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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 29th August 2018

Getting Girls in the Game

A national initiative designed to celebrate active females is helping many reconnect with a sport, engage in a new one, and enjoy the numerous benefits of healthier living. We talk to a leisure professional and meet some ladies providing inspiration.

There’s barely a week goes by when headlines fail to tell us we’re an increasingly lazy nation, addicted to our smart phones and all-consumed by Love Island. And whilst much of that is true, not to mention worrying in terms of the social, physical and financial cost to the country, there are many playing a sport or undertaking a fitness pursuit every week – and benefitting in many ways.

Developed by Sport England, This Girl Can is a celebration of active women designed to help overcome the fear of judgement that can be a barrier stopping too many from participating.

Jane Parish, Chief Executive of Sencio Community Leisure, says: “Girls tend to drop out of sport at a higher rate than boys when puberty kicks in and it can often set a pattern of inactivity that continues into adult life.”

“That’s why initiatives like This Girl Can are important, as are examples of women who are taking part in sport or exercise on a regular basis as they can be so inspiring,” adds Jane, who is quick to point out that if you are not a ‘gym bunny’ then there are numerous other options.

“For many women, gyms can be intimidating. In truth, they don’t have to be seen like that and the right fitness professionals can really help women discover what are the numerous benefits of free weights and resistance machines.

“If, however, it’s not for you, then group exercise classes are great as well as being sociable. There are local sports teams, running groups, walking communities and much more.”

Jane is also keen to emphasise the wider benefits of sport and fitness, as highlighted by some of the ladies we interviewed as part of this feature.

“We cannot underestimate the impact of regular physical activity on our mental wellbeing. Although you should always talk to a medical professional if you’re struggling, it’s been proven exercise can really help those with anxiety and mild to moderate depression.

“The crucial thing is to find something you’ll enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try a few things until you identify the one for you – you’ll find most classes, clubs, groups and teams really friendly and all-too keen to welcome new people.”

Making their mark

Julie Partridge, Hockey

Edenbridge Hockey Club was established in 1976 and its ladies’ squad has recently gained promotion to Kent Division One.

Julie Partridge, Club Treasurer, says the team – which trains on Tuesday evenings at Edenbridge Leisure Centre – features people who haven’t played since school, students, mums who’ve decided to get fit and some who’ve never picked up a stick.

“I’ve been playing for Edenbridge Hockey Club for 31 years and am currently the oldest team member. I did play at school and then had a break before re-joining again at 21. Ours is a friendly, welcoming group and hockey is a fantastic, sociable sport that helps me both physically and mentally.”

Amy Ennion, Water Polo

For 25-year-old Amy Ennion from Swanley, the fast and intense sport of water polo is a way of life.

Amy, who plays for Bexley Water Polo Club based at White Oak Leisure Centre, took up the sport aged seven, played in Sixth Form and then at international level before a swimming accident at the age of 18 in which she broke her neck.

“I couldn’t stand being away for such a long spell so I did refereeing and coaching qualifications. It was such a relief when I was able to get back in the water,” says Amy.

“Water polo is fun and enjoyable and it’s a great way to improve your fitness. Aside from the obvious benefits we know come with sport, everyone needs to remember one very important aspect of being physically active – the more exercise you do, the more you can eat. And I love to eat!”

Katie Alcock, Powerlifter

Katie Alcock, 22, from Sevenoaks, has been lifting weights since she was 16.

“I weight train because I really enjoy it but also in order to strengthen my body for running, yoga and calisthenics. I also love to swim, cycle and climb,” says Katie.

“Using weights can be a great way to develop your confidence and increased muscle will help spike your metabolism, as well as giving you an athletic, lean physique. However, if weights or the gym aren’t for you, that’s okay. I strongly believe there is a form of exercise for everyone, so it’s a case of being prepared to try different things until you find something you enjoy.”

Demi-Jade Rogers, Football

Demi-Jade Rogers took up football two years ago and is proud to be part of the increasing rise in popularity of the game amongst women.

“I saw an advertisement for a new team and was instantly interested as I had always wanted to play but never had the opportunity,” says Demi-Jade, 29, from Edenbridge.

“Football is becoming very popular with women of all ages. You meet people you wouldn’t normally, the social side is great and it’s a hobby I can fit around being a mum-of-two.

“As a person with health issues, one of which is high blood pressure, keeping fit is crucial. Since I’ve been working out I have felt a whole lot better in myself with increased energy levels. It also builds confidence and makes you feel better about yourself.”

Emily Killick, Powerlifter & Personal Trainer

Nineteen-year-old Emily Killick from Edenbridge holds the England under-18 squat record and competed in the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa 2017, returning with three gold medals.

“Initially I was a runner and then joined the gym but realised I liked the look of the weights section,” says Emily. “Powerlifting gives me a thrill and fills me with adrenaline. It’s good for people of all ages and sizes, and is rewarding physically and mentally.”

Emily, who is also a personal trainer, believes being fit and active is not only about your physical health it’s also about your mental wellbeing. “I believe training or physical activity is a fantastic way to escape every day stresses.”

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