This Girl Can is a national campaign which was launched on January 12th. The campaign is described as a celebration of active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets.
By using real women and images of women enjoying a range of sports, the campaign urges more women to get active. Research by Sport England revealed there was a significant gender gap, with two million fewer women than men in the 14-40 age range regularly participating in sport. Research also indicated that in other European countries there is no disparity between men and women. In England, although 75 per cent of women said that they wanted to be more active, a range of concerns, for example a fear of judgement, was preventing women from participating regularly in sport.
As someone who has always enjoyed participating regularly in a range of sports I found these statistics depressing. I have always followed a “Just get on with it!” approach to sports. Over the last few weeks I have given the Sport England research and the This Girl Can campaign a lot of thought.
If two million girls and women suddenly realise that “they can” would there be enough volunteers and sports officials to support the increase in participation? At the moment I don’t think there would be.
Although the campaign is awesome and is definitely a step in the right direction, I more needs to be done to encourage women to become volunteers and sports officials. Without female volunteers, coaches and officials how can we inspire the current and future generations to get, and more importantly remain, active?
“In the UK, just 25 per cent of more than one million coaches and 17 per cent of the qualified coaches are women.” Source: #ThisBrumGirlCan
The reason that I loved participating in sports as a teenager was simple; I was lucky enough to be inspired by female role models. At school Mrs B and Mrs C were brilliant PE teachers, PE lessons were the highlight of my school week. I loved participating in team sports and I loved competing against other schools. I loved getting hot and sweaty in the summer and muddy and dirty in the winter. After leaving school and heading to university I quit horse riding (not enough time), started to play tennis (badly) and continued to be dangerously obsessed with running.Playing tennis in 2003, with my sister after the Sutton Fun Run in 1990 & riding my horse in 1995.
When I finished university I accepted that I was never going to be the next Paula Radcliffe, I finally overcame my running obsession and realised that I wanted to give something back to grassroots sports. This week saw the completion of the junior tennis tournament I have helped to organise for several years. I will be organising another tennis tournament later in the year. Like many other sports officials and event organisers I don’t get paid and I very rarely get thanked (in my experience people only email to complain and not to thank event organisers). I volunteer my time because like my PE teachers I want to give something back to grassroots sports.
So don’t just volunteer at the occasional parkrun please, please try to do more. Consider attending a Leadership in Running Fitness course and setting up and leading your own running group. The course currently costs £155, once I have some spare money I will be putting my money where my mouth is.
If leading a running group isn’t for you there are numerous other opportunities to volunteer…
Hopefully this post hasn’t offended anyone, but this week I’ve seen the benefits of spending less time blogging and more time volunteering and contributing to grassroots sport. Just remember, behind every successful athlete is a team of people who have given up their free time and who have volunteered.
Selected Additional Reading:
- This Girl Can: Meet the Girls http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/
- Sport England: This Girl Can http://www.sportengland.org/our-work/national-work/this-girl-can/
- BBC Sport: This Girl Can: New campaign urges more women to get active http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/get-inspired/30743750
- Huffington Post: Sport England’s This Girl Can Campaign Inspires Women To Get Fit By Using Real Woman (Cellulite And All) http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/12/sport-england-new-campaig_n_6423952.html
- The Guardian: The This Girl Can campaign is all about sex, not sport http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/16/this-girl-can-campaign-sex-sport-real-women-bodies-objectifying-female-flesh
- The Telegraph: This Girl Can? Sport’s for us older ‘girls’ too, you know http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11354566/This-Girl-Can-Sports-for-us-older-girls-too-you-know.html