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Attracting Women Into the Sport

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  • BlinkybazBlinkybaz Posts: 1,144
    I think we need to be looking at grass roots (sorry about the football term).

    If some of our best female athletes could get into schools to inspire.
    Also we need to develop this sport as mass Participation sport and never let it get elitist. I remember when I started and found it hard to get started due to a lack of info. When i turned up at my first race I could not have met a better bunch of people.

    Triathlon does come with a price tag that other sports dont. Its a big choice to make when buying all the kit even if its budget start when you first take the plunge.
  • BlinkybazBlinkybaz Posts: 1,144
    Blinkybaz wrote:
    I think we need to be looking at grass roots (sorry about the football term).

    If some of our best female athletes could get into schools to inspire.
    Also we need to develop this sport as mass Participation sport and never let it get elitist. I remember when I started and found it hard to get started due to a lack of info. When i turned up at my first race I could not have met a better bunch of people.

    Triathlon does come with a price tag that other sports dont. Its a big choice to make when buying all the kit even if its budget start when you first take the plunge.

    I remember the superstars program they did with schools when I was young. I met Sharon Davis and Brian cooper. They inspired me.
  • I met Daley Thompson

  • I coach a kids tri club with (possibly) a majority of them are girls (one of which went to the IRC's this year).
    Plus, run a primary school after school tri club in the spring. I'm sure lots of others do the same.
    I marshalled at a ladies only tri this year & there were hundreds of women taking part....they are doing it!
  • I am not disputing the fact women are taking part in triathlon, nor that people such as yourself are doing a lot to coach women and girls into the sport.

    The point I am making is that the majority of consistent and semi-serious individuals I see out running and swimming at the gym are women. I know there are a number of women only events out there, one is advertised today on this site. But the fact is these are a small percentage of overall races, and the number of females in any triathlon field is no where near representitive of the general population.

    I personally can see no reason as to why in a progressive society there should not be a 50% split between genders in any mixed sporting event. I can also see that the issue is not that females are not interested in being fit and working out in general. My question is why is it that more of them do not want to move from a general fitness approach in their lifestyles to taking part in sport orientated events on a regular basis. One factor might be the under representation of women as media supported role models as has been exemplified by this years SPOTY list, but this can't be the only problem there has to be more to it than that. I simply want to open up a debate on what I feel is an important issue. I have other ideas but don't want to turn this into a monolouge.

    Please do not think I am trying to put the efforts of others down, or trying to paint a picture of a desperate situation. There have been comments that this forum has become a bit sterile just think this is a relevant topic and in the news and one which should generate more active involvement across a wide range of forum followers and might get a few casual viewers to sign up and add their comments as they are most welcome.
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    If we look at sport and the relative percentage ratios of male to female on a world wide scale would the same ratio be the same for Triathlon as it is for football,as it is for rugby as it is for athletics,as it is for fell running.Google wasn't forthcoming with an exact answer.

    Is publicity the answer,or rather how to get publicity given that the amount of publicity Miss Wellington got against Beckhams new tattoo answers that question.
    More womens only races?,there are a few,but not widely publicised.
    More role models,there are plenty,putting aside Miss wellington for a moment,how many British Females finished in the top ten at Kona???,The Ever green Leanda Cave,First British Female world Champion at ITU,how much publicity did she get,not even a mention on that awards programme for that year.

    Maybe more role models from grass roots levels,look at the haul of GB medals at Age Group championships this year,again with the cock all publicity,noticing a trend.

    At my gym the life guard(female),asked if I was the one who did triathlon,she was interested but didn't know where to start,despite utilising the interweb,again lack of publicity unless you know where to look.

    Totally agree that it is a relatively untapped source of quality athletes,but despite that when asked,the reply I get is usually''I could never do that''.

    Is there an easy answer,no,most tri clubs have a junior section,but not a female section,
    If the media and federations are not going to encourage people,maybe it is up to us.

    Perhaps the New Years resolution for all triathletes is to encourage a member of the opposite sex to participate in a triathlon in 2012,if only a few take up the sport it may alter the tide a little.
  • kirkbykirkby Posts: 17
    Could the lack of women in general be the average women still does the cooking, cleaning and child care. Finding the time for this plus training is not easy. My daughters out of school activities takes four evenings a week. I'm not saying men don't help but in general I mostly see the mothers doing the taxi driving ect.
  • Kirkby this may well be the case for a lot of women and once they have got the children into child care school etc...maybe then and only then do they dedicate some time for themselves for exercise.

    I may well be the case that these are the type of women I see on a regular basis. The point is do this for 2/3 hours a day for five days a week and you have the basis for a pretty solid training regime for triathlon, and if you want to be a stereotype go home do the cleaning and cooking, sounds like my lifestyle. The question is why don't these women make the step and say to their partners 'your turn to look after the kids for a few hours on the weekend as I am doing a race'.

    Jon I think you are right to point out that triathlon is not behind other sports, but should we pat ourselves on the back because they are very poor at recruiting women and we are a bit better. I think you make some very good points about women sections in clubs, this seems to be an important factor. It works well in golf clubs with traditional ladies days, and have a women only event marketed as a charitable cause around an issue such as breast cancer, a big issue for my family, and you get mass participation. I do find it anoying that I can't take part in such events wearing a pink t-shirt as i have lost a lot of close family to this disease, but know that by being there along with a few other males would be detrimental to the overall numbers taking part.

    You also raise a good point are the federations doing enough. It is very easy to have equal numbers between genders, say five places in each sex at a world championship and say you have got everything right as a federation. In truth you only need 5 females in the age group wanting to go to somewhere such as Bejing and you mask the fact there might have been 50 males who applied in the same age group. Well done for the women in getting there, but it could be argued that it is an easier pathway to this level.

    To throw in another thought and i hope a few women respond to this, is body image a big issue. I showed my partner the following YouTube video of Chrissie Wellinton


    and she wasn't too sure what to make of it. Personally I think Chrissie is in fantastic shape and I dream of getting that ripped, or more a case of what would my power to weight ratio be at this level. Is it a case of constant media pressure of the nature of the Beckhams suggested simply creating perceptions that to be fit healthy and strong as a women is not the norm? If this the case are women happy to only go so far with their exercise and to compete might lead them to going past an aesthetic mark. Just food for thought.
  • LancsRider, you make some good points and better promotion/publicity of the sport might well see more women take it up when they realise that the step from their current routines to racing a sprint and beyond isn't actually that great. However, there are some key considerations that are missing.

    The first is that not everyone sees a bike ride to work or a swim on a sunday mornng as a potential training session. My wife really enjoys here swimming, but has no interest in correcting her stroke.

    Similarly, prior to the arrival of our daughter she enjoyed running a few times a week. Just a gentle jog with a friend, but enough to see her complete a couple the breast cancer races you mentioned. This was a real target for her, both emotionally and physically. But as with the swimming, there was no real appetite to increase this beyond these races to a local 10k.

    My point is that sport means many things to different people, whether you are competing, trying to stay healthy or just watching (or a combination of all three). However, whilst greater publicity of their achievements may well increase take up in their respective sports, it is their position as role models to the younger generation (female and male) that makes the likes of Chrissie Wellington and Rebecca Pendleton truly special people.
  • AtomicAtomic Posts: 126

    Thats all good and well, but who would wash the dishes and do the ironing?
  • kirkbykirkby Posts: 17
    Is the best role model for a child someone on the T.V. or in a mag. who are truly great C.W. or maybe there mother or father crossing the line near the bottom of the pile? Lancrider was not stereotyping just saying what I see when I look around, the world is not yet equal for men and women.
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Has sex discrimination gone full circle and starting to eat itself?
    wanting to compete on an equal footing with each other may actually alienate some,so rather than be ostrecised they decide to decline the chance to compete and continue to run/cycle/swim for enjoyment in their own singular world,rather than fail or believe that they have failed,we live in a very self concious enviroment so peer pressure may play a serious part in why some decide to never enter a competitive race.

    (the last statement is pertinent to both female and male).

    does race fee = must be competitive?

    perhaps the male forum members are throwing darts in the dark with trying to find answers that they think the women will give,I will ask at work and see what answers I get.
  • willieverfinish wrote:
    I met Daley Thompson

    Quite right, unfortunataly when people talk about Fatima Whitbread it's rare they talk about her legendary throws. Even in primetime athletics equality doesn't seem equal...
  • Jon.E I think you provide a very good visual metaphor regarding males throwing darts in the dark. I was hoping for a lot of female response to the post, though I wasn't sure if it happened which way would it go. As it is I suspect we have none.

    On one hand would the concensus be from women there is nothing wrong everything is fine leave it as it is, or would it go the other way and run into a list of things the sport needs to sort out and if it did more women would participate. I tend to lean on one side of this equation simply based on the fact participation percentages are not representive, but this does not mean I am right, or should even have a real say given my gender.

    In today's society I find it hard to understand why so many women are passive on this forum. It surprises me that there are not comments on the forum regarding say advertising on page 114 of this months 220, or maybe this is the best selling product from this particular retailer, I doubt it. What interests me about the whole area is that Chrissie Wellington puts forwards frank and very well constructed arguments and shows real leadership in this sport. Behind such leadership I would have thought many women would have fallen in their support?

    Your point about sex discrimination having gone full circle and eating itself is very interesting. My thought on putting up the YouTube video was in trying to explore this issue. I had a nagging suspision that many women might view Chrissie in the media genre of a body builder as being a bit of a freak and not very 'female' at all. Is it the case that C.W. is not a role model for women at all, but is simply a role model for men? If this is true what impact would she have on womens participation in the sport should she be on the SPOTY list, possibly very little. If this is true was the initial dismay of no women on the SPOTY list just political correctness gone mad, followed by a few female atheletes jumping on the band wagon for some self publicity. Should we even care about women getting into sport?
  • Atomic wrote:

    Thats all good and well, but who would wash the dishes and do the ironing?
    haha i agree with you.

    kompiuteriai kaune
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    So since there is a shortage of replies to the thread from women I asked my colleagues at work,not very scientific but still.
    Female colleague number 1.She keeps fit,uses DVD fitness videos and a cross trainer,can SBR.SAys there is a lack of publicity not for just triathlon but for womens sport in general,she would feel very self conscious if she was to race in public,but would do it for fun especially for charity but not competitively.Cost if she was to choose tri as a hobby would not be prohibitive.

    Female colleague number 2.Gym member,can SBR,says that the cost is not prohibitive to doing a tri,but feels that as she is competiitve in nature might feel under prepared and always conscious about getting a bad result,also thinks that the image of the sport is to have the correct(i.e tri specific gear) to be an advantage and therefore possibly essential.And would require to look the part whilst racing.Agrees that women are under represented in sport on the whole and that tri lacks mainstream publicity,but cites that male sport is shown more as it has spectator appeal due to its more competitive nature.

    Female colleague number 3. Has expansive and well equipped home gym,has completed FLM.Watches mens sport but will not watch female sport,as it is not as good.Would not do a triathlon despite being able to SBR,feels that it is an inconvieniance to bike and run whilst being wet.

    Also asked Male colleague,who would not watch womens sport,tends to watch Rugby and F1(avoided the is motor racing a sport argument),He enjoys the 'Tribalism'of male sport which is not evident in womens sport,and combines the mens and womens sport together and likes to see the technical aspect(F1)and the faster/higher/further aspect of sport which is more prevalent in mens sport,men throw further,run faster etc,so it is the edge of the envelope that entertains rather than the sport,rather like rather see a bad game by good players than a good game by bad players.

    Although all four did voice agreement in lack of women in the SPOTY,and surprise that given that to of the Panel were Loaded and Nuts,that they hadn't nominated more females given what most of their pages have photographs of.Also felt it was discriminatory that if there were two 'mens mags',why not have two womens mags such as Zest,Top Sante,even Glamour which feature female sports stars and ones that they see as Role models.

    so a widely diverse viewpoint from four people,ultimately proving little or finding a solution,but unless the female forumites post here it is the best I can do.
  • Good effort!
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    ....or are the powers that be who do the counting merely looking down the telescope the wrong way when counting? Are they only counting competitive sport & ignoring (or being ignored by) the many women we all see out there running, swimming, biking, using the gym, going to classes be they yoga, body combat etc? I am in the fitness industry & our gym use is a fairly even split I would say, we have a ladies morning (which all the men moan about..3 hours one morning per week) we only had 6 women in all morning, I teach classes (spin) & I get mostly men, my colleague also teaches & gets mostly women aside from teaching styles, personality etc I am seen as 'the cyclist' & thus my classes must be harder & so get the blokes, despite the level of difficulty resistance wise being controlled by the participant. My classes are more structured in a timed interval way than the other classes, but in essence no harder. I am not sure what this says about perceptions & participation.
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  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    As a corollary if you will to the 'more heat than light/light than heat' scenario of the classes, we also get the 'weights' end of the gym, predominantly male, making noise shifting stuff around, pulling faces with the occasional foray into the 'cardio' end of the gym, predominantly female mostly getting on with it, but not often much urgency, but as in your hunting analogy,most likely producing the greater training effect, but not often venturing to the weights end. I know personally that when I introduce newbies to the gym I make very little allowance or difference between the advice or guidance & instruction I give to male or female, with obviously differing goals producing different programmes or advice, but if its is simply getting fitter or losing some weight as mostly it is, then cardio plus some resistance is the way to go & yet we end up with the above scenario. How much is down to intimidatory men or the perception thereof I don't know, but on ladies only sessions the same pattern is observable, mostly cardio, occasional weights. This goes back to the Chrissie point raised earlier, muscles & women are a non starter for most, despite my insistance that most folk male or female give up long before muscles start popping because it is such hard work!
  • CCSCCS Posts: 53
    Intetesting debate... so thought I migh chip in with a few points from a woman's point of view - though not sure whether I can add much in answering the question re why more women aren't involved in the sport, given that I already am...

    I think we have to accept that triathlon is a fairly minority sport - so it's perhaps not really that surprising that even champions like Chrissie don't make the list for SPOTY. This seems to have caused all sorts of outrage on various tri forums - but if you take a step back and look at sport overall, is it really that surprising? I am sure there are plenty of smaller sports where we have great champions - but ultimately, the title of the event is about 'personality' rather than sporting achievement anyway, and you would expect the most popular sports to dominate - otherwise, there would be a limited TV audience.

    Personally, I think that the whole point about needing female role models on lists such as SPOTY is a complete red herring. As many of the posts have pointed out, women tend to have a whole load of other stuff (kids, ironing etc) to juggle, and I don't think seeing a woman succeeding at the top level of the sport really would have much influence over whether to give it a try or not - unless perhaps, she also manages to juggle kids, ironong etc - now that really would be inspiring! For the average punter such as myself, professional athletes just aren't a role model. Yes - it's fun to watch them occasionally, but what they do is so far removed from your normal life, that it's not really relevant other than as entertainment.

    I think that the whole ironman thing actually can be a bit offputting for people getting involved in the sport - often when I talk to other women about triathlon, they are under the impression that all races end with running a marathon, and are pleasantly surprised to hear that races are also run over more civilised distances too! Perhaps the sport does just need to be better at promoting what goes on at grass roots level?

    Have to say, that the YouTube clip probably doesn't do a great deal to motivate women into the sport either... I know you have to be skinny to be a fast distance runner, but that's not a look that many people would aspire to!

    A few random thoughts then... but I am afraid probably not very helpful!
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    Interesting, but all or most of what you say is true of male participants, pro athletes are a race apart, what they do bears little relation to my life & I work in sport to an extent. Ironman skews that perception, although I believe less here than in the US where tri, seems to mean Ironman.
    I see the inspiration to perform coming from inspirational performances, as in on a world stage, so yes they may be other beings, but they provide the spark, although that spark also comes from parents & peers. This is where my cynicism as to the Olympic legacy comes into focus, the powers that be talk a good game & then fail to back it up..spend massively up to the games, kids (people) get inspired...post olympics funding gets reduced or removed we move no further ahead. Even getting folk active rather than sport/competitive sport will founder as local govt gets squeezed & facilities get closed & once they are gone, they stay gone. I have strayed off topic a bit, but if overall participation is down, then womens participation will be down by a bigger amount.
    It seems that a mass participation scheme I have an involvement with, whose funding is up for negotiation this coming financial year & I quote 'will be funded up to the end of the closing ceremony'
    now if thats not cynical I do not know what is.
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  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    I believe that there is a split in triathlon itself as far as events go, similar to the running community. Those that want to 'do a marathon' automatically gravitate to the big city marathons in general, London specifically in the UK, similarly Winsor, Belnheim & London (amongst others) draw the 'do a triathlon' crowd and I by no means wish to sound condescending or disparaging to these folk, they are there, they are doing something, they are competing & raising money in many cases for charity. Not for me, I take one look at entry fees & decide I will race smaller local races more often than the one or 2 big events I could (will) afford. These events are where our sport quietly gets on with it & I believe are more inclusive (although I have no facts or stats to back this up)& where the increase in participation in a community sense will begin from, the problem for any organisation large or small commercial or not is getting the message across to those you most want, be it more female paticipants or more families, pick your target...but how do you reach them & how do you convince them it is for them?
    Partly my role is to get more people more active more often, we offer the scheme I previously mentioned & in the most part we merely poached already active people from other providers, we 'converted' very few new exercisers to our cause & as the scheme has changed due to decreased funding so the figures & the people have melted away, end result politically local government can say 'we now have X more people exercising than before' when waht has actually happened is that we are counting that many more people because they pass thru our doors, rather than through someone elses, overall city wide the change will have been mimimal, but any change in an increased manner is welcome of course, but we still are not reaching the real couch potato folk...but how do you? How do you convince people that this is something they can & should do? I mean simply active, not exclusively come to a gym, as above I am an out there in the weather guy, not in air conditioned splendour. Similarly, how do you convince women that this is something they can come out & do? Even a simple running group I began has gone nowhere from a promising start, it now is mostly male, getting faster & further, when my original aim was to free up treadmill time & convince those glued to the moving belt that outside was way more fun.
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Every answer this thread seems to find only promotes more questions.
    Should there be a more structured,almost pyramidal approach to triathlon,football does with its leagues,you have the primadonnas right down to the'' purple patch,tap washer ''league,all of which get a cwertain amount of media exposure,whereas the minority sports only get to see the elites in the media,exceptions being the VLM etc(but that seems to gravitate towards the celebrities).

    Should triathlon adopt similar lines as cycle racing with different categories of racer,you then compete against athletes of the same ability,and then age doesn't come into it(other than Vets,and lets be honest,there are alot of vets that can KTA of younger racers).

    I am sure that as Lancsrider comes from a similar prehistoric age that I do he can remember,that Triathlon did used to have time limits to qualify for specific standards.

    Finish a race in under a certain time more than three times and you get to go up a category.

    That way you remove the age barrier.Would that be more encouraging.Just an idea.
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