Chrissie Wellington – Part 4
Women & Sport: Barriers and recommendations
This is the final update from The Women's Sports Network by Chrissie Wellington on Women's Sport - You may know the Chrissie recently presented her ideas to the first All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women's Sport & Fitness. Since then she has documented her thoughts on women's sport. These are now available in the 'FEATURES' section of our website.
Chrissie is now preparing for The World Iron Man championships in Hawaii –Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi - October 13, 2012 2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run.
She won Ironman Triathlon World Championships in 2007, 8, 9 & 2011 go Chrissie go!
If you would like to receive future updates of this nature from WSNet please register here - WSNet Newsletter - The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women's Sport & Fitness was established by WSFF and is chaired by Barbara Keeley MP and is being strongly supported by other prominent Parliamentarians including Baroness Grey-Thompson, Tracey Crouch MP and Jo Swinson MP.
Women's SportsNet - Raising the profile of Women's Sport and of some of our great SportsHeroines. Helping women to feel comfortable and confident about fitness & wellbeing with our 'Women TRY Sport' campaign to link up the millions of women who want to TRY sport with fitness-based events listed (free) on our website. www.wsnet.co.uk - giving exposure & access to women's sport and working with a number of SportsHeroines, NGBs + WSFF/USGirls to raise the profile of women's sport.
Based on my own experience and observations
Many barriers to participation exist. They can be classified as: practical (time, childcare, access to facilities) personal - psychosocial (body/image and confidence; habit, level of interest) financial (costs of membership, equipment, classes) and institutional (lack of mentors, role models, lack of females in leadership roles). Overcoming such barriers and stimulating interest in, knowledge of and hence demand for sport and healthy lifestyles will require an understanding of the varied drivers (that is, the triggers) that motivate people to participate.
They can be grouped into the 5'Fs: 1) Fun & Feel-good Factor, 2) Fitness, 3) Friendship, 4) Fundraising & 5) the Fight (e.g. the competition).
Taking the barriers and triggers into consideration, the list below offers up some suggestions for increasing participation among women and girls at the grassroots level. Of course, this list is not exhaustive and hopefully the dialogue within the APPG, and other forums will catalyse further ideas, thoughts and suggestions.
- Limited leisure time (due to changing work patterns, increased work hours, housework, childcare, care of relatives)
- Lack of transport
- Personal safety concerns
- Lack of (access to) quality facilities and opportunities
- Lack of (affordable) childcare facilities
- Variable work patterns (e.g. shift working)
Practical Barriers: Suggestions and Recommendations:
- Improve provision of indoor and outdoor facilities, in urban and rural areas. Erg recreation grounds, school /university playing fields and sports halls, swimming pools, leisure centres, village halls, public pitches/tracks, National Parks and open space/country
- Make clubs and sports facilities 'family friendly' - Provide crèche facilities or (simultaneous) classes for toddlers and children, offer classes that parents can take part in with their children; 'child-minding' exchanges could be offered amongst club members.
- Establish partnerships with transport providers, develop share-a-ride systems, improve access to facilities including cycle lanes, footpaths and (discounted) public transport or promote physical activity, which doesn't require transportation to access, such as walking and running (linked to this is the development/maintenance of a strategic network of trails for walking, cycling, and horse riding)
- Ensure locations or facilities are safe and appropriate for women and girls: focus also on neighbourhood aesthetics
- Ensure the equitable access of women/girls in allocation of facilities and pitch time
- Offer shorter classes and games (e.g. 30mins) or enable women to combine two activities such as sport/shopping (e.g. retail outlets also providing yoga classes)
- Promote home based exercise - DVDs, music/motivational CDs
- Improvement in work based facilities (gyms, changing and showers)
- Provide support to young women during key transitions where levels of participation may be affected e.g. during transition from school to employment, after childbirth.
- Reduce the bureaucracy and time needed to sign up for clubs/sports facilities: Sport must move quickly to embrace the new technology for example through on-line booking systems or smart leisure cards.
- Improve availability of information about existing facilities/clubs
- Ensure greater access to existing facilities in educational establishments for community sports groups
- Increase access to public land and water on a permanent basis, as well as on an informal temporary basis, for sports with specific requirements such as cross country running, orienteering, climbing, canoeing, archery and motor sports
- Expand projects to make mobile provision of equipment in rural areas, e.g. taking sports equipment from village to village
- Limited disposable income
- Rising/high entry fees – especially for whole families
- Long term commitments required when joining gyms, leisure centres etc
- Clothing and equipment for sports can be expensive
Financial Barriers: Suggestions and Recommendations
- Flexibility in length of sign-up periods. Opportunities to trial and observe. E.g. 'try before you buy' systems.
- Consider different payment options. Monthly direct debits rather than annual subscriptions, or pay as you play Financial
- Free introductions/inductions
- Vouchers, discounts and bribes (e.g. joining fees include offers for other products)
- Provide subsidies for entry to sports facilities - e.g. replicating the UK Gov subsidies for museum/art gallery entry
- Relaxed dress codes could reduce need to for participants to buy new kit
- Provide opportunities to borrow/hire equipment, or buy second-hand.
- Employers could incentivise employees to be active tax breaks, bike to work schemes
Personal/ Psychosocial Factors
- Body image, lack of confidence and low self esteem/perceptions of ability
- Lack of suitable clothing (especially for BME women)
- Perceptions of sport as male-dominated, unfeminine activity
- Peer pressure
- Lack of parental support/inactive households
- Cultural restrictions experienced by some BME groups
- Lack of role models (family and media)
- Competitive/aggressive/intimidating environments
- Lack of interest (dislike for 'sport': linked to possible bad experiences of PE at school)
- Lack of friends/people to participate with
Personal/ Psychosocial Factors: Suggestions and Recommendations
- Increase variety and offer choice in activities offered (competitive and non competitive, formal and informal, with non quantifiable indicators of performance).
- Consult consumers on what activities are undertaken, when, where and how.
- Offer awards for achievement other than time/placing, e.g. leadership, improvement, teamwork
- Relax dress codes, especially with regards BME women and girls.
- Implement advertising and promotional campaigns to improve the image of sport – emphasizing that all young women can get involved and enjoy it, not just 'sporty types.'
- Ensure links are made in education/marketing to wider skill development and benefits gained through physical activity
- Establish acceptable grouping/class composition, including providing the option of single-sex activities and events, staffed by women
- Offer beginner classes open to all, perhaps involving existing friendship groups/with peers, to reduce feelings of embarrassment and intimidation, and emphasise the fun/friendship/social sides of sport
- Set up mentoring ('pay it forward') systems, and encourage those that are engaged to promote engagement through various channels, especially word of mouth and social media
- Ensure there a range of applicable female role models in clubs/leisure centres, in terms of women staff, coaches, organisers and managers – as well as publicity material.
- Ensure privacy and cleanliness in changing rooms and in facilities
- Encourage sports participation at a family level and get families to be more supportive towards their children's sports participation.
- Interaction with/visits by elite athletes (e.g. Champions in Schools) can be useful in helping to inspire/motivate/educate young people, and give children/young people sporting role models.
- Combine sport with other activities/interests, e.g. some well known sports retailers offer yoga classes/run clubs within their retail outlets. Or conservation work/physical activity
- Lack of women in leadership, coaching, management etc roles from micro to macro, global level that often define the direction and focus of the organizations (e.g. lack of women in executive positions in IOC).
- Clubs are can be viewed as cliquey and not accessible to new members
- Lack of ongoing CPD training for teachers in provision of good quality PE at school
- Lack of equity between sexes of athletes competing in major games
Institutional: Suggestions and Recommendations
- Ensure a gender balance in the numbers of elite athletes participating in major games
- Egalitarian recruitment in organisations at all levels.
- Provide on-going capacity building and skill development for all staff and volunteers (including ongoing CPD for PE teachers).
- Women and Leadership programs (e.g. professional development workshops designed for women by women) can provide an opportunity for women working/volunteering in the sport or active living communities, recreation field or school system to share experiences, ideas, techniques.
- Ensure staff and volunteers are trained in diversity related issues
- Clubs should be inclusive, and advertise their openness to new members, giving taster days and providing mentors – use of new communication channels (e.g. Facebook group or fan page and a Twitter account) shifts the perception of any club to a more dynamic, modern, and open organisation.
- Employers could incentivize employees to do sport. For example through work sports leagues, events and training, as well as facilities provided. Employers could match donations for their employee's charity sports events.
Follow Chrissie on Twitter @chrissiesmiles
© - copyright Chrissie Wellington, Sept 2012