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GB Junior Women
GB women - need to be strong on and off the field of play

 

06 April 2009

Article by Ed Warner as featured in Athletics Weekly Magazine

England's cricketers have won the World Cup. But the media story is not so much their triumph but that it was so poorly reported. As so often is the case in today's world, the media became the media's primary interest. And the cricketers' mistake? Being women not men.

By the time the England team arrived home, pictures of the trophy being carried by its proud possessors through the airport featured prominently inside the daily papers' sports sections. In one regard, better late than never, but in another respect the damage to the media's reputation - or perhaps that to the sports watching public's - was already done.

Since the Beijing Olympics, cyclist Victoria Pendleton has lobbied energetically for women to have an equal number of medal-winning opportunities as their male counterparts. At present the Olympics cycling programme is weighed heavily in favour of the men.

Athletics, I'm pleased to say, suffers from neither problem. In recent years Britain's brightest stars have not only been female athletes - Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes - but have also been accorded the public recognition their achievements deserve. This may in part reflect the 'equal opportunities' nature of the sport in that today there is an almost equal balance of men's and women's events.

We can't be complacent, however. The UKA Board spent time last week being challenged to consider whether our sport genuinely offers opportunities for all - for disabled as well as non-disabled athletes, across the socioeconomic and ethnic spectrums, as well as for both genders.

One deficiency that stands out to me is in coaching, at all levels but particularly at the elite end. We should not only be open to female athletes of all ages, but we must also ensure that women can contribute fully to our sport as officials, administrators and coaches. Is the last a critical factor in the future success of female athletes? We don't know, but we must be open to the idea that a greater number of experienced women coaches might enhance the prospects of female athletes achieving at the highest level.

Of course, there is no easy answer to this question, and any attempt to encourage more women to pursue a vocation in coaching is a long-term project fraught with difficulties. However, in this as in the other 'support' areas in the sport, we must not simply rest on the laurels won by our triumphant female athletes.