WOMEN IN SPORT: I’m in no doubt London Olympics were an inspiration

London Olympics closing ceremony
London Olympics closing ceremony

This week the national media has been awash with headlines damning the London 2012 Olympic legacy and tarring Britain as a sedentary nation.

Blame is flying in every direction from the government to national governing bodies and it’s not surprising, as the latest statistics from Sport England haven’t been encouraging.

The report shows clearly that people playing sport once a week has declined by 222,000 in six months, while almost 75 per cent of people in poorer sections do not regularly participate in sport at all.

However, as someone who lives and breathes sport, and does some form of activity daily, I can’t quite accept that it’s all doom and gloom.

I know people who have lost their jobs through the government’s schooling cuts and yes, I do think there should be more financial support for physical education in schools, targeted directly to ensuring that lessons are structured and have a high quality teacher leading them.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin.

London 2012 has inspired many things. It’s opened people’s eyes to the fact they can choose sport as a career.

Media coverage in many sports, including gymnastics and sailing, have gotten more exposure than ever before and women in sport coverage has increased dramatically, which is paving the way to equality in sport.

The Games opened people’s eyes ever more to what the body can do and I think we’d all be in agreement, that the nation stopped as Team GB took the gold medals and then erupted in unanimous cheers, therefore igniting a spark in many to be more active and get involved.

It also saw a number of outdoor gyms built for people to use at their leisure for free.

Instead of focusing on these figures, let’s promote all the fantastic ways people can get involved in sporting activities and drive them onto a new sporting path.

Let’s focus on the amazing achievements being accomplished every day by people who have taken up a new activity.

Just because it’s not on a survey, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Here in the county, I’ll always be proud of the amount of sport available.

From weekly parkruns and breeze cycle rides, to tennis sessions in Abington Park and windsurfing at Northampton Sailing Club – if you want it, it’s there - so get involved!

Tweet me your active stories and pictures to @Adrianne_Hill or if you have an activity, let me know by emailing adrianne@actionsportmedia.co.uk. If you see me out and about, say hello and share your sporting success stories.

England World Cup performance a game-changer

It’s fair to say that England’s Women’s World Cup victory over Canada recently was a game-changer for women’s football.

A total of 1.6million English viewers tuned in to watch the quarter-final despite a 12.30am GMT kick-off time and the ladies did their fans proud as they beat the hosts 2-1 in Vancouver in front of a sell-out 54,027 crowd.

For me, it seems like a moment in history rather than simply a football match for many reasons and a moment that is going to transcend into every area of the women’s game.

This match shows the worldwide popularity of the women’s game, that people want to watch it and that it’s equally as exciting and as passionate as men’s football.

It was widely reported prior to the tournament that the players suffer low pay, lack of sponsorship and play in front of low crowds.

This match has proven that now there is no reason for sponsors not to flock to support these incredible athletes, that people do want to want to watch the women’s game and that pay should increase to reflect these achievements.

It comes back to the ‘circle of sporting-life’ almost. Increased media coverage will help facilitate the improvement of the women’s game by attracting more sponsors, which in turn should equal more full-time players able to support themselves, which equals an increase in skill level and in turn even more interest from the public who want to see these intense and incredible games.

Here in Northamptonshire, we’re lucky to have Northampton Town Girls and Ladies Football Club, who support women who want to take their football skills to the next level. They are also currently on the look out for new players for their under 18’s and ladies squads. Perfect!

The next trial date is Tuesday, July 14 from 6pm to 8pm and if you’re interested or know someone who is, email info@ntlfc.co.uk for more information.

Bikini girls prove sexism in sport is still rife

After such an exhilarating Women’s Tour that passed through Northamptonshire last month (and featured a stage win for Hannah Barnes, star of a recent column), personally I’m more inspired than ever to get on my bike, have fun and keep active - which is exactly why events like this are vital for communities.

I even got a new personal best time while on a trip around Pitsford Reservoir!

However, despite such an inspiring performance from these incredible women, I can’t help but think about the other big story in women’s cycling at the moment.

The bikini girls at the Flanders Diamond Tour…

Apologies have been issued about this giant error of judgment, but the point remains: What were they doing there in the first place?

Do we really need half naked women to promote sporting events?

And who on earth thought it would be a good idea to have them there?

Let’s take a moment and imagine half naked men standing on the podium at the end of the Tour De France… or not, I will leave that one up to you.

In my mind, any club, event or team that endorses this kind of everyday sexism simply tarnishes their own reputation.

I do not think it adds anything positive to the actual event and it just makes the equality fight that many female athletes are enduring harder.

These sorts of stories are not new, but I was hoping they were in decline. Sexism in the world of female sport remains stronger than ever, and a recent BBC Sport survey indicated that more than 40 per cent of female athletes have experienced sexism in their careers, but only seven per cent have reported it.

So what does that say?

Why have so few bothered to speak up?

My assumption is like many other lines of work, women feel pressured not to report it for fear of either losing their job or feel that if they make a fuss, they will become an outsider.

It’s an issue we all need to be aware of and take a stand against.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I coach an incredible group of male and female youth windsurfers.

All below the age of 15, I have never once heard a sexist remark or seen dividing behaviour. They’re a very happy, hard working group of athletes who respect one another and encourage each other to achieve their goals.

Except on the race line and then it’s every person for themselves!

So where does that mindset change and what can we as individuals do to help?

Campaigns across the world like This Girl Can and a new one in Australia – Strong is the New Pretty - showcase the amazing talents of women being active.

And I think it’s important that we all encourage ladies to get involved in sports, recreation and competition in just the same way we do men, because there is no difference. We should champion these stories and people like Barnes, rather than set them back by having them line-up alongside half naked girls once they reach the podium.

Who is your champion?

Send your stories and thoughts big or small to adrianne@actionsportmedia.co.uk or Tweet me @Adrianne_Hill.