Nino Severino: Why it’s so important that we celebrate our female athletes
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses why it’s so important that female athletes are celebrated and given a platform from which to inspire girls taking their first steps on their sporting journeys.
As I find myself committing to more projects using sport as a positive influence in children’s lives, I am becoming more and more interested in athletes who are using their position and achievements to inspire and motivate young athletes.
British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, currently one of our biggest athletics stars and a triple European gold medallist, is doing just this.
As a prominent woman in sport, she is focusing on trying to convince the media to give more column inches and air time to the voice of sportswomen who are positioned to influence young girls finding a life in sport.
She argues that the media tends to focus more on the achievements of males in sport, under representing women and their successes.
Dina holds a number of British records, including the 100 and 200 metres sprint disciplines, where she also won European gold.
She said: “I was very fortunate to be able to go into track and field because I could see that as a woman, I could make it to the top, I could be in the Olympics.”
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She found a sporting stage and opportunity, and she wants to use her experience to affect the lives of other young women, and hopes others in her position in sport will do the same.
As a sporting professional, I am well aware of the challenges of retaining young girls in sport for a longer period of time. For me, this is very important as it is evident that they have much to gain from a sporting life.
During the last three months I have been heavily involved in creating development programmes within sport for young people, and what is becoming apparent to me is that the skills young female athletes are developing through their sport will become very valuable at critical points later in their lives.
This week I had the privilege of meeting Tim Lawler, the CEO from the National SportsAid charity, and the discussions we had only reinforced my thinking in this area.
The more we discussed how young people can benefit from being involved in sport, the more his words validated the fact that skills learnt within sporting environments and culture can be a very positive experience and can add to the richness of personal development.
The more I researched this area, the more it has validated what I have always believed – sport for young growing girls can be a very powerful environment in terms of self-development.
Studies that have been conducted around the world seem to support this thinking, I came across one that indicated that 96% of female executives, women who have achieved positions as CEO’s, CFO’s and COO’s, were heavily involved in sport as young girls and women.
They listed some very powerful examples – for Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, it was synchronised swimming, for Alison Overholt, the first female editor-in-chief of ESPN The Magazine, it was gymnastics, swimming, and football, and for former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it was football, tennis, basketball, and softball.
But figures provided by Gatorade through a “Girls In Sport” study showed that by the age of 17 a staggering 50% of girls will stop playing sport completely.
These statistics are very depressing, and it’s why Dina has a very powerful and important message – let’s ensure our British women stars have a loud and proud voice and give them the opportunity to reduce the fall out rate by inspiring and motivating girls to stay in sport.
Dina believes that many of the young girls in sport do not get the chance to see these outstanding, inspirational achievements, and argues that women in sport deserve an equal opportunity to tell their story through the media.
I for one think she has a very valid point. There is much for us all to be proud of in British women’s sport, with rugby, netball, football, tennis and cricket – to name but a few – all achieving on the world stage.
But as Dina quite righty states, the influence that these achievements have can only be delivered if young girls are actually being exposed to the stories through a heightened media focus.
I’m extremely fortunate that the EADT and Star provide me with a platform to write about the positivity of sport, health and fitness, and I have often used this column to highlight the sporting achievements of the female athletes who form part of my local life.
Women such as Jasmin Taylor, world-class telemark skier, Helen Davies, elite marathon runner, Ramla Ali, Nike-sponsored boxer, Justice Hall, young aspiring tennis player, Amy Wilson-Hardy, England international Rugby star and Georgie Lawson, British international karate fighter, have all featured in this column.
And I am more focused now than ever to ensure that I do my bit to highlight the power and influence that the achievements of female athletes can have on those girls taking their early steps in the world of sport.