20X20 Weekly – Strong is the New Pretty

The 20X20 initiative was launched in Dublin this month. It is a campaign to raise media coverage, attendance and participation across all Women’s sport. As a long time advocate of parity of esteem, we have been strong supporters of the campaign which is being backed by Sport for Business members including the Federation of Irish Sport, Along Came a Spider, AIG, Three and Lidl.

It’s all about personal commitments to change and ours is the publication of a new weekly column looking at different aspects of Women’s Sport both here and around the world that will be relevant in terms of advocacy but also in terms of commercial partnership and sporting administration

We had the pleasure to drop in on the Swim Ireland #WePlay conference at the National Sports Campus last weekend and it was an event the energy of which you only wish you could bottle.

This was less a gathering of those who have an oft-stated passion for the promotion of Women in sport and more one of those for whom the benefits of what is being achieved will most apply to.

It was a day for young girls and teenagers to get up close with the stars of sport that they can aspire to be. Around 150 pairs of wide eyes gave up looking at screens, or in some cases playing sport themselves to either willingly go or be dragged along to the event, more often by Dads it looked.

We heard from Ellen Keane and Evann Ní Chuillin, from Hannah Matthews and Natalya Coyle, from Jesse Barr and Phil Healy.

Neon Pink t-shirts were given away, pictures taken and words exchanged.  The memories will stick in the mind so that in ten years time some of those present might be back to tell others of the day that brought their sporting ambitions into sharper focus.

It’s an event which in future years should be looked on as a great bonding session for whole teams of young girls.  Saturdays in October are tricky, with blitzes and Finals days clamouring for attention as the season in many sports begins to reach a climax.

Perhaps though the concept of #WePlay could be taken out on the road as an extension for 2019 and tried out for a shortened Friday evening session in a number of locations.

More work, more logistics, and the team that organised this so well will hardly thank me but what they had to say should be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

One of the highlights of the day was the imagery that was used from the book by Kate Parker called ‘Strong is the new Pretty.’

It is billed as a celebration of girls being themselves and provides striking images and inspiring words of young girls just being involved and feeling comfortable about being so.

Since forever we have taken for granted that boys like going out and running, jumping, kicking or scoring goals.  It has taken longer for the same to apply to girls but thankfully the tide has turned inexorably.

Fiona Muldoon, CEO of FBD Insurance the new sponsor of the Irish Olympic Movement tellingly told us in an interview earlier this month that she was of an age where nuns in schools frowned upon sport and no support was given to those who thought otherwise.

The climate is now changed but there are still a huge number of built-in prejudices that girls and their parents have to overcome if they want to be sporty.  Not everyone will, but those who want to should be encouraged and their willingness to fight for it celebrated.

Strong is the New Pretty is a fantastic journey in words and pictures through the minds of young girls.  The photography is brilliant, the words that come from the mouths of those who feature is inspiring in its simplicity.  It should be a gift for any child who has pulled on boots, tied back her hair and thrown herself into sport.  The lessons they learn extend way beyond the rules of any game.  They make them life ready.  Isn’t that the job of any parent?

“Strong is building people up, not tearing each other down.” Lauren J, Age 10.


This column will also provide an opportunity to give space to guest columnists to have their say. That could mean you. Email us today quoting 20X20 Weekly in the Subject line and let’s see what we might do in the coming weeks and months.


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