Encouraging a teenage girl to have the confidence to participate in sport is not easy, convincing myself that I can do it has been even harder.
I love watching my children play sport and encouraging them to be sporty, all the while with the nagging voice inside my head telling me ‘you should be doing this. You should make the effort.’ Of course, I’ve tried to keep fit and even been successful in the past but it involved thrice weekly gym sessions and a calorie-controlled diet – both boring for me and essentially unsustainable!
As the years have rolled by, my daughter has tried and gradually rejected all my favourite sports one by one. Then one day it became apparent that she was enjoying Hockey. Finally, we thought. She loves a sport!
This is important to me because I passionately believe sport can lift your mood like nothing else. With the modern day pressures on girls’ looks and weight, it’s a battle for mums to support their girls and for them to feel beautiful. If only they could see that health and fitness matters more than looks and size – I want my daughter to learn that.
In addition to representing her school, my daughter also plays for the U14s at Chelmsford Hockey Club. It’s been an important year because players are encouraged to transition into the ladies teams. For my daughter this was an incredibly daunting prospect verging on the “no way!” So to encourage my daughter I suggested we went to the ladies training session together. The last time I played Hockey it was on grass rather than astroturf and gum shields were entirely optional!
I did not enjoy that first session! I felt overweight, unfit, way out of my depth and my back hurt from bending over. That little voice in my head telling me that I couldn’t do it was absolutely right! My daughter also had similar feelings of self doubt and inadequacy that I could empathise with.
Soon after, my daughter was given the opportunity to play a ladies match. Not wanting her to give up I said she was available and agonized over how I was going to tell her. Desperate for her to try, I lied that I’d signed her up before the training session and she couldn’t really let them down. Well…. we haven’t looked back! The ladies on the team made my daughter feel so welcome for her first game that she loved it and couldn’t wait to play again. The club’s wonderful Academy team has been set up specifically to transition the less confident youth players and Back to Hockey players like myself. Those ladies couldn’t be more supportive.
As I stood in the freezing cold and watched my daughter over the next few weeks I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the improvement in her ability and fitness in such a short space of time. Soon the voice in my head was saying “if just a fraction of that would rub off on me, I’d be very happy.” In addition I enviously watched her enjoy the team banter during teas after the game, while I was cold and hungry! So I figured, if I’m taking her to the game and staying to watch, I’d be better off playing.
In my first game, I managed to play ten minutes of each half. The whole time I wondered when I could be substituted off as I felt so unfit. For my second game I played a full half, the whole time thinking I’d never make it. Now after only about four or five matches I want to play the whole game.
It was only the other day when I realised that little voice of doubt has now gone and I can’t wait to play! I’m still not as fit as I want to be, but I know I’ll get there because I love being part of the team and I know my fitness will continue to improve over time. I love playing hockey because I forget that I’m exercising while I’m playing and that’s the key to exercise for me.
It’s the most amazing pleasure to say I play in the same team as my daughter and she now relishes in critiquing my playing on the way home in the car! I’m still in awe of the amazing women on my team, all different ages and sizes, but all fitter than me. I remind myself and my daughter that this is how women should be: having fun, being fit and choosing to participate in sport. My daughter has been my ultimate and unexpected inspiration and I thank her for not being embarrassed of me joining the team. Encouraging a teenage girl to have the confidence to participate in sport is not easy, convincing myself that I can do it has been even harder, but I think we have both came out winners and I’m so proud of us both!