Last month it was a year since Sport England started their This Girl Can campaign and during that time they have encouraged an incredible 150,000 women and girls into sport! With rising obesity levels and falling participation it couldn't have come at a better time! Sport is so much more than those nightmare P.E. lessons playing tag rugby in the rain, from roller discos to yoga this time around it's all about having fun while keeping fit at the same time!
One of our brand ambassadors, Leah, (as well as being a true #iswaigirl) is a champion swimmer and captain of Durham University's swimming team so obviously we wanted to get the lowdown from her find out just why she thinks sport is so important for girls! It's the start of a series of blog posts where we explore different sports with the girls that are dedicated to them.
Hi Leah, so how did you first get into swimming?
I started swimming when I was ten years old. I had been going to my normal swimming lessons, and then one day I was chosen to attend a trial session at a competitive swimming club because I was showing some natural talent in the pool. I attended the trial session and it all took off from there. I’ve now been a competitive swimmer for ten years!
How did it become such a big part of your life?
I have always loved swimming, and I can’t remember a day that I was scared of the water. I feel so at home in the pool, so as I grew older I just naturally progressed through different squads and levels until I found myself at National Level and training intensely. The sport itself requires a lot of time and training at the higher levels, but the friends I have met along the way have also become such a huge part of my life. I’ve been part of a team from the age of ten, and there is no better support network than your teammates.
Why do you think more girls should get into sport?
In a day and age when we are constantly exposed to all types of pressures, particularly concerning our bodies. I think sport is a great self-confidence booster! Sport encourages you to work hard, push yourself, and you can actually feel yourself achieving great things! I think sport is a way to make you feel good about yourself. It is a way to be active, healthy, and most importantly, have fun!
What’s the biggest sporting goal that you have achieved?
My proudest sporting moment in swimming was in my first year at university. It was at the British University Swimming Championships and I made it into the final of the 100 metres Butterfly. When I touched the wall at the end of the race I looked up to the scoreboard and saw that I swam a lifetime best time, and I had also got the bronze medal! It was one of the best feelings in the world. I turned to my teammates on poolside and they were cheering at the top of their voices. In that moment I had won a medal for my team, and become the first Durham University swimmer in history to ever receive a BUCS medal. It’s a moment that I’ll never forget.
What’s your favourite part about participating in a sport?
My favourite part about competing in sport is the people. I have met so many inspiring people on my sporting journey, and I have seen my friends achieve some amazing things! I have made many lifelong friends through swimming. Through sport you meet enthusiastic, passionate, and friendly people. The kind of people who support you and will always encourage you to pursue your dreams, within the sporting world and outside of it.
Who is your female sporting icon?
Missy Franklin. She is an American swimmer, a world record holder, and a four-time Olympic gold medallist. She has achieved so many fantastic titles, and she is only twenty years old. Alongside swimming she is also a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Missy is an American superstar, and I hope that I will get her to see swim this summer at the Rio Olympics!
What’s one sport you haven’t yet tried but have always wanted to?
Boxing! It’s fantastic for fitness and it requires lots of skill and hard work. I don’t have the best hand eye co-ordination… but sport is all about enjoying yourself and giving everything a go! I would love to try it!
Finally, what would you say to any girl who wants to start swimming?
Go for it! Swimming is a great sport to try whatever your age, and whatever your ability. Contact your local swimming club, and see what they have available. Swimming lessons, competitive squads, and master’s squads are all excellent options and they’ll advise you on which you’re best suited to. If you’re at university speak to your swim team, lots of teams cater for different abilities and levels. And, speaking as a Team Captain, they are some of the friendliest and liveliest teams to become a part of!
Follow Leah and her progress in swimming HERE
And if you're involved in a sport that you'd love to share with us, then drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to be featured in our blog series!