Last week, Sport Watch attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Sport and Fitness (APPG). The event was chaired by Baroness Grey-Thompson and Barbara Keeley MP. You can read our initial reflections from the day here.
There was so much positive discussion at the APPG and some great actions came from the evening. The one thing that really stuck out was a comment made by Cosmo Body which surprised us. Cosmo Body claimed their readers were scared of the word “sport”.
Yes, scared! Yes, of the word sport.
Now, we don’t know if some women truly are put off by the word sport – but we don’t want anyone to be scared of such a fabulously empowering word. So here at Sport Watch we’ve compiled a list of why sport is not a scary word.
Sport is not a scary word. And here’s five reasons why:
1. Forming friendships
Friendship deserves the top spot as it comes up time and time again when we speak to women who love sport. Being on a team, working together towards the same aim. Winning together. And losing together… especially losing together. These things bond people more than a shopping trip ever could.
Nice Bristols Ultimate Frisbee teammate #86 attributes their success to friendship: “For me, the main thing that has contributed to our success is our friendship. We all want to compete to the best of our ability, not just for ourselves and for the win, but to win for our team, for our friends.”
You can support Nice Bristols and follow their road to the World Ultimate Club Championship this August by checking out their blog on Sport Sister.
2. Learning about yourself
Are you a growth person? A fixed person? Or some other kind of person? Do you play to win or play to be the best that you can be? These are just some of the questions that may get answered when you take up sport.
Sport also helps you to change the answers – to become the person that you want to be, not just physically but mentally. Sport helps you to face your fears and take new paths.
Chrissie Wellington, Ironman champion extraordinaire, took heed of her friend’s advice to “Look deep inside yourself and work out what your passion is.” Chrissie did just that when at the age of 30 she gave up on her safe and interesting job in international development to take up a new career path as a professional athlete. And very quickly it proved itself a good decision, winning the 2007 Ironman competition in Korea and 3 months later the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
3. Leading your career
If, unlike Chrissie Wellington, you want to keep your safe career, well, sport can help you do that too! Sport teaches us leadership skills and strength of mind – both which are just as useful on the pitch as they are in the office.
Natasha Henry, editor-in-chief of Women in Sport magazine, explains what she learned from competing in team sports at school: “[sport] taught me so many skills that have become vital parts of my everyday life as an adult. Teamwork, commitment and, when I became captain, leadership skills”.
The impact sport may have to women’s position in society is echoed by a 2013 Ernst & Young global survey of 821 senior managers and executives which found that 96% of female Chief Executives competed in sport as a child. The survey also found that 55% of female Chief Executives played sport at university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.
4. Seeing what you can achieve
Sport can take you places that you never thought you’d go – from representing England on the rugby pitch to raising money for cancer. Sport can help drive changes in the wider world or your own world. It helps to push yourself to be the best that you can be. But it also helps you in your strive to help others.
Sasha Acheson from Bristol Ladies Rugby told us that one of her best sporting achievements was raising money for charity. Last summer Sasha played for The Moody Cows, an invitational team that raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief. It was her first tournament playing for them which made it that much more special when they won the tournament – “we all really came together in a big way in that final so that was a pretty special moment.”
5. Body confidence
More than any diet or weight-loss regime ever could, playing sport helps you to appreciate your body and all that it can do. It helps you to see your body not as some physical adornment to be admired by others, but, instead, as an active and impressive vehicle for achieving your best.
Your body isn’t there for others to look at, it’s there for you yourself to enjoy – whether that be on the football pitch, on the korfball court, or when you’re pounding the pavement. Sport helps to improve body confidence and self-esteem.
A report by the World Health Organisation found that girls and women who regularly participate in sport, and do so from a young age, are less likely to report concerns around confidence, self-esteem and in particular issues with body-image. Many female athletes report having a stronger sense of identity and self-direction – what one researcher in the WHO report called ‘being herself through sport’.
We hope every woman can agree that sport is definitely not a scary word.