“They might have just dropped out, not because they don’t have the talent, but because of something as little as kit”
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Girls are often three times more likely to drop out of sports than boys, and former England footballer and Euros-winner Jill Scott is here to do something about it. In an interview with The Guardian Jill spoke about the importance of feeling like you belong on the pitch.
“When I was younger we used to get the men’s hand-me-down kits, or at the end of each season we would get a bag of kit that they had worn for the year … Obviously it doesn’t fit, it’s too big and discoloured,” she said.
“I remember putting on my first Boldon Girls kit and just feeling like I belonged to something like I was part of something. We know that some families struggle and that’s why uniforms were invented so kids don’t get bullied for having different clothes to somebody else, so I think kit is so important.”
Sports charity Women In Sport published research earlier this year which found that only 49% of girls aged five to 11 take part in a team sport compared to 70% of boys. Jill Scott touched on one of the key factors in this discrepancy: body confidence issues.
“Body image can be an issue for a lot of girls, especially when you hit that teenage phase, you might put on a little bit of weight or your body changes,” Jill explained.
The star footballer revealed that when she moved to Manchester City, she began to worry about her own body. “I remember really trying to make an effort to put on a bit of weight because I was like: am I too skinny? But I think I realised after trying to put on weight for so long that this was just how I was meant to be and that we are all just different and we can produce power whether we are skinny, whether we are a little bit bigger, and it’s just how your body works.”
Jill has partnered with Starling Bank for its “Kick On” football initiative which aims to grow girls’ football teams by providing free sponsored kits, equipment and coaching vouchers.
“Starling’s motto is ‘we need to get girls on the pitch, but we need to get girls to stay on the pitch as well’, and I think that’s a really important one,” Jill said. “When I look at dropout rates, with more girls dropping out of football than boys, that makes us sad because potentially you could be stopping the journey of a future Lioness.”
“Some people drop out because they just don’t like it and that’s fine, but if you don’t provide the opportunity in the first place, you could stop a young girl from realising her dream. They might have just dropped out, not because they don’t have the talent, but because of something as little as kit.”
In order to stop girls from dropping out of sports at a young age, there needs to be a shift in the stigma and dialogue we have around girls on the pitch.
Women In Sport have come up with five factors for successfully encouraging girls to stay in sport: surround girls with the expectation that they will succeed, build girls’ skills early so there’s a level playing field, don’t ‘dumb it down’ for girls, provide more opportunities for young girls, and harness the school and after school environment.
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