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Talk for change – why conversation is crucial for women in sport

What is the most powerful thing in the world?  Contrary to some people’s belief, the most powerful thing is in fact: words.  There are countless quotes about the power of words, such as: the pen is mightier than the sword.  Even in the Bible it says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Bible, Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)).  Now ask yourself, do you talk enough?  Because the more we talk, the more we fuel the fire that drives women across the globe to get up, and get going with their personal sporting mission.  The power of an encouraging word has a drastic impact on our behaviour, and this is also true about sport in general.

Let’s put it in perspective.  Here’s a hard hitting fact about women in sport’s coverage in the media:

  • Women in Sport researched and found that in 2015 only 7% of media in the UK was dedicated to women’s sport.

Women in Sport have also researched into participation in every day sport.  Back in 2015, 8.6million men took part once a week, compared to 6.8million women.  1.7million difference is a mere 21%.  So in theory, media coverage should be only leaning towards men’s sport by 21%, as clearly there is a huge demand and interest in women’s sport because so many people actively participate in it. 

This summer we have the women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin, the women’s football Euro’s in the Netherlands, and women’s Cricket World Cup.  Do we really know about it as much as if the word ‘women’ dropped the first two letters and became ‘men’? If we’re not in it, we don’t know about it – and this needs to change.

Yes, there are many incredible movements of talented, hard working and passionate people out there working tirelessly to promote women in sport but we as fans need to do something too.  We need to talk.  We need to talk about our involvement and love of sport and not stop.  But the trick is, we need to talk about sport to people who aren’t in it because that’s where we start to make the change.  The Suffragettes didn’t just talk to each other about the importance of women’s rights. Why would they? They already knew it.  They went out on the streets in droves and took the message to others.  They spoke and shouted and screamed and eventually, they listened. 

This is why we need to a sort of Sport Suffragette, because our girls deserve the same attention as our boys.

I believe we have a moral obligation to talk, not for us, but for our daughters.  When I was younger I couldn’t see role models, especially in hockey.  I was looking, searching for people to aspire to imitate and learn from but I couldn’t find anything.  It’s even harder to go to that training session deep in November when it’s ice cold and you know that when you strike the ball the sheer force will sting your little hands when you don’t see your heroes doing it too.  Naturally, we learn from others all the time: what to be like and what not to be like.  We analyse and infer and take the good points and discard the not so great and use them as inspiration.  This is why we need to a sort of Sport Suffragette, because our girls deserve the same attention as our boys.

Some companies are beginning to cotton on to the potential of supporting women’s sport as they recognise that the same amount of effort, talent and work underlies women’s football just as it does mens.  Or boxing, rowing, weightlifting – whatever the sport, it’s the same agonising hour after hour of training and the same mental toughness needed to overcome the same obstacles.  I’m finding it very hard to see the difference here.  The opportunities in women’s sport are absolutely phenomenal, and what’s exciting about it is that when, and I mean when, the world’s big companies invest they will reap the rewards.  They think there’s not enough audience, enough interest.  6.8million+ other women will disagree, and men too!

Women’s sport is drenched with personality, stories and incredible show of resilience and grit. There isn’t any other field (pun intended) out there that harnesses such positivity and support, so we need to talk about it.  Talk about playing sport, or if you’ve been to see a game, or you’ve got new kit, or feel great after beating your record, you’ve done a Race for Life or you’re just proud of someone else who’s taken part.  Talk.

Communication is fundamental in sport. It’s an integral part of sport psychology and to just simply play the game.  Have you ever caught yourself saying “it’s quiet out there” whilst analysing the play whilst treading the turf?  Words packs a punch, and it’s our responsibility to harness this in order to progress the game.  Exactly.  It wouldn’t work.

We can all be a ‘sporting suffragette’ from this very second onwards.  Why wait? Mahatma Gandhi famously said: ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ – and I encourage you to ‘be’ the change.  It’s a long road, but every chat, Tweet, comment, video, interview, conversation, argument, debate, story, lesson, is another step down it.

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