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Inspiring Active Women in the West of England
The Sport England Active Lives Children and Young People Survey found that “girls are less likely to enjoy being active than boys” and Women in Sport: Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls report states that “for some girls, as they get further into their teenage years, sport starts to lack relevance and gets deprioritised as schoolwork pressure kicks in”. These findings are particularly worrying when we become aware that these girls are missing out on the benefits that sport and physical activity can bring to their physical and mental health.
The Women in Sport study suggests that we need to expand the image of what ‘sporty ’looks like; girls like to hear and learn from other people’s experiences especially if they can relate to them on a certain level. “72% of girls aged 11-21 yrs. old say a lack of media coverage of women’s sport leads them to being treated unfairly”. Therefore, there is a growing need to champion female role models in sport like never before.
This week, we want to shout about the local role models we are already surrounded by. We will be showcasing the stories of some inspirational women and the brilliant work they are doing around the West of England area.
One of these girls is Connie Simpson, who has been nominated for National Volunteer of the Year 2019 due to all her hard work with disability tennis around Bristol. Connie has been playing tennis since the age of 5, and was quickly recognised as being very talented. She was playing for her county by the age of 8 and was funded by the LTA at the age of 11. More recently, she has been inspired by Helen Abbott and Sport for All, where her interest in disability tennis has grown. She has now qualified as a Level 2 coach.
“I have been involved with assisting a group of children and adults who use a wheelchair to play tennis. This is a weekly group on a Sunday which I love. I thoroughly enjoy this session and have learnt so much from both Helen and all the members of the group. I also work with somebody who is visually impaired which has helped me to learn to adapt my lessons to all abilities.”
Connie has also been involved in the On & Off the Pitch project. Delivered by Wesport and Off the Record, this programme is aimed at raising awareness of positive mental wellbeing and health promotion for young people accessing sports clubs and engaging in physical activity. The project is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and consists of training for both coaches/volunteers and the creation of youth peer support structures within local sports clubs. Connie has overcome some mental health barriers herself and understands the benefits of sport on positive mental health and the role that sports clubs can play in encouraging a supportive environment for its young members.
“As I have suffered with anxiety myself I understand how worthwhile sport is for both physical and mental wellbeing, if it is used and encouraged in the right way. It is the ideal platform to encourage all people to express and talk about their mental health in a safe environment. I have had a lot of supportive people around me and have used sport as a stress reliever when necessary as it is such a big part of my life. From the age of about 13-15 I began feeling immense stress when I competed and decided that the stress I felt outweighed my enjoyment and love for the sport. I took some time out from competing to enable me to learn to love the game again and try to stop putting myself under too much pressure.”
Connie told us that she doesn’t have one particular person who has inspired her in the sport, but we think that she will be a huge inspiration to others. With her positive outlook on life and passion for helping others, Connie is a fantastic role model to those around her.
“Sport is such an amazing way to become part of a team and feel like you are in a small community with people who have similar interests to you. I have always thought it is great how sport brings people together from all walks of life because they share a love for something.”
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