I was recently approached by Sport Wales as they were looking for bloggers to contribute to their women and girls in sport campaign, Our Squad Cymru, to speak out about the importance of having women involved in sport. They explained that participation for women still continues to lack behind the statistics we see from our male counterparts, which is quite disappointing. Statistics show that males are still 61% more likely to get involved with sport in comparison to females who are only 51% likely, with male members literally doubling the number of females in sports clubs. This is a topic that is important to me on a personal level, so I was more than happy to become involved with the campaign – it’s why I wanted to talk about my life with sport and what it means to me.
Sport teaches us to be competitive, persistent and improves our overall health and wellbeing. So why is it still absent from so many of our lives, women in particular?
I know it’s not the same in every household but sport has always been a part of the conversation in my family. My mum played netball and competed in gymnastics when she was younger and she has continuously joined gyms and sports clubs throughout my life, maintaining her involvement in sport passionately. My dad, on the other hand, has always been a big football fan, so he was keen to support my brother when he joined the local football team and then myself when I was old enough to compete in sports.
Yet, my brother was actually the first person who introduced me to sport and the possibility of it becoming a part of my life when I first think about it. He was always the one who encouraged me to play football outside when we were younger and never treated me as a ‘little girl’ who couldn’t keep up, but always challenged me and taught me how to do things. He was also the one who I followed to my first Taekwondo class but I decided that wasn’t for me. It did, however, initiate my interest in sport and as a result of this, I ended up joining a gymnastics class, sparking my love for the sport at a young age.
I joined gymnastics when I was six years-old and initially started in my local community sports centre. However, as time went on and I progressed in ability, I became more dedicated to the sport and I ended up joining a local team in order to take part in competitions and drive myself forward. It was the first time that I realised how competitive I was, always wanting to be better than other girls in my group and always wanting to win medals at competitions – I was never happy to settle for just a participation medal. I think participating in sport from a young age helps you to develop these personal qualities as well as being physically healthy and encouraging you to join a new social join.
Overall, I believe that becoming involved in sport taught me to be competitive, resilient and it became an escape from the stress of school work and studying while I also made new friends.
As I grew up, I ended up joining more sports teams in high school. I took part in hockey, netball, dance, baseball, athletics and of course, I took on more gymnastics during school time. I don’t think I could have fit more sport into my routine even if I tried. But I absolutely loved it. I even ended up taking P.E as a full GCSE qualification and thanks to my participation and knowledge, I managed to achieve an A grade.
After I left school, my participation in team sports obviously reduced due to lack of time. I didn’t join a sports team in university because the teams that I wanted to join always clashed with my working hours. But I found that I missed participating in sport. So I ended up going to the gym a few times a week with friends. Even though I wasn’t competing against anyone, I found myself setting goals to be fitter or being able to run further than my friends. Being in a competitive environment helps me to improve and helps to give me the drive I need to carry on and I don’t think this is something that I’ll ever lose.
I really couldn’t imagine my life without sport now. As I’ve grown up, my involvement has changed but I would never give it up altogether – it’s just become a part of my everyday life. Currently, I do a lot of running and HiiT training and infrequently do some trampolining. I’m also in the process of looking at running clubs to become competitive within a sports discipline once again. I would love to join another sports team sometime soon, obviously depending on timing, so I’m always on the lookout for one.
But I think my life with sport has been continuously encouraged by my family. They’re the ones who originally sparked my interest and sat at all of my competitions to spur me on. Yet, I understand that not everyone will have the same start in sport that I have had. Everyone has a different journey but I think the key part is participation – find a sport or activity you love and keep at it. I know that as we get older, us girls tend to stray away from sports and be less likely to become involved on a consistent basis which I think is a shame. But I would love to see participation levels for women and girls rise in upcoming years as we continue to look after our health in wellbeing. Raising awareness of this is just the beginning.
For more information and to join the conversation, you can:
Visit the ‘Our Squad Cymru’ Facebook here.
Or you can follow them on Twitter here.