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#BeBoldForChange

Celebrating girls in sport

Fionnuala Duhaney-Keown, known as Coach Fe, is the Senior Head Coach for the Greenhouse Sports basketball programme at Clapton Girls’ Academy.

For International Women’s Day, Coach Fe shares her experiences in sport as a woman and a coach, and her hopes for the future.

Greenhouse Sports at Clapton Girls' Academy, Clapton, London, UK. Tuesday, 13th October 2015. Picture by Ben Stevens

What does sport mean to you as a woman?

From a young age I found that sport was a way to express myself. I could be exactly who I wanted to be without being judged—that bit came later. Now, as a coach, I use sport to empower young women, to show them how talented they are and to display that hard work and determination will always lead you to better things.

What are some challenges you have faced as a woman in sport?

In primary school, I was told I had to go in goal if I wanted to play football with the boys. Other kids would say to my older sister: “Your brother is really good at football,” to which she would reply, “I don’t have a brother— you mean my little sister”.

As a coach, I am often over looked by other coaches. I have even been asked, “Where’s your coach?” by opposition coaches.

What can sports do for young women?

Sport can empower young women, and build confidence and belief in themselves. It can create leaders and communicators, challenge stereotypes, and inspire others both in and away from the sports field.

What does basketball mean to the young people you coach?

Basketball has become more of an identity than just something they do for many of the young people I coach. They have been opened up to a new world of playing and watching a sport that is relatively under publicised in the UK. The girls lucky enough to play for London have made friends from all over the UK, and the ones who have played for England or gone to international camps have made friends from across the globe—all through their sport.

But playing sports is not only about reaching elite levels. Others have gained confidence in their ability to speak in groups, formed positive friendships, and now understand the importance of everyone working together for a common goal. They display higher levels of discipline and restraint in challenging situations. They become leaders amongst their peers and have agreed to sporting challenges that they would have previously never considered.

What are your hopes for the future of women in sport?

I hope that one day we will not need ‘women’s forums’ or campaigns for women to be allowed to participate in sport.

I hope the media will cover women’s sport more than once every four years for three weeks for the Olympics.

I hope our coaches and PE teachers do not see girls’ participation in sport as optional. I hope that they take the girls training sessions and games as seriously as the boys and don’t cancel girls training/games/teams because they have a boys fixtures they need to focus on.

I hope that women will never be asked, “Are you a man or a woman?”

I hope that our young girls will never worry about being “too muscular, too strong, too bossy, and too boyish.”

I hope for equality.