8 reasons why all women should play team sports
I recently read a brilliant article written by a 20 year old female rugby player Tesni Phillips titled ‘I would NEVER let my daughter play rugby’. http://rugbyunited.org.uk/content/i-would-never-let-my-daughter-play-rugby She wrote the article after an ignorant parent commented on how they would never let their daughter play rugby. Rather than ignore the comment the rugby player details how much her sport of rugby has impacted on her life and what that person’s daughter will miss out on.
The article resonated with me on two levels, firstly as a current member of a sports team and secondly, as a parent whose children play the fastest and possible most dangerous sport in the world. The latter I will blog about in a separate post.
I don’t play rugby but I do play netball so a lot of what Tesni described I can relate to, even at the grand old age of very early forties. I’m often met with either criticism or slight patronism (is that a word)? It’s either ‘don’t you think you’re too old to be running around a netball court’ to ‘oh that’s nice, at your age’.
It’s a good job my skin is as hard as the soles on my netball trainers.
To those who think I’m too old to be playing netball. Who decides how old is too old?
Try telling my former team-mate who celebrated her sixtieth birthday last year that she shouldn’t be playing Centre every Wednesday night. She still works full-time, she still plays sport, she’s healthy, she’s happy – perhaps there is a link to being active and living a normal life? I hope that I’m still able to run around when I’m sixty, enjoying myself and breathing in large breathes of life. Instead of the alternative which is to put on weight, spend every evening sitting on my arse watching TV and playing Candy Crush. The only thing that changes as you get older is it takes longer to recover from injuries and occasionally accidents can happen when you catch a ball mid-air and land with a bladder full…….or so I’m told. I’m not there just yet J
I also believe that being active and playing team sports can help you in the workplace.
Personally I think that the workplace would be a better place if there were more women playing team sports. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of working in competitive, back-stabbing environments, something which has subsided in later years – maybe it comes with age.
So here are my 8 reasons why I think that women should carry on playing team sports throughout their adult life.
1) Learn the importance of hard work
A netball match for the league that I play in is forty minutes long which is a do-able amount of time. We play four x 10 minute periods and each position on the court has their own area of responsibility and ownership of the court. Once the players are on the court they have to stay there unless they are injured. Once the whistle is blown it is down to each player to give it their all on court. This can be tough going. My position as Goal Defence means that if my squad are playing a better team I may end up being run ragged, and quite often playing against ladies who are half my age and often younger than that. It’s important to keep going even when we’re tired as I know that it just takes one tip off my hand, or a rebound on a shot and that my team can get possession and score from it. Training sessions are tough as they concentrate on cardio work, and improving ball handling skills and are often challenging as you really do get pushed out of your comfort zone.
2) Learn how to cope with losing
My perception is that the current generation of young people are mostly those whose school sports day was non-competitive. More of a team event in which they all won prizes and were told ‘it’s about the taking part that counts’ which is absolute bollocks in my opinion. You work hard and win, and if you don’t then you were outplayed on the day, didn’t deserve the win so deal with it. Coping with losing is an important life skill, because you know what – there will be job interviews where someone out performs you, competitions that you don’t win and instead of being happy with ‘oh it doesn’t matter at least I tried’ you should feel fire in the belly and realise why you didn’t win. Why I didn’t get that job and what do I need to do next time to ensure that I do. Not wishing to sound too much of an idiot but I can cope with my team losing a match when we’ve been outplayed, I’ve no problem with that. What I struggled with last week was my team coming away with a draw after having a five goal lead into the final period and I was gutted. Problem was that other members of the team were satisfied with that result. Not me.
It’s a great feeling being part of a sports team. From the moment you put on your uniform and see your team-mates wearing the same colours, all with the same aim in mind is both incredible and proud. For me, when I make an intercept, get a rebound, win a scrap around a loose ball I can always hear one of my team-mates encouraging me. You see we are all in it together and if one of us makes a bad pass then the rest of us will run our legs off to try and win back that ball into our attacking zone. If I see our attackers in the same space, or making a pass which gets intercepted each time, I will shout down the court to get them to change their tactics and vice versa. The skills that you learn on a sports team transfer into real life and the workplace too. I’ve worked in many places throughout my career and unfortunately I can report that there are a lot of insecure women in the workplace who talk behind their colleagues backs, and I’ve also come across several bosses not empowering their female employees. This infuriates me as it’s bloody tough being a woman in work. Maybe more job specifications should encourage example of team working through practical sporting experience. I would hire that woman straight away.
4) Being a good role model for own children
It’s a fact that children are currently spending more time on their games consoles, ipads and phones than they are participating in exercise. Being a parent of two boys it was always really important for me that my boys not only see their dad competing in his sports team, but also their mum. I didn’t want them growing up thinking that sport was just for men and that women cannot compete. In fact when they were much younger they were regular vocal supporters of me whilst I was playing, and to be honest I always tried that little bit harder when they were there. A lot of women will never know what that feels like and it’s a shame. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing your child yell ‘come on mum’.
5) Respect others
In netball there are often calls made by the umpire that I don’t agree with, but it’s the nature of playing sport. I’ve umpired matches where the player is being penalised and they swear, slam the ball down in temper or give me a dirty look. This behaviour really is not to be tolerated and is bad for the sport, but it happens. If the player draws attention to themselves the likelihood is that they will be penalised again for a minor incident. So, learning to deal with calls that you don’t agree with and just carrying on are part of team sport. This skills carries through to a workplace environment. Occasionally at work I don’t agree with decisions that are made but I have to deal with them and respect the person making the decision. There are a lot of colleagues who are not so respectful in the workplace.
6) Learn to lead
This is a personal one to me but I thought I would put it in there anyway. Fifteen years ago I was shy, lacking self-confidence and very much the sheep of the pack in my team. I would turn up for training/ the match and not really engage in conversation afterwards. I was the same at work too, always taking on the junior administrative work where I wasn’t really challenged and didn’t have to make decisions in case I was forced to speak in meetings about those decisions. I did what most people do and avoided any situations where the spot-light would be on me. Gradually through netball I ended up taking on a captains role which absolutely terrified me. I nearly didn’t accept it as I would be forced to talk to my team-mates and try and lead them. Me, a leader? But I did it and at the end of the season I won several trophies at the awards evening which delighted me. Maybe I could do this. I carried on with the captains role for a further season and then the club captain resigned. I decided to take on the reigns and I remember having the first AGM which I had to chair. I don’t think I ate for two days as the thought of having to speak in front of the entire club terrified me. But I did it. And for every scenario that I was faced with, I would feel the fear and do it, and it taught me that everytime I did something that terrified me that I could push myself a little further. My work changed too and I ended up applying for more responsible jobs where I have to sit in meetings and often argue a decision that I’ve made. I attribute all of this to those opportunities that were given to me through netball.
7) Keep muscles mobile
Like I said earlier, one of my former team-mates was sixty last year and is still playing Centre every week so anyone who wants to argue that sport is bad for you, think again! What keeps me going is seeing people who are only a bit older than me with all sorts of ailments preventing them living an active life. I’m not naïve to think that this is the only attribute, there is also dietary, mobility and wider social issues to think of. But there are a lot of people who drain the NHS through laziness and poor eating habits which quite frankly could be avoided if they kept their limbs moving instead of sitting on the sofa every night watching Eastenders and Call the Midwife. It costs nothing to move about you don’t even need to join a gym as walking is free.
The big reason why I enjoy my team sport is we have fun nights out and legendary weekends away playing in tournaments. My team have participated in karaoke, break out rooms, treasure hunts and pub quizzes. We’ve had netball tournaments in Wales and Skegness, playing with hangovers while the tea-totallers laughing at those throwing up off court. Great memories, great friends and a great sport.
So please ladies get involved in sports. Know what it’s like to have your team mate’s back, to be part of a group all wanting the same thing and don’t use your kids or your physical fitness as an excuse. There are Back to Netball sessions all across the country, or any sport that you fancy. I nearly signed up for a learn to play ice-hockey course last week…..nearly!