I was recently asked the following questions about women’s sport. Some of my answers surprised me. I hope this conversation continues until all girls are actively engaged in sport.
What do you think is the biggest barrier in driving visibility of women’s sport?
To be honest, I think women are the biggest barrier. Men love sport, and spend lots of money to see their counterparts play. Aside from the athletes I train with, I don’t have any female friends who regularly watch and follow women’s sport leagues. So much effort is made trying to convince male audiences to watch female sport. Women need to value and enjoy sport if we want female athletes to have more visibility. Women need to value female athletes more than models and reality stars.
Why do you think it is taking so long for things to change?
It takes a long time for things like thought patterns and societal norms to change. There has to be a very strong motivating factor supported by a large and vocal group in order for this to happen quickly. Corporate businesses, governments, schools, religious groups, mums and dads need to be clear on why the promotion of sport for women is beneficial and relevant for them.
What do you think male athletes can do to help drive visibility of female sports?
One of the best things they can do is become vocal fans!
What role do you think sponsorship brands should play?
One of the biggest roles brands play is the provision of a platform. The fact that a brand chooses to actively support women in sport already speaks volumes. Actions speak louder than words, and the ambassadors companies align themselves with and where they spend their money sends a very strong message to the public. Speaking as a female athlete, I’m not sure it is appropriate to demand people like and watch my sport, so the best thing a sponsor can do is give my sport visibility. Give the public the opportunity to see what I do and then let them make their own choice.
What radical things must change in order for women’s sports to be taken as seriously as men’s?
We need to eliminate the expectation that women’s sport needs to take on the same shape as men’s sport. By in large, female athletes are not as strong or a fast as their male counterparts. This is a neutral statement, and all it means is that females will play the game differently. Women may have to play more creatively or strategically. It is still exciting, it is still entertaining, and it is still an impressive display of sporting talent. If women’s sports keep trying to mimic men’s sports, they will simply end up being a second rate version. We need to find a way to do sport on our own terms and be proud of it.