Team Talk by Chris Stafford

Team Talk: Chris Stafford on Mainstream vs Minority Sports

Raising the tide for all women in sport

Chris Stafford

Chris Stafford

I recently read an article that stated women’s tennis is on its uppers because the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is down to its last $10 million. To this I hear a loud cry from governing bodies in minority sports comparing their coffers and thinking ‘we would be glad of that’. I guess it’s all relative when a mainstream sport is feeling the pinch because, let’s face it, tennis has hogged the limelight for decades and given sports journalists something to  write about when the vast majority of women’s sports were largely ignored.  So this begs the question at a time when women’s sports generally is very – and I emphasize very –  slowly emerging from the shadows and by its gradually increasing exposure educating the wider public about what women really can do in sport and be successful. Can minority sports profit from their richer counterparts? Can sports that are not in the Olympic family capitalize off those that are?


During this current Olympic quadrennial there has been what I like to call the emergence of a women’s sports movement. It may be subtle and there may not be any bra burning but it’s happening. Sportswomen are empowering women across society, cultures and demographics. There is no doubt in my mind that the time has come, it’s happening, there’s a momentum now across all women’s sports, even if it’s not high profile, and it comes from the grass roots too, from schools, campaigns, charity work and a growing band of sportswomen who are giving back to the sport in all corners of the world. It’s vibrant, heartening and ever so exciting if, like us at WiSP Sports, you’re passionate about sports and committed to playing a part to increase their exposure. But it’s more than that, this is an opportunity to educate, to inspire, yes, but also provide resources and show the way to ensuring that women gain the recognition they so deserve.  To give young girls and their parents a chance to participate and be better informed about the opportunities in this wonderful world of sport. 


Having come from a career in equestrian sport, played a number of sports in schools and enjoyed every minute of my life in sports – yes even the falls taught me something – I’m just as excited now as I was as a 12 year old about watching and playing and listening and learning.  WiSP Sports is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved, engaged at whatever level and wherever they may be, to join us in adding to this wave of enthusiasm and appetite to know more about what women can and do at every level of the sport. How women can switch sports too and keep on trying new sports, regardless of ability.  While campaigners are making themselves heard on the subject of equality and fairness for all women in all sports, we will carry the torch and light the way for every young girl to see that there is a pathway for them to enjoy and succeed in sport. 


There are champions in all sports and the athletes that we’ve talked to already are shining examples of the diversity and dedication they represent. How they subsidize their earnings with jobs because prize money and sponsorship is nowhere near enough to make a living. I get emotional listening to their incredible stories and how their sheer guts and ambition drives them to continually advance in all aspects of training, nutrition and management. Overcoming adversity – the tumbles we all take – is par for the course, then add to that the unique challenges that women face because of societal norms and cultural expectations, gender bias and patriarchal dominance of sport, and there is even more reason to admire, respect, applaud and celebrate.  If minority sports, which are in the majority after all, can benefit from this new wave of interest and enthusiasm then we are making progress. My modus operandi is inspired by Brutus in Julius Caesar: “…We must take the current when it flows or lose our ventures.”  So let’s all jump on this boat and raise the tide for all women in sport.

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