Don’t get me wrong I loved sport – watching it, playing with my brother in the backyard – I just lacked the confidence to go beyond that. Looking back, I remember so many times where I wished I had netball on a Saturday or participated in Little Athletics. At the time my only extracurricular activity was Greek school twice a week (#greeklife).
I remember I spoke to my parents once about maybe taking up a sport at school, but being relatively new to Australian culture they didn’t understand or even know how to help or guide me through this. They were incredible parents and worked extraordinarily hard, but cultural and language barriers played a part in them not really understanding or recognising the importance of these sorts of opportunities. Put it this way, I took myself to swimming lessons when I was nine years old because I was scared I’d drown at my best friend Gail’s pool party.
As I got older I made a point of breaking the cycle of doubt and pushed myself into trying new things (not just sport related!). I started playing indoor netball, soccer and found a love of running. It was terrifying, awkward, embarrassing at times but I loved it and realised that the more I stepped outside of my comfort zone the more my confidence grew and the less I worried about ‘what people would think’. It also made me realise that the sisterhood – as competitive and damn hardcore as they could be in the middle of a game – always had each other’s backs. I finally understood what being a part of a team meant and I loved it.
As time went on, I admired the parents of young girls around me who encouraged their kids to get out there, be nervous about it all and still push through. I loved seeing my nieces coming home with mud all over them and bruises which they proudly showed off, almost like a medal of honour of a hard game played. Times had certainly changed from when I was their age and I loved this vigour and growth in girls playing sport. There were still gender, cultural and language barriers, but these were slowly being torn down.
When I became a mum to two girls I was determined to see them participate in as much sport as possible. There’s so much scientific evidence to show the importance of encouraging children to get active and get into a sport. Being privileged enough to work with some of the greatest health and wellness minds in Australia in Women’s Health and Men’s Health, has only helped me see this even more. I’m not the crazy side-line mum (…well there was that one time) but in all seriousness getting them moving, interacting, learning resilience and team work through sport provides more life lessons than my husband or I could ever possibly provide.
When we launched the I Support Women In Sport campaign (as it was known back then) almost 10 years ago, the penny dropped and I could piece together and see why sport for girls and supporting professional women in sport was so important. By celebrating and driving awareness of the achievements of our incredible female athletes, we’re not only giving them the recognition and platform they deserve but my theory is: you can’t be what you can’t see. We need to showcase their achievements, their accolades and strength so that we inspire the next generation of women to participate, push boundaries and set new ‘norms’ for all Australians.
A lot has changed in the past 10 years – back then only a female horse was recognised in the world's top athletes and things like a professional women’s AFL team was something we could only dream of! Our country is at the forefront of change. In 2018, Women’s Health WinS Awards were the first female only sports awards to be broadcast anywhere in the world. We have leaders such as Amna Karra Hassan and Yash Kammoun who are working tirelessly through Go Active Women to drive change in local communities where there is a stigma still attached to women playing sport. Sport NSW investing in participation through their annual Girls Get Active campaign and Sport AUS with their incredible Find Your 30 initiative, educating and encouraging kids, parents, everyone on the importance of moving for physical and mental well-being.
The Women’s Health Women In Sport (WinS) campaign is very personal to me – don’t get me wrong, everything I do for Women’s Health is, but WinS is a bit different. Everyone knows I cry at the drop of a hat (and yes I’m tearing up as I write this) but I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and proud of the accomplishments the Women’s Health team have achieved and continue to strive for each and every day. The genuine commitment to driving change for women is real, each time we face a hurdle we rally and remember why we do WinS, why it’s such an incredibly powerful and important platform and why we have a responsibility to be champions for change.
So, I encourage you all on Wednesday 16 October to get behind our WinS Awards, follow #WHwins and #womeninsport and support our Australian sporting champions. And, tune in on Friday 18 October on CH 7 for the broadcast – your support, your viewership and even just talking about the winners really does drive change for all women across all walks of life.
You can’t be what you can’t see.