Women In Sport Week shows the girls are more than alright!

Sport for all is the mantra at UCS and for one week each year the spotlight shines with special intensity on women’s sport in the Senior School.

The dedicated Women In Sport Week is no perfunctory observance in the school calendar but rather part of a virtuous cycle of encouraging, promoting and recognising girls’ sport in what is a predominantly boys’ school.

The 2023–24 edition of WISW has taken place this week, with a particular focus on celebrating the sporting achievements of Year 12 and Year 13 girls. There are seriously talented young sportswomen at UCS whose exploits and expertise deserve wider attention within the school community. By touting their achievements, WISW organisers hope to foster greater awareness of girls’ sport both among the boys and among female students who may be hesitant to get involved.

“We are promoting the sporting role models in our midst in order to hopefully encourage even greater participation and confidence in women’s sport,” said organiser Charlotte Hawes, UCS Head of Netball.

Playing sport has inherent physical and mental benefits, and it is widely accepted that girls and women who do so have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem. This owes as much to the losing experience as to the winning: the process of carrying on and clearing hurdles builds confidence.

In a week when rugby joined the list of girls’ sports at UCS, the programme of activities included disciplines as diverse as fencing, netball, women’s football and spinning, with each event led by a Sixth Form athlete. Sophie, who directed the fencing session, has represented Great Britain at Under-17 and U20 levels. Meanwhile, women’s football captain Lauren organised a skills session based on her experience of playing for teams like Arsenal and QPR.

Also on the list, the Staff vs Students netball match generated widespread enthusiasm, along with the challenge match between the UCS netball 1st team and a scratch boys team.

For all the progress made in female participation and representation in amateur, college and professional sport and its governance, there remains the challenge of keeping girls interested during their teenage years and beyond, with a significant drop-off occurring from age 13 onwards. “There are many uniquely female challenges in pursuing sports through teenage years, including physical and emotional changes and the societal pressures on young women to look and behave a certain way,” explained Mrs Hawes.

Other student examples of sporting excellence celebrated were: Emer, a county champion swimmer with an impressive CV in international open-water swimming; talented footballer and FA-accredited coach and referee, Charlotte; Aimee, a club-standard netball player, assistant coach as well as very capable football and lacrosse player; and finally netball captain, Thalia, who is also a London champion gymnast. Quite the talent pool.

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