Maureen McGonigle is introducing the next generation to a variety of sports through her Scottish Women in Sport program and showing the way for them to lead an active and healthy lifestyle
Transcending Sport is presented by Chris Stafford
Podcast length: 22’38”
Maureen McGonigle was inspired to form an organization dedicated to Scottish women in sport following the 2012 London Olympic Games, which had generated more interest about women in sport generally. She gathered some high profile Scottish sportswomen and is now leading a Scotland wide program aimed at females of all ages, abilities, ethnicities and walks of life. Their goal is to increase participation in sport or physical activity; within a positive, equitable culture where their achievements are promoted and celebrated. Chris Stafford spoke to Maureen about the development of the organization, the impact it has had so far and how funding will be integral to their plans for future expansion.
The closing music is the Scottish Women’s Anthem ‘Girl Daughter of Scotland’ written and performed by Sharon Martin.
Sharon Martin on Twitter
LISTEN to more episodes of inspiring women leaders in sport HERE
[00:00:00] Maureen joins me now from Scotland to tell us about the Scottish Women in Sport. Maureen welcome to the program.
[00:00:06] Thank you.
Well let’s start with a little bit of background as to how you formed the Scottish Women in Sports and what the catalyst was behind that and your involvement whether it be marketing women’s sport for quite a few years I was working with Scottish women’s football.
[00:00:23] I think it was there in 2012 just after the Olympics in London. There’s a lady called Clare Balding who’s pretty high profile in the UK and she was able to command some space to talk about lack of investment the lack of media coverage of the areas in women’s sport that lacking. Working in women’s sport was a weed of seeds but it was pretty harsh seeing it and people sit up and listen. No Scotland’s quite a small country and there was no one in Scotland collectively looking after women in sport done in England.
[00:00:53] There’s a bit the five organisations so it came to me that perhaps we should have an organisation called Scottish women in sport.
[00:01:02] So yes I put together a proposal and concept proposal spoke to a few people who liked the idea and who supported me and we launched in November 2013 as a charity and with the help of Judy Murray and with the help of Katherine Grainger and with the help of a lady called Beryl Robertson who’s a fabulous golfer and many other notables within the Scottish sporting and waited community. That particular day we had a host of cameras a host of interviews much more than it ever had in my time during looms football and that with us we were launched and we’ve been going since then which is about four years past.
[00:01:44] Well that’s wonderful and I’m sure there’s a lot to do. There’s a lot of potential now and as you say a momentum.
[00:01:52] So how did you decide on your mission and how you know such a famous sportswoman as Katharine Granger and the others women that you’ve mentioned. I mean that was the kind of support you would need or would imagine to get a national organization off the ground. How did you come about deciding what your mission would be and how you would implement it.
[00:02:17] Well I put together a group of people with different skill sets that came from sports journalism.
[00:02:23] They came from marketing. They came from politics and together we worked on it. To be fair and to be honest I just couldn’t really run with the thing it was it arms and legs as we kicked off. What I wanted to do was read the witness increase the profile of women in sport in Scotland. But the organization has become something much bigger than that.
[00:02:49] And what does the participation like particularly in girls in school and the retention. Because we often hear that girls you know they start off in sport at a young age and then they go on and do other things and then never really come back to it. Do you have statistics now from Scottish education that can help you focus on particular groups.
[00:03:13] There’s nothing really that has been updated from the point of launch in 2013 I think this is the kind of five year – ten year thing that’s right. But we do know from anecdotal evidence in terms of the drop off is still very similar and there’s so many different issues that affect young women at that age. That is understandable. There’s also the lack of visibility and you can be what you can’t see.
[00:03:37] And so there are many issues so it’s about raising the issues trying to find ways to resolve the issues to take people with a lot of the governing bodies of sport in Scotland have a strong focus on gender equality and the Scottish government themselves have that part of their agenda as well.
[00:03:57] Now in terms of the access to sport too is there anything different that’s north of the border than what’s being experienced elsewhere in the UK. Maureen anything that is very much local to you know to the region.
[00:04:13] I think in the bigger picture and not really I think obviously people will head to Ebola cases in terms of Golphin Scotland and the issues we had there maybe a year or two ago. So the high profile cases perhaps hit the other areas but I think we have the exact same problems as anywhere else has in terms of getting the young woman and making sure that the body coincident making sure that they understand that these opportunities are for them. So I don’t think that any different from anybody else in that respect.
[00:04:44] Now what about access and equal access in school in the school system but the primary school or secondary level again.
[00:04:56] Again it’s a theory let’s see it’s a theory. Whether that happens in practice I’m not sure my local primary school had asked me to visit them recently because they want to have a push on young girls in sport and they’re putting a program together this year to try and encourage them. So primary from age 11 under. And just recently I was visiting one of our girls only schools in Glasgow. Not a damn high school and it was the first year in the third year so maybe about 12 and 15 and they’ve been involved in one of the projects running which was girls to squash so they had come through this opportunity to try squash. So it’s a young Goji life thing either the same opportunity be they don’t have to choose whether they want to be sports or something else that sport can be sport as well. So it’s letting them into this getting that message and encouraging them to come and have some fun well you mentioned there about girls do.
[00:05:56] There’s a number of initiatives though girls do tennis roller derby hockey squash as you mentioned boxing cycling basketball you know all kinds of different sports now. What’s the story behind that campaign Maureen.
[00:06:11] Well I’m just so glad that you reeled off the sports because there’s nine of them and I struggle at times. It’s a bit like naming the seven dwarfs. So I struggled to get them all at times. But the theory behind that was again it is a profile that we don’t read or hear so much about women’s sports. We do that main sport. So one of our universities University of West of Scotland and they bring through the media and sports journalists and they have dedicated facilities. So we worked with them and their postgraduates their students and their staff to create a little television a little television program around nine sports and we kicked off with girls do tennis. And it’s been really really well received. Two more to go. We did go to squash last Friday. We have gymnastics and hockey to do. Luckily enough to work with a company called Brand who took his own as a CSR which is a Corporate Social Responsibility which basically means to take on as a client they don’t ask for any money which is great. So they put some marvelous planting at this and it’s just really taken off down in England. I don’t know if you’re aware of it but they had a campaign called this girl can and there was 25 million over three years have been invested into this campaign to get young girls and women into sport or back into sport in Scotland for this particular campaign I had 5000 pounds. So you know we do suffer from lack of finance but we try to be creative and innovative and still get something there.
[00:07:45] What do you find are the most popular sports for girls in the school system.
[00:07:49] Maureen again it depends what school they are and what is delivered to them because sometimes that delivery is dependent on what the teacher likes you know and we have a lot of football in schools though rugby is coming up squash obviously as I see it in different schools so there’s been a lot of work done within schools and we have things called we feel called Active Schools coordinators and who go in and they deliver into schools they deliver outside school time. So really what we are hoping is that young girls will get an opportunity to sample a variety of sports. We don’t want them to sit in and see what we have to do once what we have to do the other. If we complain of indictees sports to them let them find the one they like.
[00:08:35] Let them play more than one and then eventually you know they’ll have rule and specific precedence and of course once they leave school unless they go into further education into college and universities is then going to be looking at the club level sports and what’s available to them what does that picture look like in Scotland Maureen
[00:09:00] Well in terms of that that work should be done that school you know because we talk all the time about school club links. So this is the type of thing what you’re trying to do when they’re in school and they’re ready to leave as to build up that enjoyment in sport and let them know where the clubs are before you know they don’t leave one thing and then have to find another. It should be quite a seamless pathway.
[00:09:22] So the sports the active sports coordinators should fulfil that role as well and help them well we hear so much about gender equality and parity parity access and opportunity now across the genders. Are there any specific pictures there that are peculiar to Scotland. Maureen you’re having to focus on to give girls some sort of act so some confidence and empower them really at a young age.
[00:09:54] I don’t know about the rest of the countries but rich in Paris you know that your normal pick up your people have a look in the back pages is very slow to come on board. We’ve got BBC here which is the public broadcasting company and no they have an obligation. So there there’s more coming in in terms of the media and the television it’s no we in terms of 50/50 but there are movements to make it much more noticeable. We’ve got things like the Commonwealth Games happening and happening in Australia which brings us much more of a balanced viewpoint in terms of the sports that the television will cover. So not really knowing what happens in other countries it’s hard for me to compare. I would assume we’ve got pretty much similar problems as elsewhere but it will be interesting for me to know if that is the case and if people have overcome them how did that and in terms of local coverage then local newspapers and that sort of thing to give these girls the coverage they deserve.
[00:10:58] Obviously going from schools colleges and amongst the clubs what’s the level of interest like there amongst the public and the spectators. Do you see there’s a fanbase growing or is that very local.
[00:11:14] No I think that is a fan base growing what I would see in terms of engaging with the public getting the message we are using social media more. It’s a very important part particularly for women in sport. They can get their story out they can reach other people. So this is a very powerful tool. And most women’s sports are switched on to that in terms of netball they’ve grown their fan base in terms of football they’ve grown the fan base so these are things we can definitely quantify. And I think there’s a big push in basketball and volleyball. This again is coming on the back of the Commonwealth Games and of course the Winter Olympics there’s a lot of good news stories surrounding sports that are involved in both of these. So it’s going to be an interesting Scotland 2018 we’ve got the first European Championships which is quite a new thing and bringing together the countries where I believe athletics will be played in Berlin but we’ll have golf and swimming in different other sports in Scotland all under the one banner.
[00:12:13] So it is a little country in terms of sport but perhaps still have a week to go in terms of equity and how about the para athlete section of the community to you finding there are more opportunities there more participation really in the different sports. Among the opportunities that exist.
[00:12:33] It’s been an amazing year for athletics especially for a young woman called Sammi Kinghorn who is wheelchair racer and I believe she was out in us just last year running the medicine or whatever the terminology is largely from my lack of knowledge there. But Sami has won so many awards this year and she’s broken down the bodies because she’s been Sportswoman of the year. The Scottish Women’s Sports Award she also picked up at the Sport Scotland Sunday Mail Award so she’s come across all sports whether to be para or not to be the top women. So yes with great athletes you know we’ve got the ladies going into the curling in the Winter Olympics Aily Nelson and with Libby Clegg, Maria Lyle. So yeah I think that there’s a great impetus there in terms of that and bringing them up to the same level as we all not at the moment.
[00:13:27] Now tell us about the conference that you hold. What do you do at your conferences. Conference
[00:13:32] Day is a great day we have in Edinburgh. We’re very fortunate to have Royal Bank of Scotland support this and they have fabulous facilities which takes away a lot of the body because you know realize the Brambilla person actually who works for Scottish women’s sports there’s a lot of work involved in everything that we do and so it’s great to go back to some way that has this support. Basically we try and look at issues that impact on women in sport and we have an ID at this conference which so far has been really really well received. We had a young lady from Australia last year. Emma Doyle a fabulous speaker. We’ve had Judy Murray we’ve had on many different people. One of the board members from sporting goods whose upkeep isn’t worth and again she was telling us all about this girl can show us a day where you know we look at subject matter we expand the and I hope that it will be of interest to the wider public. And so far it’s been very good. You can actually catch all our conferences you can catch all our girls do sport things on our website or on YouTube.
[00:14:42] So there’s an opportunity to have a look in and see what we’re up to and what are your goals then in the short and long term Maureen for Scottish women and sport I think the short term must be to get some finance into the organisation and we’re struggling at the moment.
[00:14:59] It’s a case of you know we’ve got this awareness now and people are wanting our support but the more support they want the more it cost to do it. And so I think what we have to do is make sure that we get some financing and a kind of meeting to the to the road funding I think that might be an idea that we can get into it and maybe get some money in think long term what we want to do is to be able to work with the government and Sport Scotland to ensure that we’ve got this gender equity to look at how we as an organisation Scottish Women’s Sport can support the programs can bring impact and awareness strengthen and basically work together. So I think that’s a long term view and the long term view of is to be the go to place for women in sport. Get an issue got a problem wants to know the answer hopefully at some point we’re going to be the organisation that can deliver that.
[00:15:50] So you don’t have any financial support than from Scottish Government of any sort.
[00:15:54] No we haven’t had that at the moment and the body who deals with the funding sport Scotland again. So there’s a conversation for 2018 has to be had to see if we can get some support.
[00:16:06] So still work to be done then absolutely. Still a challenge out there absolutely well it sounds like you’re doing some sterling work up there in Scotland Maureen and obviously encouraging more girls to come into sport and to stay in sport and return at some point even if they have to leave but to come back and stay fit and active. Well it’s it’s lovely to talk to you. Thank you very much indeed for coming on the program and telling us all about the Scottish women in sport the very best of luck to you.
[00:16:36] Thank you.