely hard both physically and mentally to achieve and maintain their goals but have done so whilst being comfortable in their own skin, their own ability and believed in themselves. Non joined the Triathlon team in her second year at university and where was she 5 years later? Winning the Triathlon World Championships.
Now you’re not going to see me at Rio and me and Matt aren’t going to be the next Kenny and Trott (although hello – relationship goals) but what I can do – is start listening to all those around me who are telling me I can do it and remember to take those baby steps because they’ll soon all start coming together.
Thank you ladies for reminding me of that
thank you ladies for showing the world this girl can.