We are stronger than you think and braver than you’ll ever know.
Women are constantly being underpinned in the sporting world and fighting for an opportunity to stand up for themselves. No two journeys through sport are the same. Everyone has their own unique experiences, their own achievements and successes, their own role models and inspirations, but most importantly their own stories to tell. Every day, women and girls across the country are making a difference and becoming positive figures for others to look up to. The Glasgow Guardian has gone to the sources themselves to prove that women can do and deserve sport too.
Claire Thomson, Sports Editor - Swimming
Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I have seen sport take its toll on so many young women and girls. Whether it was due to a lack of understanding, support and education from others, mental and physical struggles, or personal issues, as we grew older, we dwindled away, becoming less and less at each swimming competition. Despite this, sport played a major role in our development and upbringing, and I know that can say on behalf of the majority of us, we wouldn't be who we are today without it. My journey through swimming has definitely not been without its highs and lows, but my perseverance when I was at my worst is what I'm most proud of today. I, like many other teenage girls, hit a plateau around the age of 14. In swimming, this is so, so common, and is often the end of the line. However, rather than trying to find training methods and ways to recover from the dip, many clubs and coaches will simply use it as an excuse and brush it off along with “better luck next time”.
"My journey through swimming has definitely not been without its highs and lows, but my perseverance when I was at my worst is what I'm most proud of today."
This is where the importance of Scottish Women in Sport comes in. It's a more positive outlook and better education and promotion that is required to empower young girls and encourage them not to give up. I have always loved swimming far too much to stop so for almost five years I battled through disappointment after disappointment, feeling lost with no direction or goals, and jumped from club to club in an attempt to get back on form. I'm pleased to say that I finally did it. In my first year of university, I swam faster than I had not only swam in several years but my whole life. I learnt to trust both my instincts and the process, whilst also realising that sometimes big changes are for the better. So yes, being a female athlete is an absolute roller coaster but anything is possible if you just believe.
Melanie Goldberg, Writer - Snowboarding
I have been snowboarding for over 15 years now and it is most definitely a sport that is drenched in misogyny. Conversely, the explicit barriers that women face in this sport has created such a warm and welcoming bond amongst female boarders. We motivate each other to constantly improve, and competitions are spaces of encouragement and solidarity, not of opposition. I have formed lifelong friendships, hugely improving my confidence in the sport.
"We motivate each other to constantly improve, and competitions are spaces of encouragement and solidarity, not of opposition."
Inevitably, things have improved since I began all those years ago, but meaningful change is still to come. Both individuals and institutions alike have a responsibility to challenge misogynist behaviour and too often, girls and women feel intimidated by the “lad-ish” culture of snowboarding. To all the girls and women who feel this way, please don’t be swayed from trying such an empowering and exhilarating sport.
Zein Al-Maha Oweis, Online Editor - Dancing/Horseback riding
As a girl with a visual impairment, I am constantly facing adversity in sport in more ways than one. I love doing sports such as ballroom and latin dancing and horseback riding as they make me feel free and do not require the use of my sight. While dancing, all I have to do is listen to the music, follow the lead of my partner and simply enjoy the moments that I am spending on the dance floor.
"As a girl with a visual impairment, I am constantly facing adversity in sport in more ways than one."
With horseback riding, it is an entirely different experience for me and yet another sense. Back home in Jordan, when I saddled up my favourite horse at the stables, Twinkle, I would focus more on my senses of touch and smell. Horses are the most loving and gentle creatures, who connect with a rider through their souls. Riding, for me, is one of the most freeing things in life. I can forget all of my worries, stresses, and what is happening in the world around me. All I had to do was put my trust in the horse, as my partner, and enjoy the experience. Twinkle was born at the stables when I was 13 years old; it has been amazing to see her grow up with me as I grow up with her. I look forward to having the opportunity to continually develop my skills and keep on improving. Sport has allowed me to let go and live in the moment, which is something I am very grateful for.
Izzy Sinanian, Deputy Science and Tech Editor - Basketball
Sport plays such an intricate role in my daily life; it helps me clear my head and gives me a break from university. It is one of the few aspects of my life where I can play by my own rules and regulations. There are no deadlines, assignments, or exam pressure. In a sense, I get to choose how hard I work and what I want to achieve from it.
Despite its freeing nature, being a female athlete, especially in a male dominated sport, is by no means easy. I have found that I am constantly subject to comparison, whether that be between my teammates or my male counterparts. It's as if I always have to work that extra bit harder to be “good enough” or “strong enough”, or often to even be somewhat accredited and acknowledged. But what you and I can take away from this, is that there's no giving up - keep going and keep showing up until you prove them wrong. The more you do to practice and better yourself, the more you will surprise everyone, including yourself, and the more confident you will feel in your own abilities.
"I have found that I am constantly subject to comparison, whether that be between my teammates or my male counterparts."
Asia Di Tella, Writer - CrossFit
I remember the first time I stepped into the “male side of the gym” - that’s what they called it. I had no clue what I was doing. I was walking around, looking at all those men lifting heavy weights and flexing in the mirror. After competing in fencing for more than five years, I was still the “skinny” and “fragile” one. I was constantly hearing: “it’s your genetics. You’re supposed to be this way. The weights room is not for someone like you." It was then that I decided enough was enough and to try the barbell. I couldn’t lift it. It was too heavy. I left the “men’s room” and went back to the three kilogram kettlebell exercises.
However, leaving did not sit right. I was over the unnecessary comments. I did not want to feel intimidated and weak anymore. So, I decided to educate myself, watching YouTube videos on how to get stronger. I bought lots of books on eating properly to maximise muscle gain, choosing the right exercises, and a complete guide on how to “train like a pro”. I went back to the weights room, took some light dumbbells, and started practising the movements. There were lots of trials and errors, but what I found out was that the more I showed up in that part of the gym, the less intimidating it was. I was going out of my comfort zone. I was facing the fear of doing something that was not supposed to be for me. I was doing it. And I was feeling awesome. I did not care about all the people looking at the skinny girl in the gym. I only wanted to do it for me, to feel good and strong any time.
"The more I showed up in that part of the gym, the less intimidating it was..."
After a while, I started trying new things, such as CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. Nothing could stop me anymore. Even though a lot has changed now, there are still women afraid of being judged for doing simple things like lifting weights. We should not be scared of doing something that can only make us feel better. Confidence comes with time, and the process that will bring you where you want to be, keeps getting more exciting. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. Show up and prove to yourself that you can do it.
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