International Women's Day: Women in Sport at UKC

Women at Kent have excelled in sport, in a manner of different roles: as Sport Scholars, Union Representatives, Committee Members of mixed or female Sports Clubs and Sport Journalists. Speaking with five of these heavily involved women, we can gather there are a magnitude of ways to be involved with sport at Kent, by acknowledging and breaking any barriers previously perceived to be in our way.

Danielle Kirby, a Karate Sports Scholar at the University, is the current BUCS National Champion, multiple European medallist and a member of the England National Team; yet inspiring results are not the end of the Kirby’s involvement in sport, she is also President of UKC’s Karate club and has seen first hand the struggles of gaining female members.

Kirby believes that female participation is lower than it should be because some sports, such as Karate, are construed with an incorrect image: “The sport is seen as a masculine and violent one where people will get hurt, which keeps females away. If anything, females should want to join as it teaches you how to defend yourself and is very much about avoiding conflict.” Although that’s not the only issue, there is a lack of publicization of women’s sport because men’s events are considered to be more exciting to watch. However, Kirby highlights, in Karate “females bring a whole different set of skills and qualities. For example, we may not be as good at the throws, but we make up for it with our kicks and fast punches.”

Sporting Inspiration: “Not anyone famous but actually some of my best friends within the sport on the national team. Seeing how hard they work and sharing the journey with them inspires me to keep going.”

Emily Window, the face of sport at Kent Union as Vice President (Sports), has been involved at Sport at Kent since her second year, where she joined the trampolining team. Since then, in her role as VP, she explains, “it’s my responsibility to ensure that sport at Kent is as best it can be for all students - which is why I’ve been working on big projects this year such as reviewing the membership options at Kent Sport as well as developing sports facilities at the Medway Campus.”

Although now heavily involved in the administration side of sport, Window is still setting herself new sporting goals and completed her first half marathon back in October: “I’d never been too into running but decided to set myself a challenge and also raise money for a good cause at the same time.”

Sporting Inspiration: I have so much respect for so many female athletes, so for me it’s a toss-up between Simone Biles and Serena Williams.

Samira Conteh is Kent Falcon’s (American Football Team) Game Day Manager. Conteh has been with the Falcons for three seasons, held a committee role for two years and recruited three other female players to the team over that time; an impressive feat! Yet her time with the Falcons is soon coming to an end as she is graduating in July; Conteh remarks, “I hope that I have left some kind of legacy on the team. I would love to see more female players after I’ve gone.”

As someone who took the step into the unknown, Conteh explains what she believes the barriers are for women getting into certain sports: American Football “is seen as a predominately ‘male sport’”, primarily because “we don’t see women playing the sport. Most people can name male American Football players, Basketball players, Football players off the top of their head because it's heavily televised and the image of these sports are quite masculinised. I guess it’s quite daunting to want to play a sport when you haven’t seen anyone like you also playing that sport - I know it was for me. Also, I think some people just assume it’s a male only sport so don’t bother looking into it, but there are loads of opportunities to play. Don’t assume anything until you’ve tried it.”

Sporting Inspiration: “Serena Williams! She is the Tennis Queen who is a total bad-ass and the epitome of success, persistence and athleticism. Also, as a woman of colour, she is a huge inspiration for me especially showing strength and dedication in tough situations.”

Megan Warwick, Inquire Media’s very own Sports Website Editor, holds a key

position in pushing your sports voice at Kent: “I think as a sports journalist, I have focused solely on covering all sporting aspects of UKC and sharing the achievements of others.” Warwick’s contributions certainly haven’t been missed and she was awarded Kent Union’s ‘Volunteer of the Month’ in September. Her hard work hasn’t stopped there, especially in February when she fully embraced covering the largest university sporting event in Canterbury: “I feel like I achieved great Varsity coverage, smashing previous years and really raising the bar for next year.”

As Captain of the Women’s Lacrosse 2nd Team, Warwick has insight on both the reporting and participation aspect of sport: “I think that getting involved in sport is easy. You just have to find something that suits you, stick at it and never give up. Kent does need more mixed teams/clubs, but equality takes time and the bridge will be bridged.”

Sporting Inspiration: “I love Lyndsey Hooper, the Sports Journalist who I recently met this year. She dominates the football scene as a female commentator and has excellent knowledge of the sport.”

Lauren Thynne’s name probably sounds familiar to you, or perhaps

#LeanOnLauren? Yes, she’s currently running to be your Kent Union President! If you have anything to do with sport at Canterbury or Medway, you’ll already have come into contact with Lauren as, for starters, she is on both the Team Kent and Team Medway exec committees! Lauren is also President of Kent Knights Ice Hockey, Goalkeeper for the UKC’s Women’s Hockey 3rd Team and President of Women’s Rugby in Medway; her love for all sports cannot be denied!

From her own experience Thynne stresses there are so many different ways for women to get involved in sport at Kent: “There are lots of women’s clubs that love it when new people come along to try something new! The Kent Sport Let’s Play sessions are also a great way to get involved without commitment as well- but if you’re thinking about trying something, just do it!”

On the other hand, speaking about female participation within Ice Hockey, Thynne admits it has been inherently low. Nevertheless, she states improvements are being made: “With the integration of women in this year’s NHL all-star competition, it gives young girls someone to look up to, and older players role models to aspire to play like! It would be great to see more girls getting involved in a whole range of sports when they’re younger, so that they can learn lots of new skills for when they grow up! I think that’s probably the reason why more women don’t play sport- exposure at a younger age.”

Sporting Inspiration: Kendall Coyne Schofield. She is the first woman to ever compete against men in the NHL skills competition this year!

Feeling inspired by these words of fellow women at Kent? Sport can be for everyone and there is an increasing awareness of the steps that need to be taken to increase diversity of women in sport. But it starts with you. Give a new sport a go and hopefully many more will follow.

Also, we'd be keen to know who you think are inspirational women in sport! Message our social media at @inquirelive