| my experience of competitive women's sport

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

It would be hard to have missed the recent launch of the This Girl Can campaign, with inspiring adverts shown everywhere depicting women exercising in real life, and shattering the standards of having to look perfect working out. I fully embrace the aims of this campaign, as an individual who loves to keep fit and continues to improve on my fitness.

Whilst the advert shows many team sports with ladies appearing quite harmonious and supportive of each other, I would not personally argue that all ladies sports encourage friendliness or solidarity. I speak only from my experiences of competitive play in badminton, which I have played on and off for about 5 years. Technically, badminton is considered an individual sport but why should this mean women do not support each other as much as sport in big teams? Doubles play can promote team solidarity, but I have encountered a few instances where my partner has been less than supportive. 

I would argue that competitiveness goes hand in hand with badminton as a sport, much like tennis. This is due to the fact that singles play, where most people learn the basics of the sport is mostly individual, and you begin competing against other people. Whereas in a sport like netball, learning the basics entails working out how to work in a team together, which automatically requires communication. Regardless of the technicalities involved with picking up the sport, I have often noted that men are much more welcoming and less snobby about who they play with or against. Given that I have also met exceptions to this rule, the majority of women I have played with or against in my time have been difficult to get along with. 

The reason for this is not clear, but I have experienced cattiness and simply being ignored in younger years when playing for a junior squad, by those a higher level than me. I could not believe that girls at a young age could possess such a level of arrogance or feelings of superiority towards others. I realised early on that what women do not like, are threats to their position. Imagine this scenario - You've sat comfortably as the best girl player in the club for a few months, you can beat most people easily and your fitness is progressing well. Then, a new girl joins the club, she's not as skilled technically, but she shows potential to become good. She wins a few games against others comfortably, and so what happens when she comes up against you? What if she knocks you off the top spot as best player? This I believe is the single most probable reason that women may act a little frosty towards another in badminton - they do not like threats to their ability because it makes them feel insecure.

Again, I do not aim to generalise - I've made a huge number of amazing friends through playing badminton, and I had so much fun playing with them. However, especially regarding competition and teams, girls can become a little cliquey, and I've found this to be the case at the university. Girls who have already been members want to retain their position in their teams, regardless of the fact that newer members may be more efficient. Through all this I decide to block out the pettiness, because at the end of the day it's only sport. I don't take badminton as seriously as some, and I leave them to let it dominate their feelings of belonging and superiority. As with the This Girl Can campaign puts across, I enjoy sport as a hobby and continue to do it because I want to be healthy, happy and physically fit. 

To encourage more women to get involved in individual sport, the competitiveness that may come with it must subside a little. Healthy competition is great for motivation to work, but anything more than that is destructive and discourages solidarity among teams. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in sport, you are not competing with anyone to be the best, because we all have varying thresholds as to what we believe the best for us is. The sooner this idea is realised, sport will be more accommodating for any and every level.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever encountered unfriendliness in women's sport? 



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