Sue Strachan – Challenges in Women’s Sport

Speaking to Polly Starkie, Sue highlights some of the biggest barriers preventing women and girls from accessing sport at all levels.

Sue Strachan was the first female President of Cricket Scotland and is an incredible advocate for women’s sport and progressing the development of sports across the board. Playing multiple sports including squash, hockey, tennis and netball from a young age, Sue’s love for sport has manifested itself again in to her adult life. Speaking to Polly Starkie, Sue highlights some of the biggest barriers preventing women and girls from accessing sport at all levels.

Role models

Knowing who your role models are. Be able to see them so that you can aspire to be them or be like them and learn from their pathways.
Women and girls have (I think it’s society that gives us this), a big, loud voice in our heads that says ‘I’m not good enough’ so we don’t need anybody else to tell us that. It’s hard enough if you need to have people that will encourage you because society does not encourage girls to play sport.

A space for girls

Some girls will be happy playing mixed sport and I think that’s good if they’re happy but I also think they have to have a girls only space. I quite like the idea of there being a girls’ and women’s space, as well as a peer group space because I think then you get the chance to be mentored and helped.
You have to fail at things in order to get better, that’s the thing that we’re not taught generally. Sport teaches you that you win, you lose together, you pick yourselves up, you celebrate or you commiserate, and then you move on.

Access at school

There needs to be the opportunity for girls to pick a sport, other than the one that somebody thinks is ‘girly’. I think cricket is great because you don’t need to be the tallest and fastest. Cricket has a place for everyone, you’ve got people with a whole different range of skills and attributes, and they can all come together and they can all be brilliant. I think cricket is a particularly good sport for school, get people involved at school level, have local clubs that actually want to have girls and women playing.

Kit specifically for women & girls

You’ve got to consider your teamwear. To actually talk to women and girls about what they would like because we haven’t had a women’s section before and so this is what we’ve always done. You stand taller and you’re more confident and you see your teammates and they maybe have a slightly different shape to you, they have a slightly different set of kit, but it’s in the same colours so you’re all a team and able to be your best selves at the same time.

Opportunities to play at any level

Give them opportunities to play at whatever level they want. Don’t funnel all girls and women into trying to get to the 1st XI because that’s not what they all want. Some people will just want to play a bit of softball sometimes, some people will be anxious about hardball. You’ve got to have that place for people who want to transition from softball to hardball. Give people that opportunity, always say there’s an opportunity to have go at this if you want.

Co-designing with women

Let them have fun with it and make things fun but they will learn. You’ve got to make them feel welcome so you’ve got to have a club that has girls toilets, you’ve got to have a club that has sanitary products, free and obvious, so you don’t need to ask for them.
We need a continuous co-design with girls and women rather than men deciding what they think girls and women want. It comes from the right place but I want them to say ‘what would you like us to do?’ We won’t come up with ridiculous stuff. We will come up with little things that you, as a man, may not have thought of because you’re a man and that’s OK.

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