“You can’t be what you can’t see”
Following my conversation with Sophie Luff, Somerset Women’s team cricket captain, I love this quote and what it means to girls growing up wanting to play sport.
We are in a far better position now with women’s sport than we were when I was growing up. There are more matches on TV, it’s more accessible, but there are still barriers to participation.
Sophie played in boys teams growing up and I wasn’t sure how to best ask her about this, because it made me feel a little uncomfortable knowing that there were not ‘all girls’ teams for her to play in. However, Sophie looks back really fondly on those memories and she captained her school team, in which she was the only girl.
However, there were other barriers and she mentioned that parents would sometimes make comments on her playing, that she was only playing because she’s a girl. When actually, she was more than good enough as her career has proven, but more than this it never came from the boys and they just saw her as a member of the team. It reinforces to me how much children learn from their parents and others, whether it is beliefs that girls are not as good as boys at sport or negative perceptions of what PE at school was like for them being passed on.
This takes me then to the “you can’t be what you can’t see”. There are still so many barriers to participation for girls. In my re-cap (link below), I talk about girl-only clubs, or children that are less confident in sport. It isn’t always about performance and schools need to start providing more opportunities for children to take part in sport and be active.
I’ve talked and written many times about my belief that schools should have a broad club offering, catering to all children, not just the ‘sporty’ ones.
Sophie’s hero is Marcus Trescothick and being a Somerset boy myself, this is an amazing choice! However, it did surprise me that it wasn’t a female cricketer that Sophie identified. It says to me that whilst there is absolutely no problem having a male hero if you are a girl or vice versa, there is still is a long way to go and more female athletes need to be ‘seen’ so that more girls can aspire to ‘be’ like their heroes. This doesn’t have to be as a player, but also we need more female coaches, more female pundits, and keep smashing down barriers.