It is vital that women have a good experience of sport at school if they are going to stay active later on in life. The WSFF (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation) found that 23% of women had been put off sport by P.E. lessons at school. They also found that women placed being thin and slim above being sporty, active, muscular or athletic.
The WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs has stated that: “We are facing a real crisis in women’s sport and fitness which will result in increasing obesity levels, physical and mental health issues and crime and social problems”. Encouraging women to maintain participation in sport and fitness can be challenging.
With Australian Women's Football taking centre stage this year, perhaps the crisis is over. This triumph has inspired people of all ages to support women and to celebrate how far we have come in the sporting world. In the past, women’s sport has often been in the shadows of men’s sport, particularly with broadcasting. It generally hasn't been taken as seriously as men’s competitions. Women's sport media coverage worldwide is only 5% of the total sporting coverage. The AFL is changing this, placing women's sport in the main arena. Hopefully we see more sporting competitions following this tread in years to come. Mainstream coverage of women’s football may help encourage young girls to participate in sport, helping to establish active lifestyles later in life. The presence of athetic role models may also change the way fitness is viewed for women. Instead of valuing thin figures for women, the focus may shift to strong, muscular and athletic figures. It will be interesting to see in coming years just how much this triumph has influences social norms and empowers women.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan