As many of you know, as well as being passionate about young people doing sport, I am particularly passionate about girls enjoying sport. I have been involved with an organisation recently called Women Ahead, they are working on a project to increase positive perceptions of girls and women in sport and raise the participation level. The current statistics in the UK don't make great reading – fewer girls play sport, more girls drop out of sport in their teens, there are fewer opportunities for girls to be involved in sport at every level.
As a parent what can you do? Well, the obvious thing is to get involved in sport or at least activity to set a good example to your daughter and sew the seed in their mind that sport is for everyone – not just the 'sporty' girls. But what if you genuinely don't enjoy running, or tennis, or netball, or swimming? What if doing the housework and doing the garden is more your sort of activity? Well how about getting involved in sport in a different way? How about volunteering and helping to organise at your local club?
And it's here that I want to introduce nine year old Ellis and five year old Heidi. Ellis and Heidi like to run, and during term time they try to do a Parkrun each weekend. Ellis is up to 5km, which at her age is really something to be applauded, and Heidi does the Junior Park Run over 2km. Mum, Jane is part of the core organising team for Junior Park Run Cheltenham and last week they had 195 children running, half of them were aged 4 – 6 years. As Jane says, Heidi would find pacing 2km difficult on her own, so she runs with her Dad, Jon.
The whole family are involved, getting fit, having fun, learning a sport and being part of their community. What a wonderful thing to do for your girls, whether Heidi and Ellis continue to run or not, the seed has been sewn that sport is for them, and their parents, and their community and it is FUN!
Since writing this post in 2017, Ellis and Heidi have continued to run, and faster than ever. And Jane is now a total convert and runs 3 or 4 times a week – sport is bringing the whole family together and they have sailed through multiple lockdowns with their trainers on and the wind in their hair.