#28) Sport England/This Girl Can

This week guest writer Shona McCallin – Team GB Olympic hockey gold medalist – explains why Sport England and the This Girl Can campaign have been crucial in the quest to abolish negative stereotypes surrounding women in sport.

What actually makes you sit back and think: ‘Yeah, that’s spot on’?

Or, to put it more simply, what makes me sit up and take note?

There are lots of things really – snippets from books, thought-provoking articles, Christmas TV adverts (well done Sainsbury’s!) or simply chatting to a new or interesting individual.

All of the above have common characteristics; they’re unique, stand out from the crowd and evoke emotive responses from me.

For this blog I was asked to pen some thoughts to paper about what in women’s sport inspires me. Where do I start? I genuinely could have done a ‘Top 20’!

Through working at London and Partners, I’ve been inspired by the rising level of brands engaging in long-haul investment and sponsorship in women’s sport with Vitality, Investec and Kia all leading the way.

Furthermore the incredible staff, practitioners and athletes I work with everyday all inspire me when I turn up to training. The level of passion, in-depth knowledge and care shown towards the wellbeing of people, the sport and the hockey community is second to none.

Daily snippets of inspiration also often come through my pre-bed reading routine; the mental struggles Victoria Pendleton describes in her autobiography or how ultra runner Mimi Anderson broke the world record despite not running before the age of 36.

However a long-standing inspiration of mine within women’s sport has to be the groundbreaking campaign ‘This Girl Can’ created by Sport England, supported by the National Lottery.

It champions a really important message and celebrates ‘active women who are doing their thing no matter how they look, how well they do it or how sweaty they get.’

It made me sit back and think ‘yeah, spot on.’

For too long now people – females especially – have used the fear of judgment, not looking feminine or lacking body confidence as a barrier to sport.

I loved sport growing up but reflecting on how PE lessons were conducted at my school, not many shared my experience. “Miss, I don’t want to get sweaty”; “Miss, I’ve just done my hair and makeup”; “Miss, I’ve forgotten my P.E kit”. The list went on.

It was generally viewed as uncool to do sport and certainly uncool to look red-faced and sweaty.

Girls back then wanted to look girly, not sporty.

Times have changed since I was 13 and I’m really happy for that. Women are throwing themselves into sport more readily, they are less intimidated by physical perfection and the idea of ‘strong not skinny’ is really coming to light.

As well as this, young girls have real role models to look up to – inspiring women who put performance over appearance.


Of course the sole aim of This Girl Can wasn’t just to change stereotypes surrounding women in sport; it was also designed to actively increase female participation levels and the statistics certainly show it seems to be doing just that.

According to Sport England figures, 2.8 million women in the UK are engaging in more active lifestyles just as a direct result of the campaign.

As you can imagine, I was really pleased to see the latest This Girl Can campaign – Fit Got Real – drop in October 2018. In a nutshell, it builds on previous achievements and aims to challenge the conventional way we see exercise, stating that moving, jumping, wiggling, moving, and jiggling are now all very much acceptable for everyone.

Thank you Sport England – keep your campaigns coming.

They make me sit back and think: ‘Yeah, that’s spot on.’

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