Women in sport – it is for life, not just for the week

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This week is the second ever Scottish Women and Girls in Sports Week. It aims to get women participating more in sport by giving them positive role models across all levels of the industry.

For years Scottish women have participated less in sports and physical activity than their male counterparts.

Between 2011 to 2017 sports such as karate, dodgeball and cross-country were the fastest growing sports for girls. This seems drastically different from the landscape of men’s sports which is dominated by football, rugby and golf.

Maureen McGonigle, the chief executive of the Scottish Women in Sports charity spoke about what the week aims to achieve. She said that the strength of the sports week is that everyone sends out the same unified message across social media.

“It’s been easier in the past for women to go into non-traditional sports as these haven’t been male dominated” said McGonigle.

“We are trying to dismiss this feeling that there are women and men’s sports.”

However, a boost was given to women’s football  last week when it was announced that the women’s national team would receive government funding to train for the 2019 World Cup in France.

“The Women’s national team had funding for UEFA last year but it’s going to benefit the minority as most of the squad is playing outside Scotland. The question is why we can’t get commercial funding so they can train more often in the country?” asked McGonigle.

Funding and commercial viability is a common theme in the discussion of women’s sports. Earlier this week the Scottish Women’s football chair Vivienne MacLaren said that Scottish Women’s football will never accept deals from alcohol or gambling companies, despite receiving offers.

But McGonigle believes losing out on this money won’t harm women’s football; she thinks it will improve it: “This won’t impact commercial viability, it’s the lack of coverage, [people] don’t get to see how good women playing the sport are.”

One of the fastest growing areas for women and girls was martial arts, with karate being the fastest growing sport for girls between 2011 and 2018.

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Linn Haraldsvik is a Krav Maga instructor who runs Rencounter, a school where she teaches both kids and adults self-defence through martial arts. She spoke about why martial arts have been popular with Scottish girls.

“I’ve seen a big increase of girls and women in Krav Maga definitely in the last few years… I’m a female instructor which I think makes a big difference,” she said.

“It’s about being able to identify with the instructor they think if she can do it I can do it. When women see I can do it they think they just need to practice it’s not impossible.”

“Society is changing, it’s more normal for girls to do things like martial arts and to be more physically active.”

One of the main concerns for the women and girls in sports advisory board is not just getting girls into sport but keeping up with it their whole lives. This is something Linn from Rencounter has recognised as well

“Encouraging women and girls to have the confidence to keep doing things is important. Especially for girls, once they hit puberty they get very body conscious…we need to be improving their self-confidence by teaching them that it is OK to make mistakes.”

Women and Girls in Sports week runs from the 30th of September to the 5th of October. You can get involved too by using the hashtag #SheCanSheWill.

By Ryan Traynor

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