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Empowering girls to take the lead in sport

October 11, 2017

Empowering girls to take the lead in sport

For those of you who have watched the recently released film, Battle of the Sexes, empowering women in sport is not a new topic.

We have come a long way from barely any women participating in sport to more equal opportunities and pay structures for women at the elite level. Yet, there are still more males participating in sport than females.

After the 2013-14 Active NZ survey, results demonstrated that there was a 10% difference between women and men participating in sport in each category (once over 7 days, once over 4 weeks and once over 12 months). Three of the top personal barriers that prevent women from being active include body image, social confidence and having ability concerns.

Sport England have found the same issues in relation to women participating in sport. After a nationwide survey they found that more men were playing more sport than women at every age group, accounting for 2 million fewer women than men regularly playing sport.

What’s encouraging is that we, as a region, have progressed towards more females participating in sport. The Voice of the Participant results – a survey of active recreation participation in Hawke’s Bay, including school sport, for the year of 2016 – demonstrated that 59.7% of females at all-girls schools played sport, while 58.2% of males at all-boys schools participated in a sport.

There are also some encouraging stories out there that demonstrate a positive shift towards seeing more women in sport and leadership roles. Kahlia Awa of Hastings, was spotted over the last week playing in the annual Ross Shield Tournament at Park Island. Now what’s quite inspiring about this young girl is that she captained her team that took our the ‘Battle of Hastings’ game on Friday – a team comprised of just 2 girls, the remainder boys. In addition, she was one of three girls in the tournament playing and the only girl in the 115-year history of the tournament to captain a team.

“We have recognised the outstanding ability and leadership that Kahlia shows across a number of sporting codes,” said Hastings West coach Anthony Easson. “Kahlia was offered the captaincy as a reward for making the cut off weight for Ross Shield. We knew she would be great as a leader both on and off the field.

“She is not the biggest talker on the field but leads through her actions. She is a tough, uncompromising player who never backs away from a challenge; however, it is off the field where Kahlia's leadership really shines. She is not just a good sportswoman but also a fantastic, well-mannered kid.”

“She makes sure the rest of the team does their ‘chores’ and is quick to pull others into line who may not be demonstrating team values. She is respectful to all and is exactly what a leader should be.”
Leaders come in all kinds so it’s great to see a young girl leading the way in a primarily male dominant sport – one of which, like multiple other sporting codes, has just employed a women’s development officer to focus on encouraging more females to participate.

“It’s awesome to see more and more girls being encouraged to play sport”, said Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union’s Women’s Development Officer Krysten Cottrell. “For rugby, there are so many more variations like 7’s, touch, flag or ripper to allow for anyone to give it a go. We’ve recently started some all-girls training sessions to encourage girls to participate which have been really successful with over 40 girls jumping in.”

“For girls, especially myself, sport and rugby has introduced me to so many people, given me life-long friends and a career that I really enjoy. That’s reason enough for any girl to play!”

So where to from here? It’s our responsibility as a community to demonstrate to females that it is socially acceptable to participate in sports; at a young age it can give girls the skills and confidence to break down barriers and achieve goals throughout their lives. There shouldn’t be a fear about how you look that prevents you from playing an enjoyable game of rugby or football. There shouldn’t be fear around being made fun of and there definitely shouldn’t be a fear of looking like a fool because you don’t have the same ability as others around you.

The more we can empower females to do this, the more female leaders or influencers we could produce, just like Kahlia Awa.

Sport Hawke’s Bay will be developing an initiative to encourage girls who don’t currently participate in sport to do so. In the initial research phases of this project, what we have found is that those girls who don’t participate today aren’t non-participants because they don’t like sport – they don’t participate because they’re more interested in the non-traditional sports that aren’t currently offered to them. Roller derby, cheerleading, darts and lawn bowls – to name a few – are some of them.

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