Women in Sport: A conversation with Project PT
Euro 2022 was a huge success for England, and the success of the Lionesses was a huge win for women's football. But will we see much-needed changes for female participation in sport – both nationally and closer to home in Oxfordshire?
The Lionesses captivated the nation with an amazing run that ended with a victory over Germany in the final of a tournament which attracted record crowds, carnival atmospheres and unprecedented media coverage for the sport.
We want to take a moment to celebrate the fantastic work that's taking place right now in Oxfordshire to help more girls get active. We spoke to one of our partners, Ajaye at The Project PT about the influence that the Lionesses' success has had on young women:
Ajaye joined wife Alexa at Wembley recently at the 50 year celebration of the Lionesses, and having previously played for England, Alexa was invited to the pitch to receive a legacy cap along with many other players and previous team mates, recognising their contribution to the rise of women's football in recent years.
Both Alexa and Ajaye came away feeling completely inspired and fuelled to create more change and empower more people to participate in sports, which is very inspiring for us to hear from our partners. According to Women In Sport:
What about here in Oxfordshire?
We heard from Ajaye about access and engagement to sports in Oxfordshire for women:
"Women were disproportionately disadvantaged during COVID. We're still living with the knock-on effects of COVID, and the impact on people's engagement with fitness. The increase in social anxiety for women and girls has made stepping into a gym even harder.
Our two focuses as a business are how we can use social media better to engage with young women and girls, to encourage them to see sport positively and use positive role models. There is a lot of potential with social media, and none of us are using it in the right way to engage with young women who are disengaged with sport.
We're also working to redefine how sport and fitness is taught in school. Moving away from traditional ball games and athletics, looking more at sports that don't require so much hand eye coordination, and more about movement and fitness and feeling good about themselves and empowered.
Another consideration is that teenage girls are generally the ones that disengage with sports when they get to secondary school. There are many reasons for this around shame of doing sport, changes in bodies, and nervousness and embarrassment with taking part. COVID-19 exacerbated those feelings; as they were stuck in doors for 2 years, the idea of putting themselves out there in a group is even more nerve-wracking than it was before. We need to think about how we get these young people to go out and about again, trying new things, then we get them engaged with sport and fitness."
So, what are we doing about it?
The Project PT have been carrying out youth consultation work on behalf of Active Oxfordshire, in a mission to obtain more insight as to the attitudes of physical activity in teenage girls and understand more about the barriers they may be facing. This includes visiting various secondary schools across the County researching the lack of engagement in physically activity with young girls and carrying out activities with them. Feedback from the girls and teachers has been extremely positive and we are looking forward to continuing our work with Project PT to help girls enjoy the benefits of being active.
The Project PT is a local independent gym offering courses and fitness events. They pride themselves on inclusivity and creating a space where strength building isn't typically male dominated.
While there is still plenty of work to be done across the county and beyond, to create space in sports where women feel included and encouraged to participate, it's great to see how far we have come, and recognise some of the opportunities there are today for women and girls.
Do you have an opinion on sport opportunities for women in Oxfordshire?
We'd love to hear from you. Email Natasha.firstname.lastname@example.org