On Target
January 4, 2013
Getting back female participation in sports

The quest to get more females involved in competitive sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines is progressing, with increasing difficulty.

Most sporting disciplines are finding it almost impossible to recruit females after the age of 16, and more so, keeping them as fixtures to the time of retirement.{{more}}

Netball and volleyball are the only ones that can boast of having some longevity in terms of female continuity.

At present there is a dearth of female participation at the senior levels of many competitions and when there is, those persons are past their best in coach-ability and have surpassed their physical capacities to perform.

This is true with the current crop of senior national female cricketers, most of whom have been representing St Vincent and the Grenadines for the past decade.

In the case of track and field, for example, only a handful of females take the sport seriously, while others prefer to be part of the short course road races; while for tennis is it non-existent.

Squash, despite its appeal to the junior male and female players, is suffering from female presence after the age of 18 years.

Several reasons have contributed to the reduction in female participation in sports.

For instance, unlike the males, the females after they have passed that adolescence period, become self-conscious — resent having a sweat as it will disturb their hairdo or their make-up or playing sport will alter their feminine physique.

Also, some females become mothers as teenagers. Hence, they become restricted, having to juggle between their parental responsibilities and the sport.

And, in most cases, the latter is sacrificed.

Unfortunately also for the females, the males do not give them the same moral support at matches as the females do when the males are on show.

This acts as a de-motivator to the females, as their talents are showcased to mainly the diehards.

In addition, society has set down a marker for the acceptable shape and size of females who play sports. Hence, anyone who fails to meet the criteria is often served up with uncomplimentary remarks that act as deterrents for them to go further.

Significant, as well, is the forever shifts in the pattern of socialization, where it is no longer mandatory for our young children to be involved in physical activities at their earliest stages of life.

The end result is that many grow up without having the fundamentals of running, jumping and throwing acquired through play and are aliens to these when they are introduced formally.

Coupled with this, at the primary school level, physical education is not taught as a wholesome subject area, and when done so at the secondary school stage — it is too late bend the metaphorical trees.

Of note is the fact that many females in sport, after completing their tertiary education here, go off to studies and rarely continue in their field if and when they come back, as they become career and family-oriented.

Sadly, the stigma attached to at least two of our national teams, with the allegation of the players’ sexual preference, has led to warding off potential participants in these disciplines, as they do not want to become engulfed in the accusations.

In addition, some of the coaches do not have the know-how to deal with the mood swings of females; hence, friction develops and the athletes’ preferred choice is to leave the sport.

In mapping out a roadway for sparking the interest of females in cricket, a softball 10/10 or 20/20 play-off among the schools could help in giving them a friendly introduction to the sport.

From this, the avid and more competent ones could be sent to the next level, where they will graduate to the hardball.

Also, a constructive physical education programme should be commissioned, where all sports can be introduced at the pre-school stage.

Parents, as well, must pay more attention in the progress of their children who play sports and as much as possible get involved in helping give the support — moral and otherwise — when needed.

The media must play its part in this regard in highlighting top achievers, which should act as a catalyst for others to get their interest going.

Finally, female competitions should be promoted as family events and timed accordingly, as the SVGNOC attempted to do some years ago.

The task may be hard, but not insurmountable.