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Six Reasons I'll Be Watching Sport This Summer

Not 'women's sport'. Just sport.

22/12/2016 12:32 PM AEDT | Updated 22/12/2016 12:33 PM AEDT
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Sharni Layton (L) of Australia, Baily Mes of New Zealand and Clare McMeniman of Australia during the Constellation Cup International Test match between the New Zealand Sliver Ferns and the Australia Diamonds on October 20, 2016 in Invercargill, New Zealand.

1 – I'm a sports fan

It might come as a shock, but women's sports are actually the same thing as sports. If someone only watches men's sports they should call themselves 'men's sports fans'. The more sport that is available for my consumption the better, especially over the summer!

2 - I want to be part of breaking the cycle

There is a vicious cycle with women's sports where people say "oh women's sports just aren't as skillful so I don't watch them". Then, because no one watches them, there is less development. When there is less development women struggle to get more skilful and the cycle continues. How can we expect women, who have to train outside of their full-time job, to have the same ability as men who might start training full time from the age of 16? It's just not possible.

I want to be part of breaking this cycle. I want girls of the next generation to be encouraged to be an athlete. I know that netball and soccer have been offering professional pathways for many years, but a couple of sports is just not enough.

You don't hear of private girls schools fighting over different netballers! You don't hear of 18-year-old women signing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A young girl saying she wants to be a professional athlete is kind of like a boy saying he wants to be a stay-at-home dad. His parents might say it's lovely idea, but there just isn't money in it, and he'd have to find a very supportive partner.

The parents of young girls aren't wrong to dissuade them from a career in sports, it's just a fact; it's rare for women to make a career of it. There are definitely examples, but for every Sharni Layton, Michelle Heyman or Ellyse Perry, there are whole teams of men making twice as much money.

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Ellyse Perry bowling against England in Cardiff, 2015.

3 - Women's sports are just as enjoyable as men's

I can hear the men (in the form of my brother who argues this with me) saying that "but women just aren't as fast and strong as men". Unfortunately, for women everywhere, this is generally true. Simply put: men have testosterone. It gives them muscles that women just can't develop. Fact. But for this to be important in people's enjoyment of sport, you have to argue that you can actually perceive this difference. Can your naked eye tell the difference in speed of a tennis serve between Andy Murray and Serena Williams? Doubt it. Does the header on goal in a soccer match appear to be in slow motion when women do it? Don't think so.

Oh, what's that? I hear them again! "But the slower/weaker/shorter serve/kick/handball means the game is played differently".

Okay, sure. In tennis, maybe,there are more volleys. In AFL maybe there are four instead of three kicks between the two sets of goals. So what? Does that necessarily make the game worse? Or more boring? No.

Just because the men's and women's games are played slightly differently that doesn't mean one is worse or better. Men will always be stronger, and yes women will never be able to play full contact rugby union against men, but that has no logical consequence to people's enjoyment of the game. It's like saying "I don't like watching featherweight boxing, because the super heavyweights would smash them".

What's that? The hits aren't as big?! This is another reason given for not watching the women's games. If you honestly believe that, watch a few games of the Women's AFL coming up in February and get back to me.

4 - Women athletes are really great role models

When was the last time you heard of a female athlete abusing their partner, getting caught with drugs or being drunk and disorderly in public? Yeah, I can't remember either. (There was that kneecapping incident with those figure skaters, but that seems more the exception.)

In addition, most of them have impressive careers off the field. Liz Ellis is a solicitor and many of the AFL women's league girls are half way through university degrees. While I'm probably a bit old to look to female athletes as role models, I definitely want to encourage female athletes being put on pedestals, and I'm jealous of all the young girls who can have these women to look up to.

Female athletes are the embodiment of "love of the game". They have played and practised for years with absolutely no pathway for professional development (except netball and soccer).

5 - For the love of the game

Female athletes are the embodiment of "love of the game". They have played and practised for years with absolutely no pathway for professional development (except netball and soccer). Can you imagine how much time cricket takes up? And until now they have been spending their weekends playing it with no real possibility of remuneration. If that's not love of the game, what is?

When you hear the women's AFL draftees talk about the league, they are so pumped. They aren't talking about contracts or code changes, they honestly just want to get out and play. You have to admit some of this has been lost from men's sports, which is totally understandable when such large sums of money are involved. The women's game hasn't succumbed to that yet (hopefully it will one day get a chance to!) and it's refreshing and exciting.

6 - It's fun

Watching sports is an enjoyable activity. Get amongst it. The more the merrier.

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