With the current global coronavirus pandemic shutting down the world, it is feared that all the progress that has been made with the acceptance and growth of women’s sport could be undone.
With many leagues, governing bodies and teams facing significant financial difficulties, the worry is that women’s sport will suffer hugely and face severe difficulties when we are able to get back to some form of normality.
But Totally Runable have decided to use the opportunity to launch their brand new project aimed at reducing the gender sport gap on fundraising website KickStarter.
Over the next few weeks, the charity is hoping to raise £6,000 to create sets of posters to be sent to 2,500 primary schools across the UK. These posters will feature images of several young girls taking part in a variety of sports and the aim is for them to be stuck up around the school to normalise the idea that girls and women can take part in sport.
This is an extension of the company’s #SeeSportyBeSporty project, which we wrote about in late 2018, and is based on extensive research they have undertaken over the last few years.
Speaking exclusively to SportSpiel, Olympic middle-distance runner Jenny Meadows – who has joined the company as a director alongside founders Natalie Jackson and former GB sprinter Emily Freeman – explained how this is something that she would have loved to see when she was at school.
“The real difference is that these posters are actually going to feature young girls aged 10-15 playing the sport that they love,” the two-time World Championship bronze medallist said.
“It’s amazing to have role models – myself and Emily were both Olympians, which is great – but it’s really important that the girls actually see people their own age or a couple of years older who they can look up to – their peer group playing sport – and actually realise this is a really cool thing to do. Realise that being sporty is completely normal and is something they actually want to aspire to do.
“I started athletics aged seven and was hooked really, really quickly but I remember when I was in primary school and going into secondary school, if I ever had to go up in assembly to get recognition or a reward etc. I’d be absolutely mortified about having to go up to get this award.
“I’d almost feel like I wasn’t normal – ‘oh, you’re the runner aren’t you?’ I actually downplayed how much I loved it and how good I was at it because I didn’t want to stand out from everybody else.”
Their aim is broadly the same as many other schemes – to increase the coverage afforded to girls and women in sport and make their presence as accepted as men.
But their methodology is different. They aren’t focusing on the elite, where it is still difficult to make women’s sport cut through to everyone and is easy for it to be ignored by the media and consumers.
They are implementing this strategy in an environment where children are required to be; where they know they are going to learn; a place where lifelong attitudes, opinions and understandings of the world are developed.
WE ARE LIVE! We’re SUPER excited TODAY to announce that our Kickstarter project is finally LIVE 💜
Check it out, share it, pledge if you are able…
**EARLY BIRD REWARDS AVAILABLE NOW**
— Totally Runable (@TotallyRunable) April 14, 2020
Furthermore they’re not just trying to change the attitudes of young girls. They also want to make young boys realise that sport is for everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and so on.
“Boys need to be educated as well,” Meadows – who competed at the 2008 Olympics – told SportSpiel.
“A lot of the boys say ‘I let the girls play football’. It’s not your game, what do you mean you let them? I think it’s educating the boys as well and if they can see posters of girls as well from an early age they will think ‘girls and boys both play sport’ and there is an equal opportunity.
“We need to really change the mindsets of boys, really work on the gender-related language. Things like ‘oh you kick that like a girl’ or ‘I let the girls play’. We just really need to make sure everything is gender neutral, there’s real equality for both genders.
“Eventually this will really help narrow and really close that gender sport gap within schools.”
This project is not about producing the next generation of Olympians. It’s about empowering girls and normalising the fact that sport can be played by anyone.
Totally Runable’s research has shown that girls start to lose confidence in their sporting ability at the age of seven, a shocking statistic given that this is a time where children should be experimenting as much as possible to develop core life skills.
But Meadows knows that, should they reach their fundraising target, the company’s new project can start to make these changes and finally start to change attitudes that have been around for far too long.
Olympians @JennyMeadows800 and @emkfree have launched an inspiration initiative, created to encourage girls to get active. Learn more about the #SeeSportyBeSporty posters & their Kickstarter campaign ➡️ https://t.co/kL9DRRvnS8 @totallyrunable
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) April 14, 2020
“We’re living in an age where young people are so used to labelling themselves – they’re either sporty or not sporty, I don’t like this or that – and a lot of the time people put themselves in brackets from a very young age,” she explained.
“So I think a big part of this is to visually show girls of all different shapes and sizes playing a variety of different sports. It might just be that first instinct where somebody thinks ‘she looks a little bit like me’ or ‘I thought you had to be super slim to do this sport’ or ‘I thought you had to look a certain way’ or ‘I didn’t know girls could play that sport’.
“Hopefully it will give girls the confidence and the motivation to actually think ‘I want a go, I want to try some of these sports’ and that it is completely normal to do that. We are really, really excited about this and obviously hoping we can reach our target.”
Totally Runable needs to have raised £6,000 by 18 May in order to fund their project – let’s make sure we help them get there! Find out more about the project or donate here.