Doncaster’s parks to be targeted to help get more women involved in sport

Doncaster’s parks and green spaces are the key to getting more women involved in sport, believe experts.  

They are to be targeted by officials in a bid to involve more women and their families, under their Get Doncaster Moving scheme, which is part of a pilot run by Sports England. But local clubs believe there need to be more women sporting role models.

Women out on the 5k course at the Doncaster parkrun session at Sandall Park

Women out on the 5k course at the Doncaster parkrun session at Sandall Park

It was revealed in the Doncaster Free Press round table, on funding in women’s sport, and held at the Dome.

Our panel was made up of Beth Dobbin, British 200m champion, Kerry Haslam, Doncaster Hockey Club welfare officer, Jo West, Doncaster Hockey Club publicity officer, Akeela Mohammed, deputy lieutenant of South Yorkshire, Andy Maddox, business development manager for leisure services, Doncaster Council, and  Ryan Scott, swimming development officer, Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust.

Are there any examples of good practice in funding of women’s sport? 

Beth Dobbin: The company I work for has helped me massively over the last three years. We go into school, and the school doesn’t have to pay for visits, but they get an athlete to go in as sports champions, The kids are asked to raise sponsorship so they can either do a non-uniform day or give a pound i and raise sponsorship. so it goes back to the school for them to spend on PE. The athletes get a set fee. That was a good thing that I was involved with, but that is not just for women.

Akeela Mohammed: Hall Cross has a sports evening. My daughter tended to always win an award because she did a lot of netball. This year they gave her a silver plaque with her name engraved on it. That is really good because there are a lot of girls there. 

Kerry Haslam: We went to the hockey dinner. There were lots of tables of boys but not as many girls.

Jo West: They struggle to get seven a side.

Andy Maddox: Competitively, there are not as enough women playing competitive sports.and that is sad because they should have the chance to compete.

JW: They might do if they had positive role models.

KH: It isn’t that girls don’t want to do sport. My mum used to teach PE, and has been volunteering and going into Hayfield. The first year she did it they had the Doncaster schools hockey tournament, She as gobsmacked because 30 years ago they went to a school with two pitches as all the schools had a team of 11. Now she’s come back and there are three teams, just of seven-a-side. The difference in 30 years is not because girls done want to.

Ryan Scott: I had a similar discussion with someone recently. When I went to school there was just swimming or football I think you’ve touched on a similar subject.To me there seems to be a lot more offer  now. We competing with horse riding, and dancing and gymnastics..

A Maddox. Swimming has the highest number of girls in terms of lessons, but if you try to convert that into a club structure it is difficult.  There are other things that are promoted in different ways. We are competing in a different environment. If you think about Park Run it has increased participation in running. It’s free and organised by volunteers, and its competitive. People want to do 5k, it’s friendly, and there’s a competitive time element.

JW: It was marketed really well. Couch to 5k makes it look like anyone can do it.

A Maddox. We piloted it in Askern. We trained people in Askern Running Club to be race leaders and leafleted people.

KH: I would love everyone to be doing hockey at school. Now they do six weeks of hockey, six weeks of athletics, and then six weeks of something else. You do six weeks of hockey and then don’t do it again. You never get very good an anything and there’s no continuation.

A Mohammed: It’s having that enthusiastic teacher who will do it after school.

A Maddox: A lot of schools bring in agencies to do sports. There may be an athletics club round the corner, but there are no pathways to the club. The biggest thing is to get people to step across the front door of that club, and then getting them to stay.

If we want to entice women into sport we have to focus on what women want and what we do. The biggest change that the leisure trust has ever made has been putting hair dryers into the changing rooms.

Research has shown you get a better gender balance watching women’s sport. Hockey has identified that 16-24 is the ones most likely to watch women’s sport. Anecdotally there are lot more younger people willing to watch women's sport.We can think about how we target them. That might not be through schools. Families is an area of focus for us. You can get male and female, young and old. Doing that can get parents active as well.

A Mohammed: I think its important that we engage with families in hard to reach communities who don’t take their children to sports.

A Maddox: Our focus for that is green spaces. We’ve decided sport is as important as education and housing. Get Doncaster Moving is a 10 year strategy that is a focus for the authority. We’re part of the Sport England pilot. Where is it free and where is it on our doorsteps? The key environment for us is parks and open spaces. There is a push on that now. We’re starting to develop strategies with governing bodies about how we do that.

A Mohammed: I think Elmfield Park is a prime place for things like games of rounders That would be great having a hockey match but how do we get women and young girls there?

JW: We have £1 sessions of hockey for children on Monday nights at our club. You don’t have to join.

We are trying to speak with one voice over Get Doncaster Moving, rather than lots of smaller voices. Hopefully over the next 12 months we will get some movement. Tour de Yorkshire is probably the best example of equity in women’s sport. The women’s race is over two days but the prize money is more than the men get. Their billing is as big and they run as many teams. There is no other race in the world that does that. After it ran, every other race in the world had to look at their prize money. 

Where would money be best directed?

JM: We’d have a new pitch

BD: There’s getting people active, and there’s the elite sport side. You can get younger people more active. There are people like myself who have struggled for financial support. For the last year I've been balancing four different jobs. DCLT is helping out this year, but I’d had six years with no funding.

KH: To be an adult member of the hockey club is £200. I used to play hockey, stopped, and came back. I was not sure if it was worth it for me. How are we accessing people who don’t earn through to pay membership and buy kits?

JW: We don’t have sponsorship . We have to pay through subscriptions. That has to pay for our elite teams too.

BD: I got in invitation to the London Diamond League, in London at the Olympic stadium, but I had to turn it down because I couldn’t get a shift off work. The European championship was all very good, but the next five girls down from me all had sponsorship. After the championship I had to work the next 10 days. Next year I probably will be alright with sponsorship from DCLT and others. I’ve also now started working with an agent. .

A Maddox: We are one of the test beds for Sport England for the next four years. Governing bodies are wanting to speak to us. We are asking governing bodies about how they can work with us. We want them to match resources, and the focus will be on women.

KH: You used to have all those people schools playing sport. Its not there any more. Now everything is focused on clubs. You’re trying to draw people in to those clubs. We’re not doing that successfully. It’s frustrating. We’re trying to find funding for things, but we’re missing out on the school people.

A Maddox: There’s money going into primary schools, but there’s no sports premium for secondaries and there’s a drive for reading writing and arithmetic. We need to find different ways to attract people.

Do you see any signs of improvement in funding for women’s sport?

BD: I think the DCLT’s schemes for top athletes are an improvement, offering free use of training facilities, not just specifically for women, but its something that was not around when I was first starting out. More venues need to do things like that I think that’s a good scheme.

KH: I think there is more funding about but its still not easy to access and we rely on volunteers to have the time and do the coaching. Its not easy, 

JW: I think there’s been a see change with Me Too. I think there is no harness you can put on a women to prevent them being the best they can, and the more exposure we get for women athletes the better. 

A Mohammed: We got funding for swimming. Cycling was free, British fencing have funding for three years here at the Dome. I think it’s about someone championing women’s sport, having role models and people championing it, and getting women young and old from different communities to be enthusiastic and drive it forward. 

A Maddox: I’m optimistic. Women’s sport is getting a higher profile, but it has a lot to catch up. There’s more integrated sport like athletics, with mixed relays and time trials in skiing. You can see small steps. Funding on a local level with always be difficult, but I think it is equitable now. Funders don’t view male and female differently now. Its not going to happen overnight, but we’ve moved a long way in the last three years.

RS: I think there has been a recognition of the need for sustainability. In fencing some of the ladies were trained as instructors. I think that is reassuring, That recognition of that need is the most positive thing for me.