Back to Netball – after 30 years. (Part 5)

So here it is, a little late, I know, but I’ve been covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup for Women’s Sports UK and haven’t had a minute!

The World Cup group games have now finished and the semi-finals start tomorrow, so this is my fleeting window of opportunity to tell you about our latest fab session of netball.

Low numbers this week so, in effect, we had to work twice as hard! Prepare yourselves for some pretty out-there diagrams as I try to describe what we did.

Warm-ups as usual and then running round the court bouncing the ball basketball style I must admit I found this quite difficult – I can run or I can bounce, but I can’t do both at the same time. I’m ok on passing while running which we do as part of the warm-up, but bouncing not so much.

Anyway, I was quite relieved when this finished and we were on to the “proper” drills.

I love the way Val builds up a drill. So, first you only have to remember one component, then she adds in another and another until by the end your mind is awash with things to remember and you’re concentrating so hard you feel you might explode.

I know women are supposed to be good at multitasking, and generally I am, but doing this I did find I kept missing one or other of the components. It didn’t help that couldn’t remember which way I was supposed to me running! Let me show you what I mean:

Drill1

Classic. A diagram like so much spaghetti. See what I mean now?

Actually we started by running with the ball rather than passing it straight away – an alien concept in netball which felt really weird to do.

Drill 2: Same running to catch the ball but standing still and passing and remembering to turn your hips to face the person you’re passing to.

Drill 3: same + hips + jump to catch the ball – so footwork again, knowing which foot you’ve landed on and turning to face the person, and passing.

Drill 4: Same + hips + jump + step forward on correct foot and push the ball out in a pass.

And finally, my nemesis

Drill 5: same + hips + jump + step forward + (and this is the killer) when you run you have to stick your hand out to signal where you want the ball, as if you’re hailing a taxi. Several times I reached my catching point, but no ball was forthcoming as I had not signalled for the ball and we were under orders not to pass until we had received the signal.

Wow! Just ever so slightly bushed after all that, but we all got it right in the end.

Next we went on to some team of two work:

Drill2

Good fun this, except for the fact that I’m allergic to shooting (I may have mentioned this already). So on reaching the end I passed to my partner, Ruth. Unfortunately she passed it back to me. First pair to five wins. Four-all and it’s our go to see if we can take the game. Now Ruth is a much better shooter than I am but it’s my turn to shoot when we get down the end. I would like to pass it to her, but I’m told by Val that I have to shoot. I immediately apologise to Ruth as I know I’m going to miss. And what happens???

I miss, that’s what.

The game is lost and it’s my fault. Ruth is unperturbed but my competitive streak causes me grief. I try to swallow the hurt the best I can and move on…..

Warm down and time for a group chat.

Val is pleased with the progress we’ve made over the last weeks, but the next session is due to be the last of the programme. Boo.

So what happens next? At the time of writing I’m not sure. We discuss it and agree that we’d like to carry on. We wouldn’t have a coach, but Val would leave us copies of the drills and we could carry on on our own. Val brought the equipment – balls and bibs – with her, so that would be another consideration, as would the hire of the hall.

We’d love to keep going, but you’ll have to wait until the next instalment to find out what is decided!!

Obviously, if we are going to carry on we would like to invite new members. If you are in the vicinity – Market Harborough, Fleckney, surrounding villages, dare I say it – over the Northants border – and you’d be interested in playing, please get in touch. We’re a friendly bunch. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do love a good game. You can contact me through this blog. At the moment we meet on Fridays 6.30-7.30pm at Fleckney Sports Centre.

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Back to netball – after 30 years (part 1)

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Thanks to the Just project, run by Harborough District Council, I have been given the chance to play netball for the first time in 30 years.

As a sports journalist, I’m always writing about the national and global stuff and rarely have the chance to make a difference locally. So I decided I wanted to do just that and approached my local council for advice and to offer my services – although I didn’t know in what capacity.

This was at the end of November. I met with SDOs Emma and Hollie and was glad to learn that in the New Year they were launching a new scheme aimed at girls 14+ and women and designed to get them into sport. Sounded just up my street.

My first idea was to sample each sport and blog about it – I said I would promote the scheme to as many people as I could. Unfortunately, the foot surgery (if you haven’t heard about this, read about it here) meant that some of the sports were out.

So I decided instead to concentrate on one sport and put my all into it. I had played netball for school – yes, I was the shortest goalkeeper in the history of goalkeepers – so netball it was.

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The date was set. Tuesday 19th January. It had just turned ridiculously cold and the snow from the weekend was still lurking around the edges of everything. Not to worry, I thought, nice warm sports hall, no bother. I found out the day before I was due to play that it was outside! OUTSIDE? But once I’ve decided to do something, I generally go through with it, so with woolly tights under the trackies and many, many top layers, I set out to Fleckney sports centre.

Unfortunately, everyone else obviously didn’t have “mug” tattooed across their foreheads and the instructor, Val, and I were the only ones who turned up. Val was not chuffed, unsurprisingly, but more displeased that we were due to play outside anyway! We discussed it with the lady who was looking after the sports centre and she outlined some times when the hall was free. At that point we gave up and Val went away to negotiate a change of day and time (and venue) with Emma.

I went home, all dressed up and nowhere to go…….

Don’t worry folks, it gets better. Tune in to part two of “Back to netball – after 30 years”, coming soon.

Women’s Sports Column

8-15 January

So much going on!  Plenty of news this week from cricket, football, rugby union, darts, skiing, motor racing and tennis.  Phew!

But first, it’s a year since the launch of the This Girl Can campaign.  Figures released this week show that 1.6m girls and women between 14 and 40 have started exercise as a result of the initiative.  More than half a million follow the campaign on social media.  And though it’s not for me to advertise retailers, I must add that there is a great new range of sports clothing featuring the This Girl Can slogan now available at Marks and Spencer.  This is the second selection – the first having sold out in no time flat!

If you haven’t bought into it yet, I would encourage you to do so – whatever age, size or shape you are there is something out there that you can enjoy and even excel at.  Check it out.

In cricket, the ECB yesterday announced the six “hosts” (we’re still not using the word “franchises”) who have won four-year contracts for the new Women’s Cricket Super League, which begins this summer.

They are:

Hampshire Cricket with partners: Berkshire Cricket Ltd, Dorset Cricket Board, Isle of Wight Cricket Board, Oxfordshire Cricket, Southampton Solent University, Sussex Cricket, Wiltshire Cricket

Lancashire County Cricket Board with partners: Lancashire County Cricket Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club Foundation

Loughborough University

South West: Somerset County Cricket Club, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, University of Exeter

Surrey County Cricket Club

Yorkshire County Cricket Club

The most surprising omission from the list is the combined MCC/Middlesex bid which did not get through.  At the moment there are no more details, but follow this column and details will be added as soon as they have been released.

WBBL is reaching its climax in Australia.  Numbers of games played has evened out somewhat and top of the pile at the moment is Sydney Thunder with eight wins from 12 games – 16 points.  Second comes Hobart Hurricanes on 14 points from the same number of games and third, behind on net run rate only, the Melbourne Stars.  The other Melbourne side, the Renegades is rock bottom on six points from 11 matches.

In international football, a new tournament was announced this week – the SheBelieves Cup It will take place in March in America and will be between the hosts, England, Germany and France.  England will play USA on 4 March, Germany on 6 March and France on 10 March.  No news yet as to radio or TV coverage.

Coach, Mark Sampson is keen to take part:

“The opportunity to compete against the three best teams in the world is a crucial step in providing more opportunities for the team to develop.

“Women’s soccer in the USA is on a real high since their World Cup success and we are excited to feel that sense of enthusiasm for the game in some wonderful football stadiums.

“We are thankful to the USA for their work in setting up the event which I am sure in years to come will grow into a stand-out tournament in the women’s football calendar.”

More good news for England this week as Mark Sampson signed an extended contract which will keep him as coach until 2019.

In more international news, the Ballon d’Or awards were held this week.   Unsurprisingly, USA national team coach, Jill Ellis was named 2015 FIFA Coach of the Year for Women’s Football.  Norio Sasaki (Japan) was second Mark Sampson (England), third.

The FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year was USA’s Carli Lloyd.  She scored a 13-minute hat-trick in the World Cup Final of 2015 against Japan.  Runners-up were Celia Sasic (Germany) and Aya Miyama (Japan).

 In domestic news, Millie Farrow and Jodie Brett have joined Bristol City from Chelsea on a season-long loan.

 And finally, as regards football, the FA have named Baroness Sue Campbell as the new Head of

Women’s Football.  Baroness Campbell was head of UK Sport from 2003-2013.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of participation and development, called Baroness Campbell “one of the most influential people in British sport”.

Campbell’s priorities will be the encouragement of grassroots women’s football and the continued improvement of the England women’s teams.

The rugby Premiership final will be between reigning champions, Saracens, and Richmond.

There were contrasting semi-finals last weekend as Saracens had to fight hard to beat a tough Lichfield side 19-12 at Allianz Park.  The second semi-final saw Richmond take Worcester apart with a 35-0 win.

 The final, at the Twickenham Stoop, will be live on Sky Sports 5 on Sunday 17 January.  The programme begins at 17.25 and the game begins at 17.30.

 At the other end of the table, the relegation decider will be between Wasps and Aylesford.  This also takes place this weekend.

 Results and news in next week’s column.

Trina Gulliver duly triumphed in the BDO darts final last Saturday, to take her 10th title.  In an all-English final, she beat Deta Hedman 3-2.  It was yet another disappointment for Hedman, who lost her third Lakeside final.

It’s good to report on a bit of skiing and Lindsey Vonn is always worth a few words.  Vonn claimed her second win in two days this week at the Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Austria, when she won in the super-G.

 She had already won the downhill on Saturday, which equalled Annemarie Moser-Proll’s record of 36 World Cup downhill wins.

 Vonn is still some way short of the overall World Cup wins record, which belongs to Ingemar Stenmark with 86.  Vonn stands on 73.

Only two months after retiring from driving in Formula 1, Susie Wolff this week unveiled her new initiative to get more women into motorsport.

The new scheme, called Dare to be Different, aims to encourage women in motorsport but also to increase their confidence and knowledge in other areas, including the media, nutrition, fitness and diet.

According to Wolff it is not necessarily about finding the next female F1 driver, but to

“build an online community of women from all over the world.

“It will connect them through a shared passion and empower them to become the next wave of role models, while also providing access to some of the most successful female names in the sport.”

The women involved will also mentor each other and one outstanding candidate will earn a scholarship in karting.

 After Wolff’s somewhat discouraging experiences in this most male-dominated sport, it is good to see that she thinks progress can be made and even better that she thinks she is the one to take the lead.

The draw for the Australian Tennis Open has been made.  There are two British women in the draw with Johanna Konta up against it having drawn eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round.  Heather Watson will be more evenly matched as she comes up against Timea Babos of Hungary.  Watson is currently 53 in the world with Babos at 59.

Naomi Broady will not be in the draw, after having such a good run in Auckland a fortnight ago.  She was knocked out in the first round of qualifying, losing 6-3 2-6 6-3 to world number 166 Alize Lim.  According to ranking it was a match Broady, at 112 in the world, should have won.

And finally, at the risk of this beginning to turn into some sort of That’s Life misshaped carrot slot, I couldn’t resist this.  Is it an elaborate spoof?  I would like to think so, but I fear not.  Hilarity and outrage in equal measure (although I think outrage just about wins out….)

ladyball

The Ladyball. Yes, the Ladyball – see illustration above.  With tag lines like “Don’t break a nail, break boundaries” and “Play like the lady you are”, this Irish product is the most extraordinarily offensive thing I have seen in a while.  It is pink (of course), soft and smaller than the usual football and therefore “specially designed for the lady’s game”. It’s also advertised by scantily-clad “ladies” in 5-inch heels.  Not sure any sort of ball would be suitable for playing in them.  I’m still hoping someone will inform me that it’s a wind-up……

Women’s Sports Column

carney19 -31 December

In this last column of 2015, there are stories from cricket, football and horse racing, as well as a look at who got what in the New Year Honours.

In Australia, the inaugural WBBL is proving to be a big success. The early leaders are Heather Knight’s Hobart Hurricanes, with Brisbane Heat, who include Kate Cross and Lauren Winfield in their line-up, in second with the same points, but having played three games more.  There is still some way to go though, with the final on 24 January.  More updates in the next column.

The Women’s Super League is currently awash with transfers, the two biggest so far being goalkeeper Marie Hourihan’s move from Chelsea to Manchester City and a shock move for Karen Carney from Birmingham City to Chelsea.

The writing was perhaps on the wall for Hourihan who had seen the Swede, Hedvig Lindahl make the goalkeeping position for Chelsea her own last season.  She will still essentially be number two at City and will have to prove her mettle to oust England’s Karen Bardsley.

Karen Carney has agreed a two-year deal with the English champions.  Chelsea is a team rich with talent and will be keen to repeat their league and cup double in 2016.  Carney is undoubtedly an asset and manager Emma Hayes is obviously pleased to have made the signing.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“Karen was a major target and a genuine world-class addition to the squad,

“She is a student of the game and brings additional leadership to our squad.

“I see Karen complementing the talent we already possess in the final third. All our attacking players will benefit hugely from her vision and passing.”

In a somewhat bizarre and more disturbing story from Italy, top women’s five-a-side team, Sporting Locri, based in Reggio Calabria in the Italian South, is considering disbanding after receiving a number of mafia-style threats.

Both the president and vice president of the club have received threats telling them to close the club or face the consequences.  The president, Ferdinando Armeni, has had his tyres slashed and threats made towards his three-year-old child.

The ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate is thought to be behind the threats.  At this moment club officials are still considering what course to take.

More history was made for female jockeys this week as 22-year-old Lizzie Kelly became the first woman to win a Grade One race over jumps in Britain.

She, and her mount, Tea for Two, won the Kauto Star Novice Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

After the race she told reporters: “It’s massive for me as a jockey to be able to say that I’ve won a Grade One. There’s always people with stories where they nearly achieve something, but I’ve done it, and we’ve done it as a family which means a hell of a lot more. It’s important for people to be able to see that we can do it. We [female jockeys] are getting somewhere, people are becoming more accepting of it.”

It has been a landmark year for female jockeys all round.  Michelle Payne became the first winner of the Melbourne Cup in November, making the headlines with her post-race interview,

“It’s such a chauvinistic sport, a lot of the owners wanted to kick me off. Everyone else can get stuffed [who] think women aren’t good enough.”

Katie Walsh won the Irish Grand National in April and in August Ascot saw the all-female team comprising Hayley Turner, Sammy Jo Bell and Emma-Jayne Wilson won the Shergar Cup against all-male opposition.

And finally, you can tell if it has been a big year for women in sport when you see who has received an award in the New Year Honours.  So here we go:

Heather Rabbatts has been made a Dame for her service to football and equality.

A CBE goes to Annamarie Phelps, chair of British Rowing for services to her sport.

OBEs have been awarded to Sue Barker (moving up from an MBE), Catherine Sabin, for services to Tennis, and Chrissie Wellington for services to sport and charity.

The sporting MBEs go to Yvonne Anderson, for services to the Special Olympics, Janice Eaglesham for services to disability sport, Heather Galbraith, for services to equestrianism; Pamela Gallant, for services to people with special needs; England football captain, Stephanie Houghton, for services to football; Gaynor Jones, for service to golf and the development of women’s golf in Wales; Dianne McMillan, for services to swimming and disability awareness; Tracey Neville, for services to netball; Jacqui Oatley, for services to broadcasting and diversity in sport; Anne Whitworth, for services to hockey in the north-east and Fara Williams, for services to women’s football and charity.

Happy New Year to everyone and let’s all look forward to a 2016 filled with fabulous women’s sport!

 

 

Into (sporting) battle in 2016!

UN

I’m not given to military metaphor, but in this case it’s forgivable as this is what we advocates of women’s sport have to do in 2016.

We’ve come so far this year, but I’m sick of saying “….will be the year we finally break through into the mainstream” and then it doesn’t happen.

This year I have profiled (and met) so many brilliant individuals, organisations, media platforms and crusaders getting the women’s sports word out there, but we need more.

We need to get across two vital things:

WOMEN: it’s ok (in fact it’s brilliant) to play, officiate, coach, administrate, run and write about ANY sport you want

WOMEN: it’s ok (in fact it’s brilliant) to watch on TV (if you’re lucky), read about or support in person any women’s sport you want.

And until we get those two messages across we will not achieve even a modicum of equality.

Unfortunately there is no doubt we still face discrimination, derision, even downright hostility to our aims and the vicious circle is still with us:

diagram

But we CAN break into this circle. Every day individuals and organisations are trying their hearts out to do this.

I Know I would say this, being a journalist, but I still think that the media is the key, There are so many fantastic platforms for women’s sport out there – see my earlier article for details. But, in a sense, this is ghettoising women’s sport. You can get the news and results, fixtures etc., that you want, but you have specifically to go to women’s sports platforms to do it.

Things won’t change in the populace at large until women’s sport gets far more mainstream coverage. And this, I feel, is how we have to break the vicious circle.

Hold our mainstream media to account.

Women’s sports journalists – pitch, pitch and pitch again.

Once we begin to gain the coverage we deserve, everything else will come. In these straitened times we cannot rely on the foresight of companies such as SSE (sponsoring the women’s FA cup) or Helena Morrissey/Newton (sponsoring the Boat Race); we have to go out and get it.

It’s infuriating that again and again we have to prove the worth of our “product”. But we do. And the good thing is, we can.

So, let’s do it. Let’s get together and show the man and woman on the street that we mean business, because I can’t keep saying “20… was the year we nearly made it”.

If you’re interested in discussing how we can go forward together please get in touch. I would be happy to hear from anyone passionate about or involved in any sport.

This is, honestly, my last rant for 2015.   Wishing my readers and followers a Happy Christmas. Bring on 2016 – I’m up for the fight, are you?

The Women’s Sports Column

rugby ball

12-18 December

This week’s stories come from tennis, cricket, badminton, cycling, rugby union and speed skating

But first!  It’s official – women are at the forefront of sports participation!  Sport England began their Active People survey in 2005/06 and in this time the number of people playing sport over a period of 12 months rose by 1.65 million to 15.74 million.  And the number of women playing sport is increasing faster than men.

7.01 million women aged 16 years or over played sport once a week this year, an increase of 703,800 since 2005/06.  The biggest winner seems to be running and athletics in general (must help that there are plenty of good role models).

The increase has also been partly put down to the success of the This Girl Can campaign.  This is good news for everyone who put so much effort into making this campaign so visible, widespread and popular.

Plenty of news from the women’s tennis world this week – not that you’d know it from the mainstream press.  British number two, Heather Watson has split with her coach of two years, Diego Veronelli.   Veronelli cited his inability to commit to the up to 40 weeks of travelling per year as the reason for the split.  He has returned to Buenos Aires to be with his young family.

Andy Murray will be employing Amélie Mauresmo as his number one coach again in 2016.  Mauresmo took leave to give birth to her first child this year and Jonas Bjorkman stepped in to fill the vacancy.  But Murray has decided that he wants Mauresmo back on his team in the New Year.  It is thought that she will be principal coach, working 22-24 weeks during the year, but Murray is still looking for an assistant.

Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 this week.  She is only the third individual woman (i.e., not on a team) to be given the honour since its inception in 1954 and the first since Mary Decker in 1983.

Needless to say, the award has not gone without comment and controversy.  Firstly, apparently many were dismayed that a racehorse (!) American Pharaoh didn’t win the coveted title.

Brian Zipse, editor of Horse Racing Nation tweeted, “Very disappointed to see Sports Illustrated editors ignored the fans vote, and chose Serena Williams over American Pharaoh”.

But Serena fans have fought back.  One tweeted:

 “My bad. Since when did the definition of a ‘person’ constitute having four legs and cannot talk? #Serena.”

If that wasn’t enough, there was then controversy over the image of Williams enthroned on the front cover of Sports Illustrated.  Debate raged as to whether she had been airbrushed (particularly around her muscular thighs).  Both the magazine and Williams herself have denied it, but doubts remain.  Williams won 53 of her 56 matches this year and was world number one throughout.

She has been incredible all year, just failing to complete a calendar Grand Slam when she suffered a shock loss in the semi-final of the US Open to Roberta Vinci in September.  It’s an award long overdue and the very fact that a woman has won and appears in something other than the swimsuit issue is something to celebrate.

The ECB has announced that 19 players have been awarded central contracts for the 2016-17 season.  The only new name is Middlesex batter Fran Wilson, who has stepped up from the performance squad, where she has been impressive for the last 18 months.

2016 will be a busy year with overseas tours to South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka, as well as the World Twenty20 in India and a home series against Pakistan.

Gabby and Chris Adcock have become the first British badminton players to win a title at the World Superseries finals.   They beat third seeds Ko Sung-hyun and Kim Ha –na from South Korea, 21-14, 21-17 in Dubai.

This was their first win over the South Koreans in four attempts.

Chris Adcock said “The Koreans have been superb all year. We really wanted to try and put right what we didn’t do against them in the past so to come through with the win is amazing.”

Emma Pooley has announced that she is to return to cycling in order to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Pooley, 33, who retired in 2014, is aiming to be picked for the time trial. She may also support Lizzie Armistead in the road race.   Pooley recognises her selection is not a given.  Cycling is a sport in which Britain currently excels and with an abundance of talent, the competition will be fierce:

“If I can prove to both myself and the GB team selectors that I have the capacity to win the time trial in Rio, I’ll compete for selection for the Olympic team – I’m happy knowing I won’t get selected unless I really do have the potential to win.”

The RFU has announced that there will be two sets of play-offs in the Women’s Rugby Premiership at the end of the season.  Keep your wits about you as this is explained!

There will be one to decide the title, as is the case in the Aviva Premiership, but there will also be one to decide who is relegated.  Fifth plays eighth and sixth plays seventh.  The winners from the two ties will compete for a shield for the bottom half of the table (!).

The losers will play each other and the loser of this will play the Championship (second tier) winner to see who will finally be in the Premiership next year.  If you haven’t lost the will to live after reading that, the sports column will ensure that the results are brought to you in January.

And finally, British speed skater, Charlotte Gilmartin won 1500m bronze at the short track World Cup in Shanghai this week.  This was her first medal on the World Cup circuit in her first World Cup A final.

No column next week (Happy Christmas to one and all), but hoping to be back the week following.

The Women’s Sports Column

5-11 December

This week sees stories from rugby union, tennis, swimming, judo, hockey and cricket.

There was a first for Varsity rugby this week. The annual women’s Oxford v Cambridge match took place at Twickenham for the first time, in its 29th year.

Cambridge Women’s RUFC President and tight head prop, Katie Holmes said,

‘This decision puts us on a par with the men’s match and, more importantly, forges stronger links between the two sections at both Clubs. This is a hugely historic step for the game of rugby at Oxford and Cambridge.’

It kicked off before the men’s match, but in the end it was not much of a contest with Cambridge running out 52-0 winners, with Alice Middleton and Anna Wilson amongst the scorers with three tries each.

A 23-year old rugby player has died this week after suffering a head injury druing a game. Lily Partridge had previously suffered “a couple” of concussions, said her club, Exonian Ladies. She had, however, taken the required month off before returning to the game, and had been cleared to play by doctors. Lily collapsed on the pitch on Sunday 6 December and life support was switched off on Monday. The RFU is investigating.

Johanna Konta has ended her excellent 2015 as British Number One. She takes over from Heather Watson, who has had an up and down year with periods of injury and loss of form. Konta made a real breakthrough this year when she got to the last 16 of the US Open as a qualifier. After her defeat to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon she went on a streak of winning 20 out of 21 matches, which has taken her to 48 in the world.

Also in tennis, Laura Robson has decided against taking up her protected ranking entry into the Australian Open in January. Since being out for 17 months with a wrist injury she has only participated in eight tournaments and has slipped to 555 in the world. She can only use her protected ranking to enter one more Grand Slam and it is thought she may use it instead for the French Open at the end of May.

Jazz Carlin bagged two golds at the European Short Course Championships in Israel this week. Her first victory was in the 800m freestyle and the second an amazing win over Katinka Hosszu from Hungary in the 400m freestyle. The winning margin was just 0.03 seconds.

Olympic judo silver medallist Gemma Gibbons achieved another one of her goals this week when she became the first British woman to win a medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam. She won a bronze in the     -78kg contest, beating Japanese fighter Ruika Sato by a waza-ari in the last minute of the bout.

Great Britain’s women have gone out at the quarter-final stage of the World Hockey League Finals in Argentina. They lost 2-1 to New Zealand in a tight game. New Zealand had most of the pressure, but it wasn’t until the second quarter that they took the lead through Anita Punt.

GB must have thought they had earned a penalty shoot-out when Helen Richardson-Walsh equalised with a penalty stroke with only six minutes to go.

However, it was not to be when with just 68 seconds on the clock Olivia Merry put the ball past goalkeeper Maddie Hinch to take the game. Hinch seemed to gesture that she lost the ball in the sun.

The team has still had an impressive year. They have now secured their place at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and, of course, won gold at the European Championships in London in August.

In cricket, the draw for the groups and the of the World Twenty20 2016 has finally been made.

  • Group A – Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland
  • Group B – England, West Indies, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The final will be at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in a double-header with the men’s on 3 April. There has been a big hike in prize money for the women going up 122% to $400,000 (£264,000). There is still a way to go to match the men’s prize money though, which stands at $5.6m (£3.7m). The women’s tournament begins on 15 March 2016.

And finally, Clare Connor, once quite outspoken, but since becoming Head of Women’s Cricket at the ECB has retreated back into the establishment, got her groove back this week when she tweeted:

clare

Women’s Sport: there’s no time for back slapping – get beyond the bubble

free kick 4

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit bah humbug during this festive period, but I am not happy.

It’s awards time, nostalgia time, time for looking back at 2015 for the great progress made in women’s sport: more television coverage than ever before, more radio coverage than ever before, FA Cup at Wembley, Varsity Boat Race, Lionesses, EA Sports FIFA 2016 featuring women’s national teams,  and generally more recognition of women’s achievements in sport, etc, etc.

One of my favourite memories of the year is attending the FA Cup Final at Wembley and seeing numerous big beefy male Chelsea supporters cheering their female team onto the pitch – it actually brought a proud tear to my eye.

Several great campaigns started this year: This Girl Can, Cover the Athlete, What if…? and Women’s Sports Week.

But I fear we are bound, once more, to be looking back through rose-tinted spectacles.

This has also been the year when Mike Selvey, amongst others, seriously asked whether women should be playing test match cricket at all.  As I put it in my article for WSUK, when my indignation was at its peak,

“Women aren’t suited to the longer game, apparently.  They should give it up and stick to what they’re good at (I wasn’t sure if bed and kitchen had been edited out of the end of this theory, but let’s not be too cynical). “

It has been the year when Susie Wolff has had to give up her formula 1 dream, because

“There was very little opportunity to carry on in Formula 1.  My goal was to get on to the starting grid and that didn’t look achievable. So I had to call it a day.”

It has also been the year when Eva Carneiro was sacked by Chelsea after Jose Mourinho castigated her for going on the pitch to do her job.

And the year when Eugenie Bouchard was asked by an on-court interviewer at the Australian Open Tennis to “Give us a twirl”.

We are also back to a situation where gender testing hit the headlines again, including the new and worrying “normalisation” of female genitalia.  Women are being operated on so that they conform to someone’s idea of what genitalia should look like.  It’s as if all the campaigning going on around the evils of FGM are lost as it seems to be sanctioned in the name of sport.

And last but not least, the print media are still lagging way behind in covering women’s sport, even though most have been promising faithfully to improve and extend their coverage.

Progress has indubitably been made, but I still maintain that I, and most of the people I know in the business of women’s sport, exist in a “bubble” – a bubble that prevents them from seeing that outside it perceptions are moving at a glacial rate.

So – the bubble.  How do we get beyond it?

One way is to keep checking on the “mainstream” outlets.  Keep in touch with @WomenSportPress, who will tell us just how much (or little) coverage women’s sport is receiving.  But check it out yourselves – do a count of how much news actually gets reported and how it’s reported.  Look at the comments sections.  Report sexist and misogynistic comment.  How much women’s sport is featured in online news outlets?  Where does it come on the page?  What is the attitude?

But of course, it’s not just in the media and at elite level.  Keep an eye on your local sports facilities and local councils.  What are they offering for girls and women?  Could they do better?  How is it offered?  At what times of the day?  Do they assume all women must be stay-at-home mums so their classes are all during the day?  Do they have initiatives to get girls and women involved in sport?

And it’s everything in between!  We want women’s sport to be viewed as “normal”, as “mainstream”.  We want coverage to be second nature to all media.  We want girls to grow up thinking that doing sport is natural and fun.  I don’t actually want to write a weekly women’s sports column, because it should just be part of what everyone does, but until it is I’ll keep writing, so that women’s sport gets the attention it deserves.

So while we’re all patting each other on the back and saying what a good job we’re doing, giving out awards for this and that, we should still be looking at the even bigger picture.  You only need to look at the comments section of any online article about women’s sport to see the banal barrage of sexist, belittling and sometimes misogynistic responses.  And if anyone mentions the word “banter” to me, I’ll scream – because it’s not.

By all means let’s congratulate ourselves on the progress, but let’s also get beyond the bubble, because if we don’t we will inevitably end up failing in our mission to make women’s sport a part of everyone’s life.

Prepare for my new Women’s Sports Column

261220082485PAPERSI know I keep banging on about it, but it doesn’t make it any less true – there is not enough coverage of women’s sports in the media.  Just 7% of all media coverage is devoted to women’s sport.  I am always trying to help to redress the balance!

To this end I have decided to compile a weekly women’s sports column as part of my blog.  It will be news-based, rather than results-based, but it should give a presence to some of the stories that matter, all in one place.  If you want a results service you can’t do better than WSUK.

There are so few dedicated women’s sports columns – there are some fabulous female sportswriters out there, but they tend to be feature writers.

So, take a look at my column every week and you may find there’s more going on than you thought!

 

 

 

Women’s Sports organisations and media – read them, watch them, follow them, use them.

Part 1

Can’t tell your WSUK from your WiSP?

There’s a whole lot of people and organisations out there trying to promote women’s sport.  However, I am well aware that the acronyms can be confusing.  So, here’s my guide just some of the best (in my opinion).

The list will reflect my interests and I know there are a lot more out there that I don’t subscribe to, so feel free to add your own favourites in a comment.

There are, in fact, so many that I’m going try to group them in a way that makes it easier to get to grips with.  Firstly I’m going to tackle the most important group – the organisations and campaigns trying to get women and girls active and helping women develop their careers in sport.

For everything generally about the business of getting women active and promoting women’s sport, the first port of call has to be Women in Sport (WiS) (formerly Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation WSFF).  It is a charity that is “Transforming sport for every woman and girl in the UK”.  It promotes community and grassroots opportunities for women and girls to take part in whatever sport they want to.  It’s helping to break down barriers to participation and is at the forefront of helping women pursue a career in sport, be it playing, coaching, administrating, officiating, being in sports media or on a sports board.

If you are involved in any aspect of sport and you want to connect with like-minded people, you can join the Women’s Sport Network.  This is run by WiS and is great for networking, events and support.  They also run a peer-mentoring scheme in association with Women Ahead.  Membership is limited and opportunities to become a member only happen at certain times of the year.  As it happens, membership is now open until the end of September 2015 so have a look what’s on offer.

WiS was instrumental in the initiating the first Women’s Sport Week this year and is constantly publishing guidelines and research into women’s opportunities for sport.  Their latest, published in September 2015, is aimed at Helping Sport to become What Women Want.

If you’ve heard of any campaign surrounding women’s sport, chances are it will be This Girl Can.  Developed by Sport England and partners, it is a celebration of women taking part in sport and being active at every level.  It has been promoted in bus shelter posters and even TV adverts.  It has become incredibly popular as it shows real women doing their thing with tag lines such as “Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox!”  It is also gaining wider recognition as I think every time I’ve listened to former Australian cricketer, Mel Jones, on TMS or Sky, she seems to have mentioned it!  If ever you need inspiration to take up a sport or just to get moving, check it out

The Women’s Sport Trust is a charity which “raises the visibility and increases the impact of women’s sport.”  They look to promote role models, look to influence women’s sports coverage in the media through making partnerships and also are looking to change the way women’s sport is funded.  They have some sports grants available.

The Trust has also has just launched its own news website, The Mixed Zone.  It is a combination of articles by athletes and journalists discussing the top issues in women’s sport.

If coaching is your career of choice, there is one organisation/site you shouldn’t miss.  The Female Coaching Network is , in its own words, “The world’s only international multi-sport online community for female sports coaches.”  It includes news, blogs, interviews and a members’ forum.  You can check out other women’s experiences of how they got into coaching and their tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid.  It is an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of taking up coaching, be it in a paid capacity or as a volunteer.

In addition to this the County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) have advice in abundance for the budding coach.  One particularly good site is the Women’s Coaching Network, which is part of the West of England Sports Trust.  Although their information is based around Bristol, Bath, Somerset and some of Gloucestershire, there is a lot of stuff on there which will be useful to anyone.

The other biggie is the Women’s Sports Network (WSNet), not to be confused with the membership group of WiS – told you it was confusing

This incredible organisation, entirely volunteer-run is a “not for profit community promoting issues/opportunities around WomenSport and SportsWomen.”

It has four main strands:

  • @ACTIVEMapX – locations for women to find a class or activity near them
  • SPORTSReports – @Twing_IT – dedicated women’s sports reporting channel
  • HerJOBSnet – jobs for women looking to get into sport-related posts
  • Lobbying and empowerment generally through digital media.

You really should check it out – it’s amazing!  The breadth of coverage, the knowledge and its campaigning are beyond compare.  I could have put it in my media organisations list too – in fact I still may, as it bears repeating.

Finally, I’m going to mention one sport-specific organisation and that is Women in Football (WIF).  I know there must be others for other sports, but this one is the biggest and best known.  It is a network of professional women who work in football and aim to promote football (playing, officiating, administrating etc) to girls and women.  A lot of their role is to lobby government, media and other sports organisations for better opportunities for women and girls who want to get into football.  The website also includes a form to fill in to report sexist incidents in football.

I think that’s probably enough to be going on with!  In my next blog post I’ll get to grips with the people promoting women’s sport in the media (including me).  There are more out there than you think.