Kate is a founder of Women in Sport North.

“I’m passionate about supporting women & girls in sports – not just in playing, but in the organisation, development & future of sports. I’m in the boardroom now for sport I love – rugby league – which at 13 I was desperate to play and could not find an outlet. Lets ensure that future generations have support, access and confidence to get involved”

Women in Sport North ensures that great work in supporting women & girls engage with more sport & movement is maximised by enabling a support network, and bi-annual conference & networking event. 

It has supported over 1000 people to get more involved & created alliances & partnerships across professional & volunteer networks.

Generally the UK is not moving & getting active enough & we know that leads to health problems. It’s not improving any time soon, despite huge efforts from lots of very well meaning organisations & individuals who are getting great results & helping people to get active for their own health’s sake.

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We were 20% less active in the 44 years up to 2005 & predicted to reduce by a further 15% to 2030.

For me, it’s is crucial that attention should be paid to those who haven’t had the chance to learn the importance of physical activity for themselves yet, or may not be given adequate opportunity to exercise – our young people.
With all the grass roots voluntary organisations working tirelessly to help, and the constant messaging from the NHS & others – you may wonder what else can be done?

Well, I certainly saw an opportunity.

One that very few people were interested in supporting – and I have to admit that is something that has been really disheartening over the years, but I knew that feeling frustrated wasn’t going to get anyone, anywhere – so I thought – in lieu of a better solution – let me provide some starter for ten.

After years of being involved in sport in a voluntary basis with business advice, I became increasingly aware of figures & research that repeated the same facts, including:
Girls & Women disconnected from sport at a higher rate than males.
Separate research by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation revealed that just over half of girls – 51 per cent – are put off physical activity by their experiences of school sport and PE lessons.

Many factors are involved – from the sports kit they are made to wear at school, the fact they don’t feel good enough to play, & may have had a limited in the sports in offer to them, visibility of role models, actually in some cases being told they ‘can’t’ play certain sports & activities… add into this the typical social- economic factors that houses with challenges incomes may not have the resources or access to the same array of sports, schools are under significant pressure to achieve and often don’t have the funds, equipment & space for adequate sports – there is even talk of a North/south divide in terms of access & provision.

Bringing people together is what we do in business, sharing ideas, listening to others that have faced into the same problems, and extending your network.

There was a significant need to an event outside of the M25 corridor, to widen the Women & Girls in sports network. I wanted it to have no barriers to entry – so wanted to offer tickets for free. I wanted all sports, ages & professionals & volunteers to come together and find value in all that has been done so far.

I wanted to provide a platform for those who have nowhere else to spread their word.
I created the Women In Sport Conference North.

I worked late into the nights with a busy International business, 3 small children & all the usual stresses and strains of life. I pulled in a huge favour from the wonderful Tony Watson & Ben Williams, who at the time were spear-heading the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

I pleaded with the brilliant BBC presenter – Tanya Arnold to host the event for absolutely no charge and I asked everyone I had met who was inspiring & involved in Sports to lend a hand – including Sean Jarvis to be a panel member, Kadenna Cox & so many others.

It was a full house – and people at the end kindly asked “when is the next one”
Smiling, I thought – well, I can do one more until something better comes along.
That was at the Bradford Alhambra supported by Bradford Council – and I again had worked for months calling in every favour I could do have a speaker and panel agenda full to the brim. Everyone was so generous with their time.

At the end of the day – the audience asked – “when’s the next” and by that time I’d already spoken to the generous Gary Hethrington at Leeds Rhinos & Leeds Council Mariana Pexton.

The 3rd conference in Leeds had a wonderful response too. “This is such a needed event” “Why hasn’t it happened before now” and with a begging bowl, I was back out to see Barbara Slater, Paula Stringer & Shelley Alexander to see if I could borrow a room & some sandwiches go host the 4th – and at one of the many meetings at which we discussed the lengthy logistics ( something few people realise happen unless they’ve organised an event) I confessed that the most challenging part of every conference for me was knowing how I could do it all again – on nights, starting work on it around 10pm when it felt everyone else was tuning into the latest must see drama on TV, or heading to bed.

So, they took great pity on me and allowed me to book the 5th conference with them there and then.

So it’s the morning after the day before, and the wonderful audience are sending texts & tweets to each other celebrating each other & the day that has just been.
Tanya Arnold was still in the driving seat as host (joined by the brilliant Jeanette Kwakye) and it is wonderful to know that over 1200 people have enjoyed the opportunity to meet & connect through the last 5 events.

So, what now?

Well, we are heading into our 6th event in 2019. We’re looking for more brilliant speakers & panelists – so if you have something to say – please get in touch.

But the main point I would love to make is this
If there is some part of our daily life where you think you can make a difference – do it! It may not be perfect to start with a what is? But if it helps others & builds a community – it’s got to be worth it.

KH

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