Last week, PeacePlayers International (PPI-NI) International Fellow Megan Lynch and Project Coordinator Joanne Fitzpatrick attended the Emerging Leaders in Girls’ Sport Workshop in Coventry, England. In this blog, Joanne shares her time at the event and her experience of engaging girls in sport in Northern Ireland.
After Megan and I made our way across the Irish Sea to Coventry, we were very excited to meet the staff from WomenWin and Us Girls, the hosts of the Emerging Leaders in Girl’s Sport workshop. We were given a brief introduction to both organizations and the work that they do. Both organizations, in different ways, engage girls and young women from disadvantaged areas by using sport.
We were privileged enough to meet two female Olympic athletes: three-time-taekwondo-world champion, Sarah Stevenson and Olympic gold medal boxer, Nicola Adams. We also met the first female soccer commentator in the UK, Jacqui Oatley. Each guest gave their experience as females in sport and troubles they faced growing up in a male-orientated sporting world. As a group we then discussed the troubles that each organization faces in recruiting girls into their programmes, particularly in the 14-17 year old age range. The main area of concern was the stereotypes and prejudices that girls face when joining a sport. ‘Will I be judged by my friends?’ ‘Is it cool to play sport?’ This is something that all female athletes and coaches can help to tackle.
Like some of the other organizations represented, we use sport here at PPI-NI to bridge divides, develop leaders, and change perceptions. There is no end to the perceptions we have the capability of changing. Here’s one: it IS cool for girls to play sports!
Check out this video to see how our senior girls (ages 14-17) from the cross-community league made it look easy.