2017 has been a great year for women in sport, with the England cricket team winning the World Cup, the England Football team reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships, the England rugby team reaching the final of the World Cup and Johanna Konta making history at Wimbledon by becoming the first British female player to reach the semi-finals since 1978. This is to name but a few of the achievements of British sportswomen this year… there are countless more.
And while the sports-loving British public, and the athletes themselves, can bask in the glory of their achievements, a recent survey has revealed how important their performances – and crucially the opportunity for people to watch them in action – is to the future of sport in the UK.
In the survey carried out on behalf of The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards in association with Vitality, 39% of parents of girls under the age of 18 reported that their daughters had been inspired to try a new sport after watching professional women in action.
According to the survey, the sport young females are most likely to give a go after watching women play, either live or on TV, is football, with 47% of those who said their daughters had been inspired to take up a new sport reporting that the sport was soccer. 32% were inspired to give an athletics discipline a go, and 29% had been motivated to pick up a tennis racket after watching the pros in action at Wimbledon and other Grand Slams.
At an event to launch the 2017 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards in association with Vitality, Former Team GB mixed doubles badminton player and Olympic silver medallist, Gail Emms, said; “My inspiration was watching the ‘92 Olympic Games, and I saw Sally Gunnell win the 400 metre hurdles. I was 15 years old, and I just felt like… (now) I know what I want to do! I want to be an Olympian.”
Emms added; “And that’s why having women’s sport easily accessible on TV is vital. Seeing professional sportswomen in action really does inspire the next generation. I am a first-hand example of that.”
Another example is 15-year-old Emilie Gabriel, a young rugby player who plays for the Harlequins Academy. Talking about her passion for the game and what motivates her, Emilie said; “Emily Scarratt (fullback for the England rugby team) is a big inspiration and is someone I look up to. Just watching her play inspires me.
“When watching the England final (in the Rugby World Cup) I just felt like jumping in there and playing with them, I was screaming at the TV. I would love to one day play for England, that is my dream.”
To see more young girls, including Emilie, talking about how they have been inspired to take up a sport, and to hear their views on women’s sport in general, take a look at the video below.
To vote for your 2017 Sportswomen of the Year across seven different categories go to www.sportswomenoftheyear.co.uk.The online nomination process will close at midday on Monday September 25. A panel of experts will select the respective shortlists, with the winners being announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday October 26.
Live coverage of the ceremony will be available from 8-9.30pm on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix, a channel available to all Sky TV customers