Eliminating and overcoming fear, self-confidence issues and judgement in sport can be difficult. It can deter women and young girls from joining in or taking part in sports and other activities. According to research carried out by Sport England, sports participation in the UK is suffering from a severe gender gap with two million fewer 14-40 year old women than men play sport regularly, despite the fact that 75% of saying they want to be more active.
A national campaign developed by Sport England and funded by the National Lottery, known as This Girl Can, aims to celebrate active women up and down the country who do their own thing at their own rate, own pace and own ability without the feeling of being judged and without any boundaries.
The week from 20th – 26th November saw the celebration of This Girl Can. Supported by the University of Portsmouth’s Student Union who teamed up with the University’s Sport and Recreation department to bring free taster sessions to sport throughout the week, with a target to hit 50,000 minutes of activity during This Girl Can week.
The opening free sessions were to encourage and inspire those to get more involved with sport and other activities, and to also get a taster for a sport for those who may not have had the opportunity to do so before. The University’s support campaign encourages those who do not even have prior experience of playing or participating in certain sports or activities to just simply turn up, even without booking.
By offering free sports sessions, virtual classes, fitness classes and more gave the incentive for all female students and female staff of the university to attend. Some of the sessions included Bodybalance, Bodypump, Zumba, Free Weights, Touch Rugby, Football, Basketball, Rounders, Dodgeball and Netball.The This Girl Can Zumba special was a big attraction with 34 ladies and gentlemen contributing 1,700 minutes towards the University’s Sport and Recreation goal of 50,000 active minutes.
“Sport and physical activity is imperative for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It should not be used as a weapon against those who feel like it is only for those who are at a professional level, or do it almost every day.”
Inside the Student’s Union on Wednesday 22nd, there was an incentive for giving away free sports bottles for just 10 minutes of cycling on the bike machines.The free Netball taster session on the Tuesday evening got in women trying out the sport, with 2,880 minutes contributed of active time and a mixed halls tournament on the Friday evening saw around 35 women and men turning up to join in the fun and games.
Taking part in one of the University’s student groups is also a great way to make new friends, offset studies and enrich the university experience. Sport and physical activity is imperative for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It should not be used as a weapon against those who feel like it is only for those who are at a professional level, or do it almost every day.
Sport is given an automatic competitive edge which is only inevitable. But that is not a reason why those who are nervous about taking part in a sporting activity should be deterred from doing so. Of course it feels good to come first in a race, or throw the furthest, or win the match, but nobody should feel undervalued if that does not always happen.
The results of the campaign speak for themselves. It can be seen that there is a genuine change in consumer behaviour. Women are beginning to feel inspired to make a positive difference to their lives, and as a result, it is thought that 1.6m women have started exercising or are taking part regularly in a sport.
Bringing it back to the university’s level of success, it can be safely said that it has been another very successful This Girl Can week proving that women can do whatever they want and will let nothing stand in their way.