EXCLUSIVE – Catherine Spencer: A cultural shift is making contact sport for girls accepted and is encouraging more to take part.
Former England Captain Catherine Spencer talks Women’s Sport Week
Spencer is proud of the recent progress in Women’s rugby
To support Women’s Sport Week, tweet, post and share you experiences using the hashtag #WSW16
Following the great success of the first ever Women’s Sport Week last year, former England captain Catherine Spencer is hoping for another fantastic seven days to shine the spotlight on women’s sport.
It is a Department for Culture, Media, and Sport initiative and is being backed by sport National Governing Bodies as well as major broadcasters including the BBC and Sky to showcase women’s sport from the grassroots to the elite.
And Spencer, who led England to three successive RBS 6 Nations titles and the 2010 Rugby World Cup final, believes the events taking place this week are crucial to getting more girls of all ages involved in rugby.
“We really have seen a cultural shift in the acceptance of girls playing contact sport, especially in the last 5-10 years,” she told RUCK.co.uk exclusively.
“It’s vital that we don’t just spend this week talking about women’s sport, action needs to be taken at all levels, especially on the ground at grassroots level to encourage girls to get involved and take part in sport,
“Things are changing but we really need to keep the ball rolling by getting more and more media coverage for female sport and events such as Women’s Sport Week is definitely going to help with that.
“It’s going to be a busy week for me, I’ll speaking on a panel tonight (Tuesday), where Captain and Olympic Gold Medallist for the GB Hockey Team, Kate Richardson-Walsh will be the keynote speaker,
“Hopefully one day there will be no need for a Women’s Sport Week as we will be on par with men but that is some way off. That has to be the end goal of all this.”
Over 100 rugby events are set to take place across the country to celebrate Women’s Sport Week (3-9 October 2016), ranging from O2 Touch, Pitch Up and Play and 15-a-side games. You can find a session near you here.
The former England captain left the RFU two years ago to set up Inspiring Women, which specialises in female motivational speakers.
And Spencer believes strong female role models are key to more girls getting involved in sport.
“The increased coverage of female rugby through the Olympics and Six Nations is helping massively,” said Spencer.
“It’s great for girls to have access to these strong female players now on television and social media.
“Girls are now able to say ‘I want to be like that’ – I want to play for England or represent Great Britain or even just want to play for their local team,
“I started playing mini rugby at Folkestone when I was about seven or eight in a boys’ team.
“I played until I was 12, and then girls weren’t allowed to play in boys’ teams above that age, so I had to stop,
“But we are now seeing girls playing rugby in schools and for their local teams at all ages, which is great for the development of the game and female sport in general.
“It’s a game that girls will learn a lot from and as cheesy as it sounds I really have met some of my best friends through playing rugby,
“Although it can be a bit of a nerve-racking experience when you first start at a new club, everyone is usually lovely and just wants the same as you – to enjoy sport and make new friends and lifelong memory’s doing so.
“Rugby really is the perfect game for everyone, both boys and girls, as there is a position to suit every shape and size of person.”