This Kent Girl Can: Lizzie Lucas, President of Lacrosse

Elizabeth Lucas joined Kent University in 2015, as she says “many moons ago” and studies accounting & has been taking the world by a storm ever since. Having returned from a year in industry doing Administrations, she’s become president of Women’s Lacrosse and is ready to make a change to how females are represented in sport. Aside from academics, Lizzie has a passion for sports and everything that comes with it. She has consistently been involved in or captained various sports teams since schooling age. Interviewed by Megan Warwick, her is Lizzie's story.

“Growing up, I had dabbled in almost every team and individual sport there was and coming to university, I wanted to try something new. I had played Hockey before, so I was tempted to take it more seriously, however, fell for the weird game of Lacrosse. Again, like most people, Lacrosse was something I had never tried. Firstly, it’s originally a native American game and not as mainstream, as it’s not really in public eye – its only taught at certain schools, the majority of the UK educational system does not offer it. This of course, is where the majority of sporting exposure is cultivated. This was the initial draw factor for me towards the sport as none of my friends had played it and it was a totally new game I could learn. The following strong factor was the people I met, even in my first taster session, it was fantastic to meet 30+ like minded friendly girls, who had also never played before. This was so unique to any other sport I had played as the playing field was so level, we all started the process together. It was really nice that we were all beginners because the atmosphere was much more supportive and we all grew together.

Since becoming president of lacrosse, I have made some mega changes to help women feel comfortable playing a sport. The club has introduced a welfare officer this year to deal with the personal struggles any player may have and ensure they feel comfortable, safe and happy in the club. This in turn should assist in tackling issues that may lead to lack of confidence and ultimately provide additional encouragement to create bold ambitions.

On my year in industry, I was involved in the Women in Finance Charter (WFC). This was a government incentive to encourage companies to regulate pay gaps and publicly report on progress. The WFC came about due to several high-profile media cases about the gender pay gap, specifically in the finance sector. I was one of 4 that helped push the incentive through my firm. The more I learnt about this phenomenon the more interesting it became, I started to be invited out to Women in Finance events, ran by the issuing government body and other bodies like ACCA and CIMA. The good thing about this is I was exposed to a fair representation of the issue, i.e. women had a strong role to play in these gaps as well as culture; for instance how some women don’t put themselves forward this may stem from cultural norms, however, encouraging women to have more self-belief can help bridge these gaps. Having knowledge of these controllable issues provides a stronger platform to positively empower other women. I have actively tried in lacrosse so far to work on the weaknesses and develop the strengths of others in the team, be that in the sport sense, leadership styles, coaching and creative elements.

I would definitely recommend joining a sport at university. Firstly, any exercise carries a wealth of benefits that we are all aware of; stronger muscles, bones and joints, weight management, heart health, reduction in risk of cancer, improves quality of life, improves fitness which in turn makes everyday things easier, mental health and wellbeing and boosts energies. In the health view alone, there are hundreds if not thousands of reasons why exercise is so beneficial for mind and body.

Now sport more specifically, has all the above – every single sport, benefits from so many other aspects. If you take team sports, people train together and grow as a team. Your average team training size is around 20 people, that’s 20 more people you will interact with on a regular occurrence all working towards a common goal, this makes it so easy to make friends. Humans are designed to want to belong, team sports are such a fantastic avenue for that as your part of a group who will all bond over this common interest. I have made so many amazing, life-long friends through playing Lacrosse at University, anyone on a team will tell you the same. Not only do you create close companions, but an organic network is set up where by you now have exposure to so many different people you interact with on and off the pitch, this leads onto a multitude of different opportunities even non-sport related ones.

Playing a sport requires team work, communication, leadership, concentration, pre-empting and preparing for game play scenarios, planning, organization, problem solving, hand-eye co-ordination and multi-tasking – these skills are used in every single sporting game without you even thinking about it. They are all such vital skills needed in everyday life and are so transferable. The communication and teamwork skills I learnt on pitch have hugely helped me in my working life and I am very aware of how much these skills have developed over time thanks to sport.

So, you have the array of health benefits, the social element, the transferable skills but what about the interpersonal skills? This is the area where sport makes the largest difference to the person playing it. When you lose – you learn how to lose, in life when someone fails at something they 9 times out of 10 give up, in sport you go back to the drawing board – what can we do better/ what did we do well, how can we implement this next time. When you win your confidence is higher, you are happier, playing a sport can literally make you happier. End result aside, you learn discipline, getting up early to go and train in the rain is hard but you do it anyway – every training session. This routine creates a high level of discipline that will help you in whatever personal goal you ever set for yourself – that translates to every aspect of your life and creates a knock-on effect.

Personally, I have never felt underestimated due to my gender, but this Kent Girl Can (TKGC) help to those who do.

TKGC is a fantastic opportunity to open up the sporting arena and make sports more inclusive. Women have always lacked in representation and exposure in sports, some factors like societal norms and cultural pressure maintains this gap and even at a higher level pays gaps are a factor, however, I feel this issue in today’s society, especially universities (incredibly inclusive, completely even coverage), is many females don’t believe they can play sports, ‘there just not sporty’, whether this is self-imposed restrictions or knock on effects from outdated societal expectations. This Kent Girl Can, opens up avenues for women even slightly interested in playing a sport, getting a bit more active or just making new friends – it provides an opportunity for women to try out a huge variety of different sports they may have never considered in an informal and accepting environment. This is great as there is a sport out there for everyone, what suits one person, may not suit another however there is such a wide array of sports on offer I’m sure there’s something for everyone. Even though I’m now too deep into lacrosse and in the very Shawshank reference, institutionalised, I love going to different TKGC events as its different skills, different playing styles and also great fun. You meet a vast variety of new people whilst learning and playing sports different to the ones your used to with the added benefit of physical activity and the array of positive effects that comes with playing a sport."