I wasn’t in a sports team at school, nor was I in a sports’ club. However, I have experienced the power of sport: through my daughter – as she grows as a rower, an athlete, and as a person.
Perhaps, before, I was naïve. I hadn’t appreciated how participation in sport and physical activity could build the skills and confidence to cope with life’s challenges. But this is something that became very apparent to me during Lockdown.
Challenges of training in a lockdown
My daughter, Katie, like many students, started university in 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic. Having rowed at our local Boat Club for a number of years, she was thrilled to make OUWLRC squad. With most sports at a university level, training is intense. There are 11 sessions a week, plus the juggling of academic studies. As restrictions tightened, they were very quickly forced to train individually.
In January 2021, Katie wasn’t allowed to return to university in her second term. So, she studied and trained at home; 19 years old with just her parents for company. But unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t alone. With a shared passion and drive, through Zoom, Strava, WhatsApp and various App games, a community was born. Having only met in person for a couple of weeks, friendships grew, and the solitary life disappeared. Katie’s coach, Nic, provided the counsel and motivation that we, as parents, struggled to give. With an iPad perched precariously, Tina watched her row on the ergo (rowing machine) giving technical tips from miles away. And Helen, their squad’s nutritionist, had weekly meetings making sure they were eating well and looking after themselves.
By Easter of 2021, almost all of them had experienced 12 months of training on their own. With no competitions to work towards; no end in sight – well, we all know how tough it must have been to keep on going. But they did. So, from such negative times came a group of women: determined and dedicated; creating opportunities out of challenging circumstances and always, always there for one another.
I know some people might be thinking, Oxford University and rowing – that sounds all very elite, why would you want to support them?
My answer is simple. Katie, like everyone in her squad, is tough. They get up at 5.15 am to row before lectures. Their training is hard. And these young women are talented enough to study at one of the best universities in the world. They are our future leaders.
I believe it is important to invest in the strong women of tomorrow: smart, competitive women who can break down the barriers of today.
SDG: Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Donation: £2,000 (March 2022)