To mark the fifth anniversary of Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week (25-31 October), Scottish Government Ministers have been meeting the people behind the projects which encourage more women and girls to engage in sport and physical activity.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, pulled on her running shoes on to join Montrose Triathlon Club for an early morning training session.
The club was established after the inaugural Tri-Angus event in 2014 and has grown to a membership of over 130, with 55% of members being women and girls, ranging in age from 15 to 70.
The Minister was put through her paces by Lead Coach, Silvia Cranston, a former PE teacher and one of 12 volunteer coaches at the club.
Following the session Ms Gougeon said: “I absolutely loved it today and it was great to see such a large group of people taking part in sport. I am quite a keen runner anyway, but it was so interesting to learn how to push yourself in a different way, and all the techniques you can use.
“Clubs like this are really vital for women and girls because it’s a way to meet people and really build your confidence."
"As this is a triathlon club there are a few different disciplines involved, and there are some things that I would not feel confident about doing on my own, such as the open water swimming, but that is what is so good about this club; it is the encouragement, the confidence building, being able to meet like-minded people. I would encourage women and girls of all abilities to find out what’s going on in their local community, discover what works for you and get involved.”
Everyone is an athlete
The Montrose Club was awarded “Most Welcoming Club” by Triathlon Scotland in 2019 and Club Chair, Mike Talbot believes that is why they have been so successful in growing their numbers, particularly among women and girls. He explained: “The club works on the basis that everyone is an athlete even if they don’t know they are. The whole point of our coaching is that you have just got to get people to believe they can do it.
"There is a perception that triathlon is an unattainable thing, but it really isn’t. We are a very friendly, welcoming, open club for all sorts of abilities. It’s genuinely aimed at everyone, not just the fastest people.”
The club also introduced an Couch2Tri programme for complete beginners and 65 people turned up on the first night, most of them women.
Crucial role of clubs
Being physically active and taking part in sport has many benefits for women and girls through building new friendships and relationships which help to reduce isolation and loneliness for women and girls in Scotland. Chief Executive of Triathlon Scotland, Louise Wright, also took who also took part in the training session recognised the impact clubs like this can have. She said: “It was amazing. The people were so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a varied mixture of ages and abilities taking part who all seemed to love and enjoy the session. There was a great energy and atmosphere about it.
“Clubs like this are crucial in encouraging women and girl into sport, they are a fundamental part. We know that at a certain age we can get the female drop off in sport, but if we can get females involved in sport in schools before that age and get them into clubs, hopefully that community spirit will keep them involved so it then becomes a lifelong habit. If they then see the value of sport and physical activity for their health and wellbeing, they are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle as well.”
Celebrating women and girls in sport
The benefits can be felt across all stages in life, from early years, teenage years, through adulthood and on to later life stages, and that is why it is important to highlight the opportunities in communities across the country.
Chief Executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said: "It is fantastic to see the great work being delivered right across the sporting system to encourage more women and girls to make sport and physical activity a part of their daily lives.
“We know that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ which makes it so important to celebrate the fantastic female role models in sport who demonstrate what women and girls can achieve with the right support."
"From the exceptional performances of the Scots on Team GB and ParalympicsGB in Tokyo, to the parents, coaches, teachers, and volunteers who create opportunities for women and girls to find their own journey in sport, this week provides a terrific opportunity to shine a light on their vital contribution.”
Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week takes place from 25 – 31 October 2021.