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Getting Women Involved in Sport: Are Community Initiatives the Answer?

We can all make a difference when it comes to mass participation in sport

Helen Grant, Tory MP, has made the following statement: “Get more women into sport through cheerleading – it’s feminine.” Apparently what women want is ‘more feminine sports’ like cheerleading, Zumba and ballet and that they should be offered in leisure centres across the country.

Taken like this, completely out of context, one can understand why this bold statement has created a significant amount of controversy with sexism groups and women around Britain. In reality, however, it would appear that Grant was merely making a suggestion in answer to a question on how she would suggest we encourage girls who have no interest in any sports and are very image focused to get out there and exercise. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

It is no secret that women come in all different shapes and sizes, with radically different interests and personalities to boot. And to paint all of us with the same brush would be a dangerous game. In this case I think that the argument as to whether or not girls who are into sport care about their appearance or not is irrelevant.

Instead, as women in sport, it is up to us to spread the word far and wide about the extensive list of benefits we get from regular exercise which include a host of physical and mental health benefits. It occurred to me today as I watched Grant deal with the backlash of her comments and digested scathing articles in the press about how out of touch with reality the Minister for Sport really is, that our time could perhaps be better spent?

Instead of debating, moaning and talking about solving the world’s problems, we could lead by example and actually take action. The power of community-led, grassroots initiatives can often be overlooked. But imagine every club in Britain committed to just one initiative to encourage the wider population to get involved in their sport, we might just solve the entire problem without the help of a single MP. Now there’s a thought!

One of our favourite examples of a get up and go action plan is offered by Cognation mountain bike trails in South Wales. In a bid to open mountain biking up to a much wider audience, they have teamed up with DANSA Community and Communities first to offer a shuttle from various villages in the Neath Valley to Afan Forest Park, Bike Park Wales and Cwncarn.

It is an idea that is so simple but can prove life changing to a community. I know I sound dramatic, but a bus service like this opens the trails up to an entirely new group of people. Kids for example, do not have to rely on their parents for lifts on the weekends, trail centres are opened up to those without cars and above all, the bus ride offers you the opportunity to chat to other riders.

So what are you waiting for? Get inspired and take action and before you know it Britain will be the most sporty nation in Europe and no doubt a much healthier, happier, more content bunch of people!

For more details on the Cognation initiative click here.


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