Opening The Local Sportfields To The Everywoman
I recently penned an article on ‘On Ribbons and Footies’, which reflected on my 8 year old daughter’s first season playing under 10 girls AFL and its role in changing my thinking on gender and sport. We have all heard the benefits of playing a team sport, not only in the physical and psychological benefits but also in future careers, the life lessons and leadership skills that it teaches.
My optimism around womens and girls sport has been a light in the dark over the past year, we have seen such a positive explosion at a time when many of us have felt dismay at the state of gender equality. Not only do I feel that this is a fantastic tidal wave for girls’ health and advancement, but I also believe that it will have a subtle yet important impact on how we think about women. We have spent the past year talking about leadership and strength in a female context. We have talked about creativity, ingenuity, tenacity. This has to influence, at least to some degree, how we start to see women in the professional world. It’s not going to change on its own, and it’s not changing fast enough, but I think the advancement, promotion and delight in women’s sport is going to be part of the supporting ecology that helps us cement change. As important and profound as I believed this to be, it did not prepared me for what has came next…
I’m joining a women’s cricket team.
And I can tell you that no one is more surprised about this than me.
There are so many reasons why this is not supposed to happen. I’m not fit; I don’t regularly exercise; I’m terrible at sport; I’m scared of fast balls hurtling towards me; I’ve not played a team sport since school; when I did, I was picked last and spent only one quarter on netball court; I stopped PE at the earliest opportunity; I’ve been to the cricket twice and was bored most of the time; I don’t like the heat; I don’t like the sun; I don’t like standing for extended periods of time; I don’t know anything beyond the rudimentary rules of the game and for much of my adult life as a girlfriend, a wife and a new mother, I resented the time my other half spent playing cricket. So the odds of this happening were unlikely, to say the very least.
Something happened this year. Not only did I see gender and sport differently, I have come to see sport itself differently. I watched those girls on the footy field with very few skills and no idea how to play the game. They tried, they failed, they supported each other. They developed, they enjoyed themselves, they enjoyed each other. Yep they tried to kick goals and to win, but even when they didn’t, they really loved it. I’d never seen sport played like it before.
Sport and exercise to me was either about success and achievement (which was a realm I felt I never enjoyed) or it was about determination and work in an effort to be fit and healthy (worthy, but not fun). Watching these girls challenged that world view, but I didn’t know then that it would alter anything for me.
Two weeks ago a received an email from my kids’ cricket club, explaining that it was committed to starting a women’s cricket team as part of the region’s new women’s cricket competition. It implored us to send this invitation round to women that we knew. It asked us not to assume that women wouldn’t be interested. It explained that it was aiming to engage women who hadn’t played cricket before, it was interested in women of all abilities and would work on strategies to help develop the fundamental skills. It addressed concerns about cost, time, inclusiveness and importantly, about kids. It took me a couple of days before I was even brave enough to voice my somewhat surprised interest. Having received support and encouragement on the home front, I ventured to mention it to a girlfriend, who to my surprise also felt she might like to give it a go.
This started the tidal wave. I placed a message on Facebook and one email to the mums from my daughter’s footy team. If I could be interested, maybe others were too. In two days I had collected a dozen women, the same concerns were voiced: ability, time, kids – but if those barriers could be overcome, they’d love to give it a go.
And yes, we’ve talked about G&Ts after the game and end-of-season trips (there’s nothing like getting your priorities straight).
There are so many reasons why this is resonating for us. It’s an opportunity to get some extra exercise, it sets a good example to our kids, it’s an opportunity for structured and scheduled ‘me time’. But none of those are the reasons we are doing it.
We are looking forward to having some fun, and that’s a completely new concept for me when it comes to sport.