I’ve read a lot about the importance of positive female role models for girls, but never really thought that I could be one.
As a self-confessed PE-avoider at school and only a sporadic gym-goer since then, I’d always hoped my daughter would inherit her marathon-runner Dad’s sporting genes and not mine. However, as she’s getting older and becoming her own person, it’s become clear that genetics aren’t enough when it comes to keeping girls interested in sport and keeping fit.
We’re a pretty sporty bunch at Rayburn Tours, but I decided to talk to the other mums to ask how they felt that their experiences as girls has impacted on their daughters. Laura Arufe-Perez, our Educational Tours Sales Manager, had a similar experience of school PE to me:
“I certainly had no confidence at all when it came to PE at school and I avoided it like the plague because all the ‘sporty’ girls got picked for things and anyone who wasn’t particularly good at tennis, hockey, netball etc. was just sort of left out.”
Like Laura, I had a very sporty Dad who not only encouraged my brothers to play all sorts of sport, but also coached their teams, whilst my Mum (who had a similar experience to me in school PE) and I would be more likely to bake together! What a family of stereotypes!
I’ve read a lot about the importance of positive female role models for girls, but never really thought that I could be one. I’m not a natural athlete and neither was my Mum. Combined with the fact that school concentrated on the competitive sports that I was never chosen for, would I have been more inclined to try new sports if I had had more female role models?
With this in mind, and against the odds, I decided that I would do everything I could to try and be a positive sporting role model for my own daughter. This was one of the reasons I joined a women’s running group last year and, slowly but surely, built up to 10k.
I was not fast and I was certainly not pretty, but I loved it and, what’s more, my daughter saw me loving it! So much so that she started asking if she could come with me to Parkrun on a Saturday morning. We don’t make it every Saturday because 9-year-olds have busy lives, but when we do, we have a great time!
We sometimes push ourselves, we sometimes walk for bits of it, but we always feel amazing afterwards! I’m not the only one who enjoys the Parkrun community with my daughter. Deborah Blount in our Educational Tours department told me:
“My daughters know I enjoy going to Clubbercise and we often do Junior Parkrun together on a Sunday morning.”
It’s especially important to me that my daughter sees me enjoying doing something that I’m not the best at. Competitive sport is important and I encourage her to do her best at everything she tries, but we can’t all be ‘on the team’ and I want her to know that that’s okay. Laura echoed this thought:
I was not fast and I was certainly not pretty, but I loved it and, what’s more, my daughter saw me loving it!
“I do worry about my daughters being put off sport at school. I think if girls have a set of friends that aren’t particularly sporty, they don’t want to be seen as the odd one out (and vice-versa). I also want them to realise that you can still enjoy sport without being any good at it! I want my daughters to be confident when doing PE, even if they’re not the best!”
Some of our daughters are still quite young, but that doesn’t stop them noticing everything we do. Kate Bates, Assistant Manager of our sister company Venture Abroad, swims regularly and recently completed her second Swimathon. Her daughter is only 4 and already aspires to be like her Mum.
“She was super impressed with my Swimathon efforts – she wants to do it together one day!”
Other colleagues, like Tracey Nichols, our Educational Tours Product Manager, have older daughters and we were all interested in her experiences of raising her girls to be sporty and interested in keeping fit and active.
It turns out that Tracey is a bit of a dark horse and was actually Derby Sports Girl of the Year in 1977, so she certainly started from a better place than me when it came to being a good role model! She did a great job in passing on her enthusiasm for sport to her daughters; her youngest, now 17, has played for local football team Little Eaton Diamonds since she was 4!
However, although Tracey (and her own mother, a former regional hockey player), have clearly encouraged her daughters, Tracey stressed the positive influence of school sports and, in particular, the impact of a good PE teacher:
Let them see us lace up our football boots, pull on our swimming costumes or just head out the door for a run.
”My girls were fortunate to go to a school that is very passionate about sport and, as they enjoy sports, they were given lots of new opportunities. The school created teams in traditional boys sports whilst they were there and they went on to win the girls’ football trophy at Wembley. There was one PE teacher in particular that the students were all very fond of who made PE fun rather than competitive – a real gem.”
So what have I learned from my own experience and from talking to my colleagues? Our daughters look up to us and it doesn’t matter if we loved sport when we were girls, or if we dreaded PE, we can all be role models to our daughters.
Let them see us lace up our football boots, pull on our swimming costumes or just head out the door for a run. Talk to them about how it makes us feel to be active, whether you excel at what you do or are very much an amateur. Best of all, take them with you and enjoy it together!