A closer look at supporting women and girls in goalball
We know from Sport England data that women are likely to be less active than men. Their data also tells us more men do sport and physical activity than women at almost every age group.
At Goalball UK, women and girls currently make up 29% of our players which is a figure we’re keen to improve.
To help us understand why this is, we set up our ‘This Girl Can’ Project Group in October 2022.
The group’s aim is to discover and remove barriers women and girls face in goalball.
The first activity the Group carried out was a survey of people in the goalball community. This survey set out to find out any barriers that stop people playing goalball. As well as barriers, the survey wanted to understand the benefits of goalball for this group.
Forty-four people responded with barriers such as:
- Club availability (no local teams)
- Lack of confidence (unfamiliarity with sport)
- Finance (equipment cost, living expenses)
- Current competition structure (gaps in ability levels, male domination
The answers are not only applicable to goalball. They also represent the responders experience of sport in general.
Anna Martin who is part of the Group said “The results provide us with a fantastic idea of the benefits of playing goalball. It also highlights the challenges that women and girls face. The results give us a better understanding of how vision impacts involvement in the sport. It also gives our current players, coaches, referees and activators the opportunity to share ideas about how Goalball UK can reduce barriers and increase the number of females enjoying goalball.
“We have identified clear strategies to increase the membership of women and girls, including easy access to equipment, variation in the competition structure, increasing the number of clubs around the country and building the confidence of those new to the Goalball UK community through female-only training and support sessions. As a Project Group, we are now developing outcomes in these areas, which you’ll see results from very soon!” added Anna.
Responders also let us know they enjoyed the following about goalball:
Making new friends – ‘they feel like more than teammates’
I have learnt so much about living with a visual impairment by meeting people through goalball.
Ability to have independence and show skill, despite disability.
Goalball has made me realise I can do more than I thought I could.
Playing a sport where vision doesn’t matter
To help grow the number of women and girls playing goalball and develop our offers for those currently playing, we are focusing on a number of key delivery areas over the next 12-18 months:
In partnerships with our clubs, we are delivering several female only taster sessions across the country. The first event takes place at Watford Goalball Club on 5th November 2023 with sessions for all genders at Watford listed below:
- Sunday 19th November 1:30-4pm
- Sunday 17th December 1:30-4pm
To help women and girls new to the sport we are developing equipment guidance and a grant scheme that will support players to buy personal equipment. We know from the research that having the right equipment is vital in making people feel comfortable to participate and then progress in the sport. The grant scheme will be launching soon!
In February 2023 we ran a pilot female only goalball competition with 40+ female players, coaches, and volunteers taking part. The event will return in 2024 (27th April) and we have plans to make it a regular fixture on the Goalball UK calendar. Alongside this national event, we plan to pilot two regional development days to provide a more relaxed competition entry point for women and girls.
We will deliver a series of virtual awareness sessions for women and girls to gain an insight into goalball and for them to share their experiences of being involved in the sport including overcoming challenges and the benefits of being involved. The first session with GB’s Megan Smithson-Booth and Fen Tiger’s Coach Emma Evans takes place on Wednesday 15th November. Sign up here: https://forms.office.com/r/UHKqvEHcAs.
If you are interested in getting involved or supporting our This Girl Can work, please get in touch with Alex Cockerham firstname.lastname@example.org / 07975 893924.