I celebrated International Women’s Day a few weeks ago, by doing an inspirational talk to a huge audience of primary school girls (and boys) at their Friday assemblies.
I got to see the future of women’s sports right in front of me – in all its giggly, energetic excellence.
The school told me that girls’ participation in lunchtime sports sessions had been declining. They wanted to get more girls involved sports and show the value. I wore my brightest coloured running shoes and had some photos of me in soccer gear back in the 1990s on the Powerpoint to show that I meant business.I told a tale of a women who was not a great goal scorer or athlete, but who got involved in sports at age 8 and still enjoys it to this day. (That was me.)
I impressed them with my pioneering spirit. In high school and at university, I joined the first women’s soccer team in the history of each school. I recalled seeing the photo of us, the soccer captains, still in the high school hall. I remembered the days of two-a-day practices at university, when I was in the best shape of my life. I told them that before these teams, only one girl was on the school soccer team, and played with the boys.I told them how proud I was of my daughter, and I like to watch her play football, run cross country and play dodgeball. (She was in one of the audiences.)
I recognised that it is not always easy for her to get motivated and get up early to go to practice. I asked the girls that had not yet found a sport they liked about what was holding them back. They said a few things: boys not passing the ball to them, not wearing the right shoes, and not wanting to get up early. We talked about how to manage those situations and did a bit of problem-solving.
I asked the audience to shout out their favourite sports and then act them out (to much hilarity). They unanimously felt more energised after the short action.I highlighted all the sports opportunities available at school and locally (there were many, from yoga to fencing). At the end, I asked all of the girls that were not yet involved to talk to their parents that evening about any sports that interested them. There were a lot of kids that recognised me afterward, and said thanks for the encouragement. Some local kids even yelled out the window, saying “Are you Amy?”In honour of International Women’s Day, ask a girl about what sports or active clubs she wants to do. You may be surprised at the energetic result!