Just Why is it so Difficult?!
By Lawrie Davies, Founder & Managing Director
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two-and-a half years now, since I stepped into the world of female sport. Looking back over that period, I've lost count of the times I've wondered if I should have invested my time somewhere else!!
In the early summer of 2016, I saw a unique opportunity for us to make a positive impact on an entire generation of Rhondda & RCT girls and women through sport. It birthed a cause - a cause that's more real today than it's ever been - so ultimately, I’m glad we did what we did to establish Rhondda Netball, and barely 14 months after our start-point in September 2016, we were making a difference in the lives of over 500 females outside of school, and countless more via our in-school/after-school netball leagues & competitions. It made us by far the biggest community sports participation initiative in Wales, according to the information I requested from Sport Wales.
But my goodness, it’s been hard work; and for certain, much tougher than it should be or ought to be!!
In an era where female equality in all things appears to be in the news almost on a daily basis, I genuinely thought there'd be people from a whole host of fields and backgrounds, queuing up to help us push on to even greater levels of impact and success.
Even if that was a little optimistic or maybe a tad naive, the very least I expected was that those seated in influential places would eagerly get behind female focused provision and opportunities at the same level that male provision and opportunities have been supported and facilitated for decades. In fairness, many did, and many have. I recall my first meeting with Gerald & Emma Leeke, Chairman and Managing Director respectively of retail giant, Leekes, and what I saw was all heart; successful and influential individuals ready to power change, eager to play their part! They did, they have, and they do.
Of course, I can’t forget the Rhondda Head Teachers either, because without them, the idea would never have become reality due to the lack of netball facilities throughout the Valleys.
Then there’s Rosa fighting for equality all over the UK, and the likes of fighting for equality all over the UK, and the likes of Heather & David Stevens amongst those lending their support in Wales. Even Cllr. Andrew Morgan & Cllr. Ann Crimmings, Leader of the Council & CabinetMember for Environment, Leisure & Heritage Services respectively, both recognised the need for change at political and Local Authority level so that we could breakthrough to unprecedented levels of success this year.
However, while we may be ahead of the game in comparison to many other female focused initiatives, male focused provision and opportunities are still top priority everywhere. That’s why it’s so difficult! Girls and women are fighting against history, and unfortunately equality is not an event, it is a war that must be won by winning many battles. Some of the battles have already been won, by the likes of Billie Jean King, whose sacrifice and tireless efforts for change make it easier for us to believe for a better day. Our battle though, is Wales, and as Laura McAllister CBE aptly put it at the recent Watch Her Go launch at the Senedd: “The softly softly approach to women in sport HAS TO STOP. We are not happy with the pace of change and we’re doing something about it.”
I may not be female, but she speaks on behalf of me, Rhondda Netball and I’m sure, everyone involved in female sport in Wales when she says: “we are not happy with the pace of change!” While I can’t comment on where others are on the next bit of her statement, we at Rhondda Netball, are going to do something about it! At least we’re going to try, whatever that means for us!!
Thankfully our hard work and determination has created a professional full-time initiative that is able to be passionately committed, 24/7, to changing the status quo. Having a motivated full-time team at our disposal, doesn't just make us better at delivering the operational side of our vision. It allows the manpower, or in our case, girl-power, to do our homework. And our research has revealed information and statistics that, in terms of the distribution and allocation of resources, amount to nothing short of a 21st Century scandal!!
Even before you’ve had the chance to review the information, you may be there thinking scandal is a little on the strong side. But let me ask you this, in today’s society what would you say equated to a scandal when it comes to the distribution and allocation of both time and money that could have a 50/50 focus in terms of males and females? Is it 55/45 in favour of males?! What about 70/30?!! How about 90/10?!!! I guess it’s relative to where you stand as an individual; how important you really think girls and women are. Because let’s face it, in a world where you can Tweet or Instagram anything and everything, it’s easy to play the game of tokenism isn’t it?! To give the impression you’re behind something when truth be told, if it means you’ve actually got to do something in support of it, you’d rather just change the channel. In everyone’s defence, history is not easily changed. After all, lots of us grow up dreaming of changing it only to find out that’s a lot harder to do than we thought! And it’s in that we discover the deeper reason behind why it’s so difficult. Change.
Change requires stepping out of the comfort zone. It means doing something differently. It sometimes means being unpopular. It means sticking your head up when most are trying to keep theirs down. And in the case of female provision and opportunities in today’s economic climate, where leaders are challenged more than ever, it means difficult decisions. Because like it or not, girls and women need help to change history and culture. It’s so difficult to be major catalysts for change in the current status quo without supportive decisions and empowerment from those sat in influential places. Those same people that have unknowingly supported and empowered males at a scandalously unequal level because that’s how it’s always been.
Of course, no-one's to blame for this for the most part, but it is everyone’s responsibility to do whatever
they can to change how it’s always been. I know what you’re thinking though, where’s the information?! Well, I’ll have to leave that until next time as I’ve run out of time on this blog.
But hopefully, by the time I write my next we’ll be well on the road to change in our part of the world. We’ve got a plan that we hope will have the support of the key stakeholders within our community. If we succeed, I’m confident we’ll make history here in RCT and the Valleys. It’s all or nothing for us. And we haven’t come this far to not go all the way!
For as long as Rhondda Netball is in the game, we’re going to be fighting for change!!
“We have a moment. But we have to seize it. This is the year it changes. 2019.” Clare Balding OBE