“I kick balls – deal with it” attitude a winner

WOMEN want to be more active. A pilot Daughters of the West program booking out within days reconfirms this in Ballarat. The Western Bulldogs-led program, officially launched this week, actually filled up a couple of weeks ago. 

Emma Kearney leads out Western Bulldogs' AFLW training in Ballarat last year. Picture: Kate Healy

Emma Kearney leads out Western Bulldogs' AFLW training in Ballarat last year. Picture: Kate Healy

So much continues to rapidly change in a female sporting landscape that was stagnant for so long, and programs like Daughters of the West show there is a real hunger for more opportunity at a community level.

Western Bulldogs footballer Emma Kearney says women and girls need more confidence in safe environments, free from judgement. And they need real role models.

More than three in five Victorian women are not exercising enough, according to VicHealth, and Australian teenage girls are only half as active as their male counterparts. In Ballarat, other studies have shown sporting participation rates among teenage girls are clear below the state average.

Analysis shows females tend to cite practical constraints in time and money but it tends to come back to not feeling good enough, or fit enough, to exercise in public.

Sport England announced in July it would extend its This Girl Can campaign to Victoria and the sporting advocate’s chief even visited Ballarat for reconnaissance work in reaching regional women. The campaign focus is on depicting women of all shapes and sizes working out with deliberately edgy and provocative catch-cries like “I kick balls – deal with it” or “I jiggle, therefore I Am”. Fears of judgement start to melt.

Australian broadcast personality Jo Stanley visited Ballarat on a similar premise on Wednesday. Ms Stanley’s Play Like A Girl series explores the stories of girls from different backgrounds who make up the one football team. Her books are aimed at young girls, who might not be so into reading about princesses and fairies. 

Her books are another option and way of letting girls know it can be fun and cool to play what was a traditionally male game.

It is about breaking stereotypes.

Daughters of the West is an adaptation of Western Bulldogs’ Sons of the West holistic health initiative. There will be sessions on nutrition and cooking, women’s health and mental health teamed with physical components for all abilities.

But, it will also be about building a support network. The strong response in sign-ups shows Ballarat women are crying out for more chances to get moving in inclusive environments.