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Author Alex Ekong
Communications Intern at Spirit of 2012
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Celebrating Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week

Spirit of 2012 is joining Active Scotland and Actify in celebrating Scottish Women and Girls Week 2020. For the last 4 years, Active Scotland have used Scottish Women And Girls Week to shine a light on the participation of women and girls in sport and physical activity. This year, the focus is going to be on the return of sport in Scotland and the positive impact of physical activity.

This is why we at Spirit have chosen to get involved, as we have funded projects that remove barriers for activity for those who have been traditionally less active. We're choosing to support Scottish Women & Girls in Sport Week because we believe:

  • being active and talking part in physical activity is good for the mental and physical health of women and girls
  • for many women and girls being active is a journey of small steps
  • providing activities which are person centred, social and fun works best in supporting women and girls to become and remain active. 

You can find these takeaways and more eye-opening research in our Sporting Equality Fund evaluation report, which looks at a number of projects which worked closely with Scottish women of all ages. You'll find this and more learning on our Actify profile.

Here, we have highlighted different projects which work with Scottish women and girls as part of our Changing Lives Through Sport And Physical Activity Fund, our partnership with Sport Scotland, The Robertson Trust and the Scottish government. See the co-ordinators explain in their own words how important their work is and how they've adapted through the COVID-19 pandemic below.

 

Walking Netball: More Than A Game (Netball Scotland)

Walking Netball aims to get older women engaging in regular physical and social activity through inclusive netball sessions. Development Manager Geraldine McGuire explains what getting these women active means to them.

Through the lens of your project, why is it so important to get Scottish women/girls active?

Providing a range of opportunities for women and girls to participate in sport and physical activity is a key priority for Netball Scotland. Our Walking Netball programme provides an extension to our participation pathway, provides an opportunity for a diverse community, e.g. age, disability, to connect with our sport and uses netball as the vehicle to assist with social interaction, tackle loneliness and isolation, increase confidence, and improve both mental and physical health.

How has your work changed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

It has been a challenging time for us as a sport and the demographic of the walking netball community has meant that the programme remains suspended however, we have tried to remain connected both over digital platforms and through personal connections and communication. Postcards were sent to all walking netball members with a “We Miss You” message and signposting them to support services through Breathing Space & Age Scotland until we see them back on court.

What's the most important lesson you've learnt in the duration of this project?

People are key, communication is key, asking questions and not assuming is key.

walking netball scotland

Community Strides (Scottish Association for Mental Health in partnership with Jogscotland)

Community Strides is a project which seeks to increase access to jogging for women from communities of colour around Scotland. Jogscotland Development Manager Jo Stevens and SAMH Programme Manager Robert Nesbitt explain it in their own words.

Through the lens of your project, why is it so important to get Scottish women/girls active?  

There are so many benefits that come with being active. There are the physical benefits such as getting fitter, improving bone strength, sleeping better, and reducing our risks of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. 

Our Community Strides project created safe welcoming spaces for peopleof colour to be more physically active. For many of the participants who joined Community Strides, this is the first time they have been active in their lives, so they have enjoyed trying new things.  It has been encouraging to see some of the group venturing outside to be active after overing coming their fears of being seen in public. 

Being active has positive impacts on mental health too by increasing self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and boosting confidence.  It also can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and it gives you that space to just to be you for a while.  Feedback we get from the participants in our project is that they all notice a lift in mood at the end of a session. We encourage conversations around mood and mental health and highlight the difference that being physically active can make. 

Lastly, we see social benefits from being active.  Being part of a group helps to give a sense of belonging and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Our participants not only belong to their individual groups but a wider running network where connections have been made to other local jog groups.

How has your work changed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Our project had to act fast to keep the engagement as the country went into lockdown.  We had learned from the first year in the project that cultural events and things like school holidays put a halt on participation, so we looked at ways to keep groups going. 

One of our groups took to Zoom and held weekly sessions online.  The sessions were adapted to include stationary warm ups and stretches, breathing exercises and drills that required little space and little impact as many people taking part lived in apartments and were concerned about making too much noise.  

Another group that met in a community centre before lockdown made links to their local Jogscotland group who welcomed them in once restrictions to outdoor exercise eased. It was great to see 10 women of colour join the local group with more joining through word of mouth. 

What's the most important lesson you've learnt in the duration of this project?  

Community Strides has taught us so much!  We have learned that building trust and relationships with the community organisations and participants takes time and cannot be rushed.  We also realised that there are a number of barriers to participation such as lack of fitness, low confidence, underlying health conditions, stigma and views of others within the community. 

Keeping regular contact with partners and organisations has been crucial throughout the project.  Meeting regularly helps keep driving the work forward and allows us to learn and take different approaches for advice we receive from the community organisations and lets us celebrate all that we have achieved. 

What has been encouraging to see is that local, respected role models are key to helping us to promote participation.  Having regular contact with our partner community organisations has been valuable for teaching us about cultures, beliefs, family structures and this has helped shape our approaches to our delivery. 

Let's Give Sport Back To Girls (Inch Park Community Sport Hub, in parnership with Youth Scotland)

The Let’s Give Sport Back to Girls project aims to provide opportunities for young girls to participate in sports & physical activities. Paul Reddis tells us more. 

Through the lens of your project, why is it so important to get Scottish women/girls active?

Participation in regular physical activities will provide many benefits, increasing women and girl’s ability to ‘feel good’. Therefore, it’s important that women and girls do not miss out on the many benefits resulting from being physically active.  Support should be provided for girls to experience sport and physical activities as a positive experience in their lives that can have a long-lasting influence on how active girls will be in adulthood.

Currently, amongst Scottish women and girls, the statistics for regular participation are disappointing, many portraying barriers that reinforce negative past experiences with participation.  It is necessary to tackle these barriers for future participation experiences which are positive, provide benefits to women and girls that will enhance their overall physical health & mental wellbeing.

How has your work changed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Due to Covid-19 and the restrictions in place, my work has changed. Face to face session delivery has not been an option for the groups of girls (engaged with the project) I had previously been delivering sessions with and exploring alternative ways of connecting with the groups of girls during this time has proved difficult due to schools and after school clubs not being open. I’ve also been unable to communicate with group leaders and sport coaches, due to staff being furloughed.

Instead I connected with youth group leaders & school support staff during this time, using Zoom sessions/calls etc, with the aim that I could further communicate with their young people.  Unfortunately, group leaders expressed they were also experiencing difficulties maintaining communications with their young people.  This included school teachers and support workers who said that as an example of their efforts they were giving homework to the young people, but, many of the young people were not engaging with the homework.

I have been working on a variety of Health & Wellbeing toolkits that group leaders can engage their young people with and established new contacts/organisations who share passion to work on improving women & girls physical and mental health.   Working together, a programme of sessions for girl’s is currently being worked on and when finalised will be promoted within schools and local community groups, with the intended outcome that a Mind, Body & Soul programme will be delivered to young girls locally.

In recent weeks I have been reconnecting with schools and after school clubs previously involved with the Let’s Give Sport Back to Girls project (prior to Covid -19).  Post October school holidays and with risk assessments approved for face to face session delivery, I am hopeful that face to face session delivery will recommence early November 2020 with groups of young girls.

What's the most important lesson you've learnt in the duration of this project?

We must listen to girls and take lead from them to increase participation levels in sports and physical activities.  Girls should be supported, encouraged and motivated to be their best and enjoy the journey of designing a plan for striving towards and achieving their goals, wishes and dreams.

I have witnessed girls who are excited to share their physical activity ideas, talents and creativity with other girls.  This demonstrates that girls want to have fun and connect socially with others, whilst encouraging other girls to do the same.

In my experience, working with the younger groups of girls, physical activity which is built on fun and enjoyment, is key for success.  As girls increase in age, due to physical body changes and sometimes complex barriers towards participation, sadly for some girls, physical activities stop being a fun and enjoyable experience, resulting in non-participation.

During the project, it appears that for many younger girls of primary school age, there is a variety of activities offered to them within the school physical education timetable. It would be favourable for those responsible for delivering physical sport & activity sessions to girls at Secondary school, dedicated time to listen to girls preferred choice of activities, had a sound knowledge and understanding of barriers with a desire to minimize them, this would potentially encourage more girls to participate with activities that they enjoy on a regular basis. 

Girls given the opportunity to be heard, makes them feel valued and understood, therefore, they are more likely to engage with physical activities in which they want to be a part of, designed by them together with their group leaders/coaches.

Realising that emotions and behaviours can be regulated and managed as one of the many benefits from being physically active can lead to improvements in self-control, coping skills and emotional awareness during this critical developmental stage in a girl’s life. 

Keep talking & listening to girls, communication and working together is the best way to shape a future of regular physical activity participation for girls.

 

We're grateful to our Changing Lives grantees and partners for keeping our mission of removing barriers for participation in sport going. Below, you can see the real difference that project co-ordinators made to the lives of girls during the Sporting Equality Fund. Over a year on from the end, we are delighted to reaffirm our commitment to help Scottish women and girls get into regular activity. We'll see you next year for another Scottish Women& Girls in Sports Week.