Blue plaques for our movers and shakers

Alys Bowen reports from the Be A Game Changer awards with all the winners and stories after another inspiring year for women’s sport

The leaps and bounds that women’s sport has made in the last year means that its promoters and supporters are no longer justifiers, but amplifiers. That was the take-home message from the #BeAGameChanger awards on Thursday night when the various elements that make up the women’s sport community – from the athletes themselves to the sponsors, initiatives and media – were rewarded for their efforts.

The world has turned through several revolutions since Jo Bostock and Tammy Parlour sat around their kitchen table and dreamt up the idea of setting up the Women’s Sport Trust. However, even they could not have thought women’s sport would have thrived and reached the levels it has in such a short time. The climax of their latest #BeAGameChanger campaign was the perfect occasion to honour and recognise those who dedicate their lives to encouraging and inspiring others.

The achievements of the winners were testament to what the Women’s Sport Trust set out to do. For instance, the This Mum Runs campaign, which won the Inspiring Initiative award, now has more than 10,000 mothers across the country donning trainers and running; British Triathlon, who won the National Governing Body of the Year, now boasts a male/female ratio of 50:50.

Of course, there is still a long way to go. Sally Munday, chief executive of England Hockey, said: “We want to be at a point where we don’t have to have events like this because women will be recognised for their skills and abilities on the main stage with the main awards.” As Jo Bostock put it: “We hope to succeed ourselves out of existence.”

One of the campaigns launched at the awards was the Blue Plaque Rebellion which aims to unearth stories of amazing sportswomen throughout history and dispel the myth that the combination of women and sport is unnatural. Journalist Anna Kessel said: “So many people will have never have heard of women like Lottie Dod, who is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most versatile sports woman ever. She won Wimbledon five times, she played for the England hockey team and cricket and no one has ever heard of her! We want stories like this out there to help people understand that women and sport is a natural connection.”

Women like Pat Oakes, who was present, are surely worthy of a blue plaque on their walls. At 71, she is a British masters’ champion in four events: the 60 metres hurdles, triple jump, high jump and pentathlon. Pat has just come back from the World Masters Games in New Zealand.

Hannah Bailey was a new face to many and pleasantly surprised most to win the Photographer/Filmmaker category. She promotes female participation and education through skateboarding. She now works with the charity Skateistan, whose remit is to encourage children through skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa, where 50 per cent of their students are girls. She travels to their skate schools aiming to empower young girls to have confidence in themselves and create brighter futures for themselves and their families.

The inclusion of skateboarding in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will give the sport a huge boost. She said: “It’s a real positive thing because it’s not often there is a competitive platform for women’s skateboarding. But the scene is growing and growing; it’s been the fastest growing demographic of action sports over the last few years. The Olympics are going to provide that platform and from that there will be more money for athletes and sponsorships. It takes something like the Olympics to make that happen.”

The wonderfully outspoken Eleanor Oldroyd won Media Individual of the Year. One of her most provocative pieces for Radio 5Live – also featured in an article she wrote for The Mixed Zone – was with Marieke Vervoot, the Paralympian who has signed euthanasia papers for when she is no longer in control of her faculties. Oldroyd and Vervoot still communicate regularly via WhatsApp. She said: “There are a lot of emojis; she said to me at the time that she can’t do Twitter as she can’t restrict herself to 140 characters or less. But there are lots of smiles and laughs and she messages like she talks: just a great stream of consciousness.”

The #BeAGameChanger awards concluded with the Outstanding Contributions to Women’s Sport. That went to two individuals who were rightfully given their awards by two girls they have inspired along the way. Charlotte Edwards and Kate Richardson-Walsh have both been exceptional Game Changers for women’s sport: inspiring young girls to take up cricket and hockey, increasing participation levels in all age groups and raising the profile of women’s sport on a national level.

Somehow, Richardson-Walsh’s motto – “Feel the fear and do it anyway” – seems like the perfect battle cry in the campaign to amplify women’s sport and empower others to do the same.

AWARD WINNERS

Inspiring Initiative – Local: This Mum Runs
Inspiring Initiative – National: Youth Sports Trust – Girls Active
Sponsor Partnership: Vitality – together, changing sport for good
National Governing Body: British Triathlon
Imagery of the Year: 1000 Londoners
Photographer/Filmmaker: Hannah Bailey
Media Initiative: Red Roses – England Women’s Rugby
Media Individual: Eleanor Oldroyd
Ambassador of Women’s Sport: Kelly Simmons MBE
Sporting Role Model – Individual: Dame Sarah Storey
Sporting Role Model – Team: GB Women’s Hockey Team

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alys Bowen is currently studying a Masters in Sports Journalism at St Mary’s University. She is also in charge of overseeing The Mixed Zone’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. She follows and takes part in sports as wide ranging as hockey, swimming, tennis and rugby. Alys’ latest articles.

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Women’s Sport Trust want to thank our partner Getty Images for some of the imagery of women in sport used on this site. Click here to view the editorial curation featuring the world’s top sportswomen in action and here to learn more about our partnership with Getty Images.

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