Women in Sport

Neil Bell
Neil Bell

By Neil Bell

This week I will get to do something I never thought I would do.  

I get to play on the same cricket team as my incredible, 16 year old daughter, Sarah.  Yeah, sure, it is for a charity weekend, but I can’t wait to bat with her and to be in the field with her.  I’ve seen other Dads play on the same team as their kids and have always thought that it would be a special thing to do.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to play with her and at something as dear to me as the Chris Wills charity weekend, but I am even more excited that Sarah is playing a team sport again.

She initially stopped playing team sports when she was 13.  This is consistent with the research in Australia which demonstrates that by the time girls reach 15 years of age two-thirds of them have stopped playing team sport and by the age of 25 only 15% of all Australian women are playing team sports.  By way of contrast 50% of Australian men are engaged at least once per week in a team sport.

We are all aware of how important team sports participation is for all of us as it helps to provide training on critical skills necessary for success such as teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance, learning how to lose, and the development of empathy, compassion and support.

But is appears to be even more so for women and girls.  The research unequivocally demonstrates that girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence, higher levels of self-esteem, considerably lower levels of depression, a more positive body image, and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.

The main reasons that girls drop out of team sport six times more than boys are thought to be due to there being fewer opportunities, less role-models, and a rapidly changing self-image.  As a society, we are certainly all working on these things and there are almost as many role models for girls in sport these days as for boys and the understanding around a teenage girl’s changing self-image has jumped ahead dramatically.  

However, the main barrier in our semirural community is around providing opportunities.  At 14, Sarah had a choice to keep playing cricket, but she would have had to join a girls’ team at Helensvale.  Unsurprisingly, she chose to let it go.

But with the advent of a women’s cricket team on the mountain this year she once again became a Bushrat.  It was great to watch her have that smile again.  It was competitive, but fun.  It was supportive and encouraging.  It was hard work and exhausting.  In short, it was women lifting up other women in a fantastic team environment.

It was something that Sarah had missed and I had forgotten the thrill I got from watching her play sport.  I can’t wait to see how many more women join our Tamborine Mountain-Canungra cricket club next year to join in as well.

There are so many great sporting clubs on the mountain and many of them do offer teenage girls an opportunity.  I would encourage all of the women and late teenage girls out there to try and find something that suits them and when you do, pursue it.  

I guarantee there are a lot of others who would like to participate as well.