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International Women’s Day 2024: Inspire Inclusion

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Empowering girls in sport: Inspiring Inclusion this IWD 2024

Inclusion is a big topic for girls and women in sport, especially as we know girls drop out of sport at double the rate of their male counterparts.

We opened up a dialogue with women in our community about their experiences in childhood sport and how they want to see this change for this and future generations of girls. They were kind to let us share these with you. 

coach keri centaurs

Coach Keri – Girls Rugby Head Coach, Mixed U10 Coach & Mum of 2 Girls

My experience with sport: “At school, playing sports was a way for me to feel successful and accomplished which, as an almost 6ft 13-year old, was tough as I stood out a lot. Sport was my safe space. 

The girls were not allowed to play rugby as it was a boys’ game only. I got my first taste of contact rugby in a PE lesson – I tackled the captain of the 1st XV boys team and he was stretchered off the pitch! But my next adventure onto a rugby pitch was 9 years later as an adult.”

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport: “Allow and encourage your daughters to try both girls-only and mixed sports, no matter your preconceptions of what’s a “boys’ sport”. 

I hate it when coaches and supporters stand on the sideline and cheer “come on boys” when the team is mixed gender. I also hate it when the boys refuse to pass to the girls. We should be aware of overly gendered language and encourage players to embrace everyone on their team.”

Coach Priscilla – Girls Rugby Coach, Mixed U10 Coach & Mum of 2 Boys

My experience with sport: “Was positive! I played netball, tennis, basketball, cricket, rounders, softball. I went to an all girls school and rugby was not on offer (because it was a “boys” sport). I joined the teams because I enjoyed PE, being outdoors (and not studying!). I enjoyed the team aspect and competition. When I hit puberty, my love for sport wasn’t impacted negatively – I got stronger and more competitive.

Today, I continue my passion for sport as a coach and strength trainer.”

coach priscilla centaurs

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport: “I’ve seen male coaches treat girls more gently (in language, attitude) initially but once they realise their capability and determination, they feel more comfortable pushing them! I want all our dads to feel confident coaching girls, so I remind them: we can treat girls the same as the boys!

In general, I think there is a stigma attached to women in sports and strength in general… but the moment a girl realises her ability (physically and mentally) all that goes out the window. As a strength trainer I see this a lot – we hold ourselves back! I think it needs to start with education and role models for young girls. It’s about how you use your body, not what you look like.”

coach sherlyn centaurs

Coach Sherlyn – Netball Coach & former Singapore U21 Netball Player 

My experience with sport: “I got spotted for netball back in secondary school simply because I was tall! Puberty made me a lot more motivated to be at my best performance. Maybe because I was forced to deal with my physical and emotional changes (that I was so not used to), I kind of channeled my entire energy into Netball. Then, it was literally school and Netball for me. 

I was proud to represent my country but I knew that playing competitively was not sustainable and I needed a change. There was a time when I lacked the patience and motivation for Netball; going to training felt like a chore more than anything. Coaching then became a natural segue for me – thank you Centaurs for that!”

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport: Sports should simply be for anyone and everyone who wants to play. When I coach, I encourage young girls to prioritize the journey of playing sports over the outcomes – win or lose, game results are fleeting in nature. I want netball to be more than just an activity for our girls, but rather something that anchors their lives and reflects their values.”

Coach Adda – Centaurs Leadership, Netball Coach & Mum of 2 girls 

My experience with sport: “My parents were advocates for all kinds of sports – I was thankful to have had the opportunities to discover my area of interests. When I first picked up Netball as a CCA in my school, the sport had literally just been introduced to schools and is only offered as a female sport. Back then, ‘female sports’ were not widely common. Hence, it seemed cool to be in a new female team sport. I always looked forward to an intensive training session – pushing limits, training fitness and agility, the camaraderie between teammates that you develop along the way. 

Just like how basketball started as a male-dominant sport, I appreciated how females had another (few) sport to call their own too. I also appreciate that mixed netball (for men and women) was also introduced along the way as it should.”

adda chua centaurs

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport:“Girls and women want equal opportunities in their development pathway, and I love that I get to be a part of that for Centaurs netballers and my own daughters. I do think that the changes in puberty make women strong in our own ways. As a sportswoman growing up, intangible factors like these that we can’t change are only what makes us stronger when we learn to overcome them and not let it get in the way of our goals. 

Women are not looking for special treatment in sports, but there should be considerations and support for women in sport when their bodies change – puberty, post-partum, etc.  If we fail to accommodate for girls and women, we stand to lose great athletes in our sports.”

rugby mum gretchen centaurs

Gretchen: Centaurs Rugby Mum with 1 Daughter playing Girls & Mixed Rugby

My experience with sport: “My dad was very influential with my sport and I played a lot. Parents volunteering and being a part of the community… it was just what we all did. It was a safe environment to be who you wanted to be – all abilities, all types from all different walks of life. 

When I was growing up I had no girls to look up to, I had no heroes or like you know, famous inspirations for a woman to look to. They were all males, so when I would watch rugby or swimming at the Olympics, it was the males. There weren’t so many inspiring female athletes on TV or playing professionally for us to look up to, I just think it’s just so fantastic and amazing that women’s sport is starting to really take off.”

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport: “Today’s girls can say “hey! I want to be like her” – my daughter says, “I want to be like Ruby Tui!”. I want Marta to feel like she can go all the way with her rugby – and now that feels like something that’s possible and normalised. 

Sometimes Marta has been the only girl in her mixed age group, but we have always felt very welcome and at home with Centaurs. Our age group is creating an environment that says “sport is for everyone”. Boys, girls, strong at sports or just there for fun, the skills the children learn through sport are so important. If anyone’s challenging that on the sidelines – saying that rugby’s not for girls or whatever – it’s up to us adults to jump in and correct them.”

Charli – Centaurs Leadership

My experience with sport: “I did lots of sport and dance but never considered myself “sporty”. I was never picked for school sports teams and my ballet teacher was very vocal about what parts of my body should change to progress (…they didn’t change, I didn’t get to progress, I quit after 13 years).

By age 16 or so, I had definitely had internalised this idea that my body was not “right” for sport – that I was uncoordinated and not good enough. I didn’t want to be compared to my brothers, so I avoided situations where we played 1 on 1.

Luckily my dad brought me along to Centaurs Touch where I met people who encouraged me along to a social adults’ touch team. Touch became a wonderful physical outlet for me as a teenager and into my twenties, where I could play non-competitively but enjoy the social and physical benefits of team sport – without pressure or judgment.”

charli bromley centaurs singapore

What we can do better for inclusion in girls sport: “From my experience, the adults in the child’s life matter the most when it comes to how they feel about sport and how they access sport. That’s why I take the responsibility I have with Centaurs so seriously – I’ve seen how a teacher’s comments can tear down confidence; how a coach’s acceptance and encouragement can set you on a new path. The things we do and say are really important – how we talk about sport, ability, nutrition, bodies… it’s our responsibility to lead by example.

We can show girls that to love sport, you don’t have to be exceptional – it’s not an exclusive club for only boys or the girls that make the school teams, or who are so unbelievably good that they’ll end up in the Olympics or the Royal Ballet.”

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