The campaign This Girl Can, having begun in 2015, is continuing to inspire thousands of young girls to pursue sport opportunities and give confidence to those who still have reservations about taking that first step and trying something new.
Evidently, this is the kind of campaign has been wanted for a long time: in the UK, research shows that fewer women than men play sport regularly, a whole two million fewer 14-40 year olds in total. It is no wonder, therefore, that this event by This Girl Can was so well received.
In attendance was British Summer Championships Gold Medalist Katie Matts, who spoke to some of the girls taking part about her life in sport and what can be done to inspire more young women to participate in sporting activity. Asked about the benefits of sport for young girls, Katie told The Mancunion: “Enjoyment! And within sport, there are amazing opportunities to make friends that you otherwise would not have made. And I think that supporting each other can make it so much easier to get started, encouragement is extremely important.”
This sentiment was echoed by those taking part in the session. All of the girls agreed that taking part with others is a big help, particularly when trying a sport for the first time. This makes events like these by This Girl Can all the more important.
For many young women lacking the confidence required to involve themselves in the world of sport, it’s hugely important to create an environment such as this where girls are able to express their passions and feel confident in themselves. This goes someway to unlocking the potential of many, giving long overdue limelight for future stars.
But This Girl Can does much more than this. The campaign tells the story of the ‘real’ girls in sport. The overarching worry of women is that they are not good enough, not fit enough, the wrong size or shape. At Wednesday’s event, there was no such judgments. The campaign does something different to every other campaign preceding it, and excludes absolutely no one.
Such a primary concept of sport, that it exists in order to bring people together, but until now appeared to have been forgotten. One pupil remarked, “I would definitely bring friends with me, to get them involved and stop them being embarrassed”. The mindset of shame is something that This Girl Can endeavours to remove and events such as these are a fantastic benchmark for how girls should be given access to sport.
Throughout the sessions provided by University of Manchester Water Polo, young girls of all abilities were able to take part, some seasoned Water Polo players and others total beginners. The environment faultless, each was encouraged and included in a low pressure atmosphere and in allowing girls of a young age opportunities to take up sports, it is far more likely to invoke a passion which will carry through as they become older.
One may argue the main pressures on girls in sport comes from a perceived judgement which is much more relevant to teenagers, and in persuading girls of 11 or 12 to participate in sport the campaign hopes that this lifestyle will continue with them into adulthood.
Having helped run the event, University of Manchester Water polo can be proud of their contribution to women in sport. As an extremely inclusive club, they fulfilled the role of ideal hosts, giving not only high quality coaching to the girls but confidence and advice. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, with one of the main issues raised in conversation with the schoolchildren being body image. It was clear to see an impact has already been made, with girls stating they would “feel confident enough to admonish anyone making disparaging comments about women in sport”. It is this kind of confidence and belief of women in themselves, that is certainly the missing ingredient for more women pursuing sport.
Overall the campaign of This Girl Can has clearly made excellent strides in bringing women everywhere into the conversation of sport, and their work providing occasions like this one has been greeted with passion by many. The BUCS This Girl Can Week has invoked a new wave of inspiration around women’s sport with options such as Water Polo being a great access point into sport for women who have the desire to try something new.
Having heard the same urge from all those who took part: Have a go! The event can be seen as a tremendous success.