Author Archives: Simon Penn

Man Up! The Inclusion of Transgender Men in Sport

Authored by the team ‘Insight’: Charleigh Heathcote, Denise Hamilton-Mace, Daisy Manuel, Olivia Whitehead and Dina Day [E119 21J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor, and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


When someone is told to ‘man up’ what comes to mind? Is there an inference that something is lacking? Are they not meeting some sort of masculinity model presented by modern-day society? There are men out there that have done their fair share of ‘manning up’ to become the pillars of men they are today, but the recognition is hard to come by. They are treading paths that very few dare to tread.

So, to whom are we referring? Transgender men. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, transgender men or transmen are individuals that were born biologically female but identify as male. Every fibre in their body tells them they are men through and through. For some, to fulfil their identity, competing in sport is the ultimate dream. Athletes such as Mack Beggs, Shay Price, Verity Smith, and Danny Baker to name a few, are forging armour for the modern transman. But it is not without its kinks.

Rightly so each sport has a set of rules and guidelines to be abided by. But what happens when you do not fit into those age-old parameters? Conflict and turmoil arise. Whilst there is a plethora of legislation for transgender women in sports, transmen athletes are not deemed as having a physiological advantage over their cisgender male counterparts (Burnett, 2021). Therefore, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as of 2015, stated that “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.” Furthermore, The World Athletics Eligibility Regulations for Transgender Athletes (2019) stipulates a transgender “male athlete must provide a written and signed declaration, in a form satisfactory to the Medical Manager, that his gender identity is male.”

One particular trailblazer is Chris Mosier. His work as an athlete, coach and educator has brought about significant changes to how trans athletes can compete. Mosier has made history in several ways: in 2015 he was the first American transgender male athlete to qualify for the duathlon world championship; at the 2016 Olympic games he was the first transman to compete against men; he was even the first transgender athlete to feature in the ESPN Body Issue! He was pivotal in campaigning to the IOC specifically asking for the removal of the requirement for surgery in order for transgender athletes to compete. He fervently continues to educate and campaign for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

However, this does not mean everything is plain sailing. Take for example transman Mack Beggs. In 2017, at just 17 years old, he was Texas state champion wrestler for two consecutive years but competed against girls. Beggs wanted to compete against boys but a state ban in Texas limited transgender athletes to teams aligning with their gender at birth. The girls he competed against wanted him to wrestle men as they felt he had some sort of advantage whilst on low doses of testosterone as part of his transition. All of this took a massive toll on Beggs’ mental health. He says, “You have to wrestle against girls — but you really want to wrestle against guys. You beat girls, but technically you are a girl, but technically you’re not. It was a no-win situation” Because of this experience he admits, “I was in a very dark place. I had to seek out help” (Hartley, 2021).

It is this dark place that many transgender individuals face. In a resource put together by Public Health England (2015), “One study in the UK found that 34.4% of trans adults had attempted suicide at least once,” and “There is a strong evidence base that demonstrates the negative impact of discrimination and stigma on trans young people. The result is increased substance misuse, depression, self-harm and suicide.” Whilst many athletes in general do not make it to elite level, grassroot and community sports play tremendous parts in transmen’s lives.

Shay Price is one transman that relied on bodybuilding to battle his demons. He explains, “Going to the gym is like therapy. I can go there and take my anger and frustration out. It just picks me up.” (Ward, 2021). His success in the industry prompts others to ask him for training tips and advice. He is a walking billboard for other transmen to aspire to. Jordan Jackson, a three-time taekwondo gold medallist fights for inclusion within his self-made fitness centre Stealth Fitness UK. His ethos envelopes more than just training. It is about support for the trans community and having a sense of belonging. Jordan admits, “I know the mental health deterioration that can happen when trans people don’t have a physical outlet… there’s nothing worse than being stuck by yourself and having your thoughts go over and over in your mind” (Ward, 2021). Rugby wheelchair player Verity Smith was the target of abuse for being transgender but relied on sport and his team members to support him. He echoes Jordan’s words saying: “I struggled with my mental health […] Playing sport gave me something to concentrate on. It gave me another family” (Ward, 2021).

Whilst some sporting governing bodies are adjusting rules for transgender athletes, the tides of promise are sometimes still too little, let alone too late. In the meantime, inclusion at the very least should surely be the priority; for some it could mean their life. Verity Smith epitomises all the hopes and dreams for transmen athletes in but a few sentences when he said, ‘Sport is life. Everyone should have the right to play sport as themselves” (Ward, 2021).

 

References:

Burnett, S. (2021) Fact check: Do trans athletes have an advantage in elite sport? [Online] Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/fact-check-do-trans-athletes-have-an-advantage-in-elite-sport/a-58583988 (Accessed 24 January 2022).

Cunningham, S. (2016) Chris Mosier First Trans Athlete to Pose for ESPN’s Body Issue Duathlete Chris Mosier is making history as the first transgender athlete to be profiled for ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/chris-mosier-first-trans-athlete-pose-espn-s-body-issue-n597146 (Accessed 23 January 2022).

Harding, R. (2020) Mack Beggs Is Still Grappling With Ignorance. After a high school wrestling career muddled with controversy, he’s addressing transgender rights head-on Available at: https://www.menshealth.com/trending-news/a33984383/mack-beggs-transgender-wrestler-interview/ (Accessed 16 January 2022).

Hartley, E. (2021) Mack Beggs, transgender wrestler who rose to prominence for competing against women: ‘It took a toll on me’ [Online]. Available at: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/mack-beggs-transgender-wrestler-who-rose-to-prominence-for-competing-against-women-it-took-a-toll-on-me-191642125.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9kdWNrZHVja2dvLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKtWap5aNQ8Cxd8_Xx5fXM2TxXBBeSo7EWcN8CRwQlUdZgO51zPYf_k5VNIYZuq7iOo_4bDmSsWJMh2H9hp3Aw8Bhn7xKXCGlbVDbIMi-iWXsWOp-w0OdNiYtuFOqtFeSPjECjmu3XWAFoG_dho8rYi9Ga72wMAVsvXH9WFxpJRG (Accessed 11 January 2022).

IAAF (n.d.), Eligibility Regulations for Transgender Athletes [Online]. Available at: https://www.worldathletics.org/download/download?filename=63067c17-1ab4-4a08-a132-5e36bda5fc61.pdf&urlslug=Eligibility%20Regulations%20for%20Transgender%20Athletes%2C%20in%20force%20from%201%20October%202019 (Accessed 15 January 2022).

Ingram, Benjamin James MD1; Thomas, Connie Lynn (2019) Transgender Policy in Sport, A Review of Current Policy and Commentary of the Challenges of Policy Creation [Online]. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/acsmcsmr/Fulltext/2019/06000/Transgender_Policy_in_Sport,_A_Review_of_Current.10.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2AGlQBfbUmpZBRCLk9PLC0IqA2F7Uu9qkuXslpQrUt0ZxgEjd_etz0DXs (Accessed 17 January 2022).

International Olympic Committee (2015) IOC Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism November 2015 [Online]. Available at: https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Medical_commission/2015-11_ioc_consensus_meeting_on_sex_reassignment_and_hyperandrogenism-en.pdf (Accessed 23 January 2022).

Jones, B et al. (2017) Sport and Transgender People: A Systematic Review of the Literature Relating to Sport Participation and Competitive Sport Policies [Online]. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0621-y (Accessed 12 January 2022).

Mosier, C. (2021) [Online]. Available at: https://www.transathlete.com/ (Accessed 14 January 2022).

Public Health England (2015) Trans suicide prevention toolkit [Online]. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/417707/Trans_suicide_Prevention_Toolkit_Final_26032015.pdf (Accessed 14 January 2022).

QVoiceNews (2019) Transgender boxer Patricio Manuel. Video courtesy Everlast [Online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaaV3YhwwYk (Accessed 11 January 2022).

Ward, T. (2021) ‘Equal Play’. Men’s Health Magazine, December 2021 Issue, pp. 70-79.

Elite athletes and their struggle with mental health

Authored by the team ‘OU United’: Jonathan Bell, James Mikelson, Mia Savage, and Hannah Wood [E119 21J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor, and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 70 blogs that were produced.


Physical activity is commonly shown to improve mental health, as suggested by evidence that shows a 20-30% reduction in depression in adults who participate in physical activity daily (Pierce, et al., 2018). Physical activity can help to improve wellbeing, even a short burst of exercise or a 10-minute walk increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood (Mental Health Foundation 2015). However, for athletes involved in elite sports, an improvement in mental health isn’t always the case.

The International Olympic Committee released a consensus statement on mental health in elite athletes (Reardon et al., 2019, p.671). This identified 11 mental health disorders that can be experienced by athletes. These were:

  1. Sleep disorders
  2. Major depressive disorder
  3. Suicide
  4. Anxiety
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder
  6. Eating disorder
  7. ADHD
  8. Bipolar and psychotic disorders
  9. Sport related concussion
  10. Substance use disorders
  11. Gambling disorder and other behavioural disorders

In the recent Tokyo Olympic Games, the mental health issues faced by elite athletes were highlighted. Gymnast Simone Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, made the decision to not compete in the rest of the games. Simone Biles said “I have to focus on my mental health” after withdrawing from the women’s team final (BBC, 2021). She also stated that ‘Mental health is more important than the pursuit of medals’, this shows that the amount of pressure placed on her to do well had forced her to withdraw and focus on herself.

You can read more about Simone’s decision to pull out of the games by visiting: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/57982665

Being a successful elite athlete, like herself, can take a toll on mental health due to the pressure from coaches, the media, and fans to be the best. From Biles raising awareness of her struggles with mental health, she has hopefully encouraged others to speak up about their own experiences, as well as highlighting the impact the pressures of elite sport can have on athletes.

She has shown the effects of being in a competitive environment and the struggles of participating in elite sport. Athletes spend years preparing for big events, such as the Olympics, where they are representing their country and showcasing their talent to thousands of people. This can create an enormous amount of pressure due to the feelings of uncertainty, fear of failure and the need to succeed.

In addition to pressure to succeed, there are many reasons for elite athletes to suffer from mental health issues, here are a few of them:

Retirement

Retiring can be a difficult and challenging process for athletes. Mind (2022) say this is because sportspeople who have spent their life being defined as an athlete, now have to get used to and adapt to a life without sport, which can cause a lack of self-identity and missing sport can cause depression.

Injury and performance failure  

One of the most recognised risk factors for psychological distress amongst athletes has been sports injury. A study of 353 male athletes from a mix of sports found that 51% of them showed symptoms of depression after being injured and 12% became moderately to severely depressed (Gonser, 2020). When an athlete is injured, they can no longer use exercise as a form of stress relief, which can be mentally challenging, they may feel frustration and self-helplessness. Performance failure can be demotivating as it may mean goals are not met, this can lead to a decrease in self-belief and a feeling of letting themselves and others down.

Struggling in silence

Athletes who have revealed their own stories of mental health in sport, encourage others to do the same so that they aren’t suffering alone. Natasha Danvers claims that as an athlete you are “supposed to be able to handle things”, which can create a stigma around asking for help and support as it means having to admit you have a weakness (Mind, 2022). This can make mental health issues worse as the athletes are attempting to deal with it themselves without professional help.

Athletes tend to refrain from seeking support for their mental health. This can be due to stigma around mental health, lack of understanding on the subject and the perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness (Pierce et al., 2018). Hopefully, by more athletes speaking up about their mental health issues, others will be inspired to do the same and reach out for support.

In terms of athletes getting help with their mental health, there are many projects and organisations out there to provide support. A charity that is attempting to make a change is State of mind. State of mind is a charity that aims to promote positive mental health, deliver education on the subject, tackle the stigma, and encourage access to support to ultimately prevent suicide. They also provide health resources and adult mental health first aid training which can be used to benefit athletes in distress. Athletes have been quoted saying they support this charity and what it’s doing, for example, Footballer Roy Keane says “I am fully supportive of the State of mind campaign. Mental health issues need to be addressed and doing it through sport should raise the profile”. (State of Mind, 2022)

Although athletes may seem like they are doing well because they are winning medals, behind the scenes they may be struggling with a mental health issue. If you’re reading this and are struggling yourself don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Some links for mental health support:

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/nhs-voluntary-charity-services/nhs-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/sport-physical-activity-and-mental-health/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support

 

Reference list

BBC Sport. (2021) Simone Biles says ‘I have to focus on my mental health’ after pulling out of team final. Available at Simone Biles says ‘I have to focus on my mental health’ after pulling out of team final – BBC Sport (Accessed: 24/01/2022).

Gonser, S. (2020) What athletes should know about post-injury depression. Available at What Athletes Should Know About Post-Injury Depression – LRT Sports – College Athletic News and Exclusive Coach Ratings (lrt-sports.com) (Accessed: 25/01/2022).

Mental Health Foundation. (2015) How to look after your mental health using exercise [Online]. Available at How to look after your mental health using exercise | Mental Health Foundation (Accessed: 24/01/2022).

Mind (2022) Performance Matters: Mental Health in Elite Sport. Available at mental-health-and-elite-sport.pdf (mind.org.uk) (Accessed: 25/01/2022).

Peirce, N., Lester, C., Seth, A., Turner, p. (2018) The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Mental Health [Online]. Available at The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Mental Health – The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (fsem.ac.uk) (Accessed: 24/01/2022).

Reardon, C. (2019) Mental Health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement. Available at Mental health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement (2019) (bmj.com) (Accessed: 24/01/2022).

State of Mind. (2022) What we do. Available at https://stateofmindsport.org/what-we-do/ (Accessed: 25/01/2022).

Is taking the knee making a difference to racism in football?

Authored by the team ‘The Masked Bloggers’: Christopher Nash, Corey Ward, Gavin McLeod, Alistair Rigg, Richard Davies, Laurie Adam, Laura Kelly, June Lloyd, and Azur Allison [E119 21J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor, and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 70 blogs that were produced.


The media coverage of football players taking the knee before games to make a stand against racial injustice filled our TV’s and newspapers as it became common practice in the latter half of 2020. Reflecting over the last 18 months, has it made any difference to racism in football?

The movement famously began with Colin Kaepernick in the NFL back in 2016, but after the tragic events of 2020 and the death of George Floyd in police custody, footballer’s felt it was their duty to use their public status to show their support for the Black Lives Matter campaign in the stand against racial injustice and police brutality (Sky News, 2021).

Has taking the knee made any difference?

If the sole aim of taking the knee was to raise the conversation around racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism in football and wider society, then yes it has done as intended (Sky News, 2021). It has encouraged players to be openly vocal about issues in the game, whether that be racial abuse or a general underrepresentation of black people in the sport. On that point, Tony Burnett, Head of Football’s Anti-Racism Organisation ‘Kick it Out’, states that compared to the number of professional players from a black background, around 30%, the number in senior roles from the same background is ‘nowhere near enough’ (Mercer, 2021). Is this underrepresentation a systemic issue that will require more than taking a knee before games to open opportunities in football to individuals from black communities?

However, while taking the knee may have raised the conversation about racial injustice, there has been little change to the level of racism in football. Professional football players remain targets for racial abuse on social media; Birmingham striker Troy Deeney claims he receives 30-40 incidents of abuse a week (Mercer, 2021). Plans to put an end to this sort of abuse are in motion, legislation that would hold social media companies legally responsible for the online safety of their users would encourage them to crackdown on users sending racial abuse online (Murphy, 2022: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport et al, 2021).

The problem facing those who wish to bring an end to racism in football is that it’s a problem that transcends football. Former footballer John Barnes believes that the key to dealing with racism is to change “the perception of the average black person” (Mercer, 2021). Making change at societal level is what will lead to removing racism in football. Burnett went on to argue that the conversation around taking the knee has led to distracting society from the real conversations that could bring about change.  Burnett added to this suggesting we need to talk about “where [racism] comes from, how it manifests in our society and what we need to be doing to tackle it” which he believes is not being talked about enough (Mercer, 2021).

Even current players within the game argue that taking the knee has lost its potency, with Chelsea defender Marcus Alonso believing it has “lost its strength’ (Mercer, 2021), while Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha felt it was ‘degrading’ to take the knee (Sky News, 2021). Surely if those taking part struggle to see any benefit of taking the knee, it could be suggested that it is not making any real difference to the cause it was intended to support.

A positive outlook on taking the knee

Although there has been controversy around taking the knee in football and whether this is having a positive effect on the issues revolving around racism in football, there is also research to support the cause. Taking the knee before kick-off can make a difference to the issues highlighted above, and by raising awareness. If taking the knee ceased, would racism in football become an issue that is ignored? Tyrone Mings, Aston Villa defender and England International, contends that taking the knee has been extremely important to keep discussions about racism relevant (Sky News, 2021). According to youGov, 61% of individuals in Great Britain from ethnically diverse backgrounds thought the gesture made an important contribution to tackling racism (Sky News, 2021). From professional athletes to professional surveys, it is apparent to see that there are still many within the population who think that taking the knee holds its importance in helping to tackle the issues around racism within football.

Taking the knee has also been deemed important as it psychologically informs the younger population who may idolise footballers who are participating in the gesture. Petnga-Wallace (2021) states that “For young children, who may idolise Bukayo Saka or Jack Grealish, seeing their football role models taking an active position against racism may encourage them to be anti-racist’. As young children are heavily influenced by their footballing idols, surely there can be no argument that the gesture of taking the knee can only positively impact our future generation.

So, what can be done?

The racial injustice in football will not go away by itself, wholesale changes must be made to increase inclusivity and to punish those who racially abuse players and/or staff. It’s generally being agreed that taking the knee has lost some of its impetus in challenging these issues. What’s left to be seen is how governments use legislation and we in society implement the change necessary to rid the ‘beautiful game’ of its ugly reputation.

 

References:

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Home Office, and The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP (2021), Landmark laws to keep children safe, stop racial hate and protect democracy online published.  Available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-laws-to-keep-children-safe-stop-racial-hate-and-protect-democracy-online-published (Accessed: 16 January 2022).

Mercer, D. (2021) Why increasing number of footballers have stopped taking the knee Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/footballers-taking-the-knee-isnt-going-to-change-anything-says-ex-england-star-so-whats-the-future-of-the-protest-12432154 (Accessed: 16 January 2022).

Murphy, A. (2022) How Has Football Tackled Racism. Available at: https://www.masterstudies.com/article/how-has-football-tackled-racism/ (Accessed: 16 January 2022).

Petnga-Wallace, P. (2021) Taking the Knee is No Empty Gesture But a Symbol of Righteous Indignation. Available at: https://www.shoutoutuk.org/2021/07/19/taking-the-knee-is-no-empty-gesture-but-a-symbol-of-righteous-indignation/ (Accessed: 24 January 2022)

Sky News, (2021) Wilfred Zaha to stop taking the knee as ‘degradinggesture ‘no longer enoughAvailable at: https://news.sky.com/story/wilfried-zaha-to-stop-taking-the-knee-as-degrading-gesture-no-longer-enough-12222539 (Accessed: 16 January 2022).

Sky News, (2021) Football fans split on whether taking a knee helps racism – survey. Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/amp/football-fans-split-on-whether-taking-a-knee-helps-tackle-racism-survey-12329006 (Accessed: 23 January 2022).

Concussions in women’s rugby: A cause for concern?

Authored by the ‘Team Unity’: Keaton Ager, Leah Bass, Laura Beet, Ethan Greenway, Meghan Hobbs, Daniel Hutchins and Chris Seymour-Henwood [E119 21J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor, and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 70 blogs that were produced.


In 2018, the Telegraph (Ellis, 2018) documented that women’s rugby is soaring in popularity. Almost 30,000 women and girls play rugby at club level, double the amount seen 4 years prior, with women now making up a quarter of players globally.

Increasing popularity brings in revenue, allowing governing bodies to provide additional funding into various aspects of the game, including research. With the higher revenue, research into the men’s game could be considered ‘the norm’, but more researchers are now looking into the women’s game and its positives and negatives – with concussions being one of the negatives.

What is a concussion and what is the research saying?

Physical differences between men and women seem to have an impact on the likelihood of concussions occurring. It is well documented that males are generally physically stronger than females. This point is echoed by Rugbypass’ Jess Hayden (2020), who states that although lower body strength between men and women is quite comparable, male rugby player’s upper body strength can typically be observed as three or four times greater than female players. This includes neck strength, which is a defining factor in concussions.

Dr Elisabeth Williams at Swansea University is a lead researcher into concussion in men’s and women’s rugby. Dr Williams (cited in Hayden, 2020) has found that a ‘whiplash’ motion is a leading cause of concussion in women’s rugby. So, what is a concussion? According to the Concussion Foundation (n.d.)…

A concussion is a brain injury occurring when the brain moves rapidly within the skull usually due to a blow to the head or body.

Research suggests (Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association™ & PINK Concussions, n.d.) that concussions affect women and men differently, with women not only being at a higher risk of sport-related concussions, but also increased severity of symptoms as a result of concussion.

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association™ & PINK Concussions (n.d.) report that women often experience more severe and prolonged symptoms relating to:

  • Greater cognitive decline
  • Poorer reaction times
  • More frequent headaches
  • Extended periods of depression

Male and female brains differ both anatomically and chemically with female brains containing more delicate axons, a thin ‘cable’ that allows electrical impulses to pass from one neuron to others (The University of Queensland Australia, 2021). Lasting damage to neurons from concussion can lead to multiple issues, such as dizziness, vertigo, slower processing, memory loss, difficulty driving, focusing, and reading. Due to their axons being more delicate, females are more likely to damage these neuron connectors than males. This is one biological aspect that differentiates how each gender’s brains are affected by concussions.

Is neck strengthening the answer?

With biological and chemical differences altering concussions short- and long-term symptoms, is there any way women can help prevent concussion occurring?

Elaborating on Dr Elisabeth Williams’ (cited in Hayden, 2020) earlier point, she believes that there is a disparity in neck strength between men and women, stating that neck strength is “unfathomably low compared to men” resulting in women having less control over their heads during contact. This is one reason why the whiplash motion is so prominent in women’s rugby. According to Dr Williams (cited in Hayden, 2020), women naturally have less muscles and soft tissue in their necks than men. Whiplash initiated by head to ground or head to knee contact causes the brain to violently bounce around inside the skull.

More control over the head during contact can limit the whiplash motion reducing the probability of concussions occurring. Jess Hayden states that a senior player in the England Women’s Team informed her that they have been practising neck exercises to increase stability since 2014. This training has also been implemented by clubs in the Allianz Premier 15s.

Whilst neck strengthening can reduce the probability of a concussion happening as a result of whiplash, it will not prevent concussions altogether. Concussions are still prominent in the male game, with this type of injury being amongst the most common diagnoses. If disparities between neck strength alone defined whether a concussion happened, then in theory concussions should be less frequent in the men’s game. This, however, is not the case.

Dr Williams (cited in Hayden, 2020) believes neck strength needs to be a necessary part of women’s rugby training. With women’s rugby still developing and becoming more popular, many women do not start playing rugby until they reach university. Due to a lack of clubs at lower levels compared to the men’s game, Dr Williams (cited in Hayden, 2020) says that women grow up playing netball or football, even giving up sport, believing there is “nothing for them”. This means adult women often did not have the same opportunity to develop their skills over the years as men, including body positioning during contact. This could also play a part in the whiplash motion of the head, without the developed instinct to safely take contact and land.

Conclusion

For now, concussions pose a serious threat to female rugby players. However, the increasing popularity of women’s rugby will provide additional funding, allowing more research to be carried out on female players such as that being done by Dr Elisabeth Williams (cited in Hayden, 2020). Hopefully more research like hers will highlight areas of concern and make the game safer for all participants, especially since women tend to be more adversely affected by concussions. Also, with the growing popularity of the women’s game, there is potential for additional grassroots clubs to be founded. As a result, women will be able to develop essential awareness skills at a younger age where impacts are less forceful.

 

References

Concussion Foundation (n.d.) What is a Concussion? [Online]. Available at https://concussionfoundation.org/concussion-resources/what-is-concussion (Accessed 24 January 2022).

Ellis, S (2018) ‘How rugby can put a spring in your step’, The Telegraph, 8 June 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/home-improvement-tips/benefits-of-rugby/ (Accessed 25 January 2022).

Hayden, J (2020) ‘Long-term brain damage likely a significantly bigger issue in women’s rugby than men’s, says lead concussion doctor’, Rugbypass, 14 December 2020 [Online]. https://www.rugbypass.com/news/long-term-brain-damage-could-be-a-significantly-bigger-issue-in-womens-rugby-than-mens-says-lead-concussion-doctor/ (Accessed 25 January 2022).

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association™ & PINK Concussions (n.d.) Women & Concussions [Online]. Available at http://ecp-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2704/2020/12/WomenConcussions_info.pdf (Accessed 24 January 2022).

The University of Queensland Australia (2021) Axons: the cable transmission of neurons [Online]. Available at https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/axons-cable-transmission-neurons (Accessed 25 January 2022).

Taking the knee: Emancipation or defiance?

Authored by the team ‘Sapphire Sophomores’: Allen Hall, Skye Holdway and Alexander Grint [E119 20J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


During the American national anthem of a 2016 pre-season NFL game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to remain seated as a way of protest against police brutality, racial injustice and social inequality hoping to draw attention to the issue.

Kaepernick said at the time: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.” going on to say “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” (BBC, 2020)

Four days later Nate Boyer, a former US Army Green Beret turned NFL player penned an open letter to Colin Kaepernick which was published in the Army Times, expressing his thoughts on Kaepernick’s stance, ending the letter saying he was listening with an open mind. Kaepernick saw the letter and reached out to Nate Boyer. They met three days later to discuss Kaepernick’s motivations behind his protest, his thoughts on social justice and police brutality. Boyer would talk about his time in the military and why Kaepernick remaining seated during national anthem away from his teammates could be seen as divisive and hurtful. Both men agreed to a compromise. That Kaepernick would take a knee. This would allow him to still protest, but by taking a knee, it would be a more respectful way of doing so. Boyer later said in an interview “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his team-mates. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect” (Snopes, 2017). From September 1st 2016 Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem. This would prove to be far more iconic. The move soon gained support from fellow players, which solidified the stances significance as a peaceful objection to oppression.

His actions however, brought widespread reaction from fans and the media, polarising opinions, and triggering furious national debate. With many voicing their discontent, decrying his actions as disrespect for the American flag or for being unpatriotic (BBC, 2020) while others were quick to offer praise and support for Kaepernick for taking such a brave and principled stance.

Amongst those to condemn taking a knee as unpatriotic and disrespectful was President Trump, who, in 2017 nearly a year after Kaepernick first knelt, levelled criticism at players who joined the movement, suggesting players should be sacked (Time, 2017). Curiously though, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that taking the knee originated in the TV series Game of Thrones, stating he would refuse to take a knee if requested, and went on to say that he viewed the action as “subjugation and subordination rather than liberation or emancipation” (TR, 2020). President Obama’s reaction at the time was to focus on the First Amendment right of free speech, choosing his words carefully he would say “I want Mr Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot” (Time, 2017)

Taking a knee has since become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, which campaigns for freedom, for liberation, and justice (Black Lives Matter, 2020). The movement gained impetus and prominence following the horrific killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police on 25th May 2020 leading to more and more people using the peaceful action to protest throughout many countries across the world.

Amongst the black community, taking a knee has a long history that can be traced back as early as 1780, where the image of a black man kneeling became the emblem of the British abolitionist movement during the 18th and 19th centuries, a movement to ban slavery in England, the Empire and around the world (Global News, 2017). The image symbolised freedom and liberation from slavery. Taking a knee was later adopted by Martin Luther King Jr, who in 1965 led a group of civil rights protestors to take the knee during a prayer outside Dallas County Alabama Courthouse. The prayer, following a march for the right to vote, was held after the group of around 250 were arrested for marching without a permit (Global News, 2017).

It is evident that taking a knee has nothing to do with disrespect or being unpatriotic, but the evidence seems to suggest that this is the message being dictated by those in power and by those that are ignorant to its meaning. There are undoubtedly two sides to taking the knee. On one hand, it could be a seen as a sign of emancipation as its very original form back in the 1700s was a symbol of freedom and liberation from slavery, but in more modern times it could be looked upon as a sign of defiance and insubordination as a protest against the racial injustice and police brutality.

 

References

BBC (2020) Black Lives Matter: Where does ‘taking a knee’ come from? [Online]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53098516 [Accessed 26 January 2021].

Black Lives Matter (2020) About [Online]. Available at https://blacklivesmatter.com/global-actions/ [Accessed 27 January 2021].

Global News (2017) Martin Luther King Jr. took a knee in 1965. Here’s a history of the powerful pose. [Online]. Available at http://globalnews.ca/news/3769534/martin-luther-king-jr-take-a-knee-history/ [Accessed 26 January 2021].

RT Question More (2020) ‘Take the knee’ in support of BLM? Only for Queen & wife, says UK Foreign Sec, who thinks gesture comes from Game of Thrones [Online]. Available at https://www.rt.com/uk/492208-take-knee-raab-queen-wife/  [Accessed 27 January 2021].

Snopes (2017) Did a U.S. Veteran Influence Kaepernick’s ‘Take a Knee’ Protest of Police Brutality? [Online]. Available at FACT CHECK: Did A U.S. Veteran Influence Kaepernick’s ‘Take a Knee’ Protest of Police Brutality? (snopes.com)  [Accessed 26 January 2021].

Time (2017) The Difference Between President Trump and President Obama’s Reactions to the NFL Kneeling Movement [Online]. Available at https://time.com/4955050/trump-obama-nfl-kaepernick-kneeling/ [Accessed 27 January 2021].

Swimming is Not Just for Fun! Leisure: The Forgotten Industry

Authored by the team ‘Splash’: Rois Wilkins, Roland Kemp, Alice Noble, Cameron Atreides and Craig Robbins [E119 20J students].


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Looking back on this rollercoaster of a year, with the coronavirus pandemic and the ever-impeding lockdowns, that have seen our beloved leisure facilities close from gym’s racking those dumbbells for the last time, to swimming pools draping the cover across and closing their doors for months. Some still to be sat in darkness, void of the sounds of splashing swimmers, I cannot help but think, has this industry been forgotten?

Photo by Marcelo Uva: https://unsplash.com/photos/n2v3lT

Since COVID-19 took a grip of the UK back in March Swim England reported that over 200 council run swimming pools have unfortunately had to remain closed, despite the UK Government announcing that pools can re-open. Many councils hinted this is due to financial difficulties that this unfortunate decision has been made (BBC, 2020).

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has given £100 million of funding to help support local authority leisure centres (BBC, 2020) and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced an up to £9000 top-up grant for hospitality, retail, and leisure depending on the property (Swim England, 2021a). While this is welcomed by many in the industry, UKactive CEO Huw Edwards says, “both public and private fitness and leisure operators will require additional, tailored financial and regulatory support”. With a new lockdown introduced in January, a key and pivotal month for the leisure industry, it could not have come at a worse time with industry operators losing on average £90 million a week in revenue (UKactive, 2021). Unlike the hospitality and retail industries which can make revenue online and with takeaway food, the leisure industry is stuck making zero revenue but still with the cost of upkeeping the facility. Marg Mayne, Chief Executive of Mytime Active says “the average cost of a leisure centre is £60,000 a month just to hibernate it” (Evening Standard, 2021).

 

Not Just an Exercise

The decisions to keep many pools closed have undoubtedly had massive effects not only the industry but for its communities physical and mental health. As you can see the industry is struggling to keep their doors open to its ever-engaging community, which is also suffering from the lack of taking part in physical activity but also with their mental health. Swimming is an outlet for much of the population with Swim England reporting in 2019 that 14 million adults (31.3% of the population) participated in swimming within the last 12 months, with 4.2 million adults swimming at least twice a month. The Government enforced national lockdowns and the closure of pools and leisure centres have drastically impacted the mental health of the community. Sports England Active Lives conducted a survey that revealed an additional 3.2 million were now classified as being inactive (4Global, 2020).

As shown in Figure 1, evidence from 4Global (2020) shows that during the first lockdown which began in March 2020, adults that experienced levels of psychological distress rose to 37.8% from 24.3% seen between 2017-2019. The levels in adults experiencing some form of depression almost doubled from 9.2% seen between July 2019 – March 2020 to 19.2% during the height of the lockdown in June 2020. You cannot help but see a correlation between the closure of leisure facilities and the affect this has had on the nation’s mental health.

Figure 1. Adult levels of psychological distress and depression between July 2019-March 2020 (4Global, 2020)

For many of the aging population swimming is the only form of exercise that they can do. With around 10 million of the UK’s population, mainly over 50s, suffering from some form of arthritis, swimming is known to greatly reduce the pain, stiffness and increase the overall mobility of the sufferer (Swim England, 2021b). It seems to be counter-productive in the fight against COVID-19 to keep pools closed when for many in the high-risk categories the only form of keeping healthy and fighting fit is the access to pools. Furthermore, keeping leisure facilities closed could be creating greater strain on our NHS which is already under immense pressure due to the pandemic. Jane Nickerson Swim England’s Chief Executive says that “they save the NHS and social care system more than £357 million a year and are the solution to many of the problems that society faces today” (Swim England, 2020a). Keeping our swimming pools and leisure facilities open would help our NHS focus on the fight against COVID-19 and keep our nation fit and psychologically healthy without the need to burden our NHS.

Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq: https://unsplash.com/photos/fbovpZ4GuLg

“Can I catch COVID-19 in a pool?”

The question remains, “how safe are swimming pools?”, like everything else with this virus there is a great deal of uncertainty. Since the leisure industry reopened its doors back in July the transmission rate of the virus within leisure centres has been respectively low, with only 0.99 cases per 100,000 visits recorded (Swim England, 2020b). There is also evidence that chemicals used in pools, such as chlorine, render the virus inactive within as little as 15 seconds, although this is only effective if the correct levels of chorine are used (PWTAG, 2020). As you can see, the evidence is few and far between but there are some convincing elements to say that pools are a safe place to exercise, along with the current government social distancing guidelines and the extensive cleanliness regime that is being introduced in a lot of leisure facilities. Heading down to your local swimming pool comes with no more of a risk than visiting your local shop.

Photo by Luca Dugaro: https://unsplash.com/photos/A4qmsfG6ywM

Looking at the overwhelming evidence, you can see that keeping swimming pools and leisure centres closed is not only a catastrophe for the financial future of our beloved leisure industry, but also for the health and wellbeing of its vast community that relies on many of the services provided. All we can do is hope that our government realises the potential that the leisure industry has for providing the much-needed relief the nation needs and throws this forgotten industry a life ring!

 

Reference List

4Global (2020), The real cost of lockdown. Available at: https://4global.com/4sight-week-7/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

BBC (2020), Keeping pools closed ‘a catastrophe for health and wellbeing’. Available at: https://ww/w.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-55148387, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

Evening Standard (2021), Gyms and leisure centres warn Government of ‘catastrophic’ economic long Covid in third national lockdown. Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/gyms-leisure-centres-covid-govern/ment-warning-b850167.html, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

PWTAG (2020), Swimming pool technical operation after Covid-19 shutdown (TN46). Available at: https://www.pwtag.org/swimming-pool-technical-operation-after-covid-19-shutdown/, (Accessed: 26/01/2021)

Swim England (2019), Key swimming statistics and findings. Available at: https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/key-swimming-statistics/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

Swim England (2020a), Closing pools risks an ‘avoidable physical and mental health emergency’. Available at: https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/more-tier-four-areas/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

Swim England (2020b), Swim England welcomes WHO reiterating Covid-19 does not transmit through water. Available at: https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/world-health-organisation/, (Accessed: 26/01/2021)

Swim England (2021a), Swim England welcomes new Government grants to support leisure sector. Available at: https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/government-grants-welcomed/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

Swim England (2021b), Swimming is one of the best exercises for arthritis. Available at: https://www.swimming.org/justswim/exercises-for-arthritis/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

UkActive (2021), Continued lockdown of fitness and leisure sector will cost £7.25m in missed health savings and £90m in revenue every week. Available at: https://www.ukactive.com/news/continued-lockdown-of-fitness-and-leisure-sector-will-cost-7-25m-in-missed-health-savings-and-90m-in-revenue-every-week/, (Accessed: 25/01/2021)

Will the gender pay gap ever be closed in professional sport?

Authored by the team ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’: Tracie Davies, Fiona Flaherty, Wendy Lampitt, Stephanie Mcilhiney, Lee Nailard, Hayley Slaytor, Guido Volpi, Luke Withey, Kathryn Halley, Paul Maher and Shannon McGovern [E119 20J students]


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Historically men have been paid more than women in most professions and when it comes to sport, who plays what used to follow gender-based traditions. Perhaps as little as a generation ago these traditions continued to be observed, especially in schools, but as more sports earn greater female representation and more professions bridge the pay gap between the sexes, does that that translate to greater equality of pay for women in professional sport?

Photo by Alex Smith https://unsplash.com/photos/J4yQp1lIJsQ

Female athletes at the Summer Olympic Games now represent almost 50 per cent of all participants (Olympic Games, 2021) but how equally do the more high-profile sports both within and outside the Olympics pay them compared to their male counterparts? Every year, Forbes release a list of the highest paid athletes in the world and in 2020’s list there are only two women in the top 60, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams (Forbes, 2021). In 2019, only Serena Williams made the list of 100 (Forbes, 2019).

Different sports are governed by different rules surrounding how much their athletes are paid. Since modern tennis was adapted from earlier forms in the mid 19th century (Bustle, 2016), women have participated. The women’s first tennis tournament occurred in 1884, when the first Ladies’ Championships took place at the All England Club at Wimbledon (Wimbledon, 2020), seven years after the first men’s tournament. After 1968, when tennis’ “Open Era” began (Tennis Majors, 2020), Billie Jean King began to campaign for equal prize money for women (Billie Jean King, 2021). In 1973 the US Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer it (US Open, 2018) but it wasn’t until 2007 that Wimbledon became the final Grand Slam to join in, one year after the French Open (BBC Sport, 2016).

While tennis has made great strides to achieve equal pay, other sports that have a long history for both genders, basketball and golf, seem to be far behind. Basketball is one of the US’ most popular sports and the disparity between pay for men and women is stark. In 2017 the National Basketball Association’s highest paid player, Stephen Curry, earnt more than £26 million, not including endorsements. Women’s pay for the same year in the Women’s NBA was capped so the highest earning woman, Candace Power, earnt £87,209 (Boost Power, 2021). In golf in 2016 men could win 83 per cent more in winnings than their female equivalent on the golf tour although “They play the same game, to the same level.” (Golf Support, 2016) but although equality seems far off more prize money is being added and the number of tournaments is increasing (Desert Sun, 2021).

Sports such as football (soccer) and rugby which have been considered traditionally male have enjoyed increased participation from women and girls in recent years on national and global levels owing to active campaigns by their governing bodies (Guardian, 2020) (England Rugby, 2019). But while participation may be up, male footballers remain some of the highest paid sportspeople in the world and women receive much more modest salaries, such as in the 2017-18 season where Lionel Messi earnt 130 times as much as the highest paid female footballer, Alex Morgan (Boost Power, 2021). Female rugby players in England have only started to be paid at all since 2019 (Telegraph, 2019) and in the Six Nations competition, while the winning men’s team receive prize money of £5 million, the winning women’s team receives nothing (Luxurious Magazine, 2020).

When drawn on why certain sports are nowhere near awarding equality of pay the same reason is often given: revenue. A great deal of sports’ revenue comes from broadcast rights and to this day there is still vastly more men’s sport broadcasted than women’s sport, leading to far less money in the pot to pay female athletes. A 2017 study by Women in Sport showed that in the UK media coverage of women’s sport accounted for an average of ten per cent of all sport covered, reducing to four per cent at a time when international events had ended (Women in Sport, 2018). The women’s World Cup in 2019 was viewed by 1.12 billion people worldwide, 31 per cent of the number that watched the men’s World Cup in 2018 (Guardian, 2019) but the prize money offered was only 7.5 per cent of that offered to the men’s teams. If viewing figures are a measure of success, even this seems stacked against women’s sport. There are calls for more women’s sport to be available to view (Broadcast Now, 2019) and Sky Sports has run a campaign, “Rise With Us” since March 2020, highlighting women’s sports and plans to expand its existing coverage and digital output (IBC, 2020).  If sports’ governance invested more time and money into showcasing women’s teams and players as they have traditionally done with men’s there would be greater awareness, greater spectatorship, higher viewing figures and more revenue.

Photo by Susan Flynn https://unsplash.com/photos/wqaEwf35Bl8

Until this happens there is, however, some hope. Relatively new sports such as triathlon and the more recently founded CrossFit offer equal prize money for male and female competitors and have done since the outset (BoxRox, 2020; World Triathlon, 2016). Both describe this stance as an inherent part of their sport: “Equal opportunities for men and women are part of triathlon’s DNA, as well as a part of ITU’s constitution.” (World Triathlon, 2016); Nicole Carroll, Co-director of Certification and Training says “It was not part of our culture to even consider that women are not equal or that their performance should not be equally valued.” (CrossFit, 2018).

As more new sports emerge and grow, they will bring about a new idea of equality; it is easy to imagine the outrage that would occur if a sport paid less prize money to men than women for doing essentially the same thing, and nowadays this would also be the reaction to women being paid less than men in a new sport. But for now, it seems that the gender pay gap is a long way from being closed.

 

References

BBC Sport (2016) ‘Equal pay is as much a myth as it is a minefield’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/35863208 (Accessed 20 January 2021).

Billie Jean King (2021) Demanding Change. Available at: https://www.billiejeanking.com/equality/ (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

Boost Power (2021) How long do sports players work for their money? Available at: https://www.boostpower.co.uk/blog/sports-salaries (Accessed: 18 January 2021).

BoxRox (2020) How Much Money Did The 2020 CrossFit Games Top 10 Athletes Win? Available at: https://www.boxrox.com/how-much-money-did-the-2020-crossfit-games-top-10-athletes-win (Accessed: 20 January 2021).

Broadcast Now (2019) Not enough women’s sport on TV, say viewers. Available at: https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/not-enough-womens-sport-on-tv-say-viewers/5137759.article (Accessed: 20 January 2021).

Bustle (2016) What Women’s Tennis Has Looked Like Through History. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/142759-what-womens-tennis-has-looked-like-through-history-because-women-have-been-part-of-this-sport (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

CrossFit (2018) Why Men and Women are Always Equal in CrossFit. Available at: https://journal.crossfit.com/article/equality-warkentin (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

Desert Sun (2021) No equal pay yet, but women’s golf is adding more prize money. Available at: https://eu.desertsun.com/story/sports/golf/2019/07/09/lpga-majors-continue-increase-their-purses-equal-pay-gets-closer/1676241001/ Accessed: 26 January 2021).

England Rugby (2019) World Rugby Launch Women’s Campaign. Available at: https://www.englandrugby.com/news/article/world-rugby-launch-womens-campaign (Accessed: 26 January 2021)

Forbes (2019) Why Is Serena Williams The Only Woman On The List Of The 100 Highest-Paid Athletes? Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2019/06/14/why-is-serena-williams-the-only-woman-on-the-list-of-100-highest-paid-athletes/?sh=32725625fa98 (Accessed: 26 January 2021)

Forbes (2021) Highest Paid Athletes in the World 2020. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/athletes/#73e586aa55ae (Accessed: 18 January 2021)

Golf Support (2016) How Big is Golf’s Gender Pay Gap? Available at: https://golfsupport.com/blog/golfs-gender-pay-gap (Accessed: 21 January 2021).

Guardian (2019) We can gauge popularity of women’s football. Time to up the prize money. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/oct/22/womens-football-prize-money-world-cup (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

Guardian (2020) FA hits target with 3.4m women and girls playing football in England. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/may/14/fa-hits-target-to-double-womens-football-participation-in-three-years-england-gameplan-for-growth#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20women%20and,Gameplan%20for%20Growth%20in%202017. (Accessed: 26 January 2021)

IBC (2020) Sky Sports Aims to Diversify Audiences for Women’s Sport. Available at: https://www.ibc.org/trends/sky-sports-aims-to-diversify-new-audiences-for-womens-sport/5552.article (Accessed: 23 January 2021).

Luxurious Magazine (2020) Six Nations Gender Pay Gap is One of the Worst in Sport. Available at: https://www.luxuriousmagazine.com/six-nations-gender-pay-gap/ (Accessed: 21 January 2021).

Olympic Games (2021) Women at the Olympic Games. Available at: https://www.olympic.org/women-in-sport/background/statistics (Accessed: 26 January).

Tennis Majors (2020) 1968, Open era: The moment tennis opted to become a modern sport. Available at: https://www.tennismajors.com/our-features/long-form-our-features/1968-open-era-the-moment-tennis-opted-to-become-a-modern-sport-228622.html (Accessed 26 January, 2021).

US Open (2018) 50 Moments that Mattered: US Open offers equal prize money. Available at: https://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/articles/2018-08-21/50_moments_that_mattered_us_open_is_first_grand_slam_tournament_to_offer_equal_prize_money.html (Accessed 26 January 2021).

Wimbledon (2020) About Wimbledon: History – 1880s. Available at: https://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/aboutwimbledon/history_1880s.html (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

Women in Sport (2018) Where are all the women? Available at: https://www.womeninsport.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Where-are-all-the-Women-1.pdf (Accessed: 26 January 2021).

World Triathlon (2016) Female participation in ITU races increases. Available at: https://www.triathlon.org/news/article/female_participation_in_itu_races_increases (Accessed: 20 January 2021).


Taking the Knee: Shedding Light to Racism in Cricket

Authored by the team ‘Pink Panthers’: Neil Polley, Gemma Campbell, Steph Bell, Lauren Hickson, George Bradley and Sarah Crawford [E119 20J students]


This blog was written as part of a collaborative teamwork task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


The world as we know it has been brought to a standstill. Sports culture, an unrecognisable shadow of what it once was. However, in the midst of all this inactivity, there is one all too familiar, yet never to be undervalued movement – The fight for justice. There is no questioning the impact that the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has had on attitudes towards justice, and when we look at sport, we can see the efforts that have been made to incorporate messages of solidarity towards the goal of eradicating racism for good. Despite not being in the thick of the limelight, cricket is not without its controversies, and, in order to tackle the issue of racism in the sport, it must first address its inaccuracies and teams must decide, with conviction, how best to hit injustice for six, once and for all.

Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in South Africa, but even the joy that this sport brings cannot distract from the pattern of injustice which overshadows the country’s history and can in fact breed more scope for debate regarding discrimination. A recent survey by the united nations showed that only 8% of South African schoolkids of non-white descent have access to sport, which is largely due to poverty and lack of facilities, so this just goes to show the severity of the issue surrounding inequality in South African cricket (The Indian Express, 2020).  In addition to this, I was staggered to learn that even today, a quota system is implemented by South Africa’s Cricket governing body- CSA, stipulating that 6 non-white players must be picked in each squad, which, in the opinion of the first black South African cricketer, Makhaya Ntini, ‘puts a question mark on everything achieved as a player’. This is a fair analysis, as it will probably leave black cricketers wondering whether they are truly there on merit, or just to make up the numbers.

Injustice in cricket can be seen closer to home as well. Former first-class umpire John Holder caused shockwaves in November when he accused the English Cricket Board of “vicious and systematic racism” when BAME individuals are up for selection. This comes after no non-white umpires have been elevated to the First-Class Umpires Panel, since Holder’s retirement 11 years ago. Which seems shocking enough but is compounded further when considering a statement from the England Cricket Board in June of last year in which they stated that “their sport is not immune from systemic racism”, a worrying comment from the ECB, but one which will hopefully spark change in the organisation.

So how do teams best show their solidarity to the movement? Well, we might consider England and Australia bad examples, after both decided against taking a knee for their one-day international series in September 2020, perhaps failing to emphasise the stance they took earlier in the summer. Former cricketer, Michael Holding slammed the two countries and said that their excuses for not taking a knee were ‘flimsy’ and ‘lame’. The argument is- many other sports teams continue to take a knee, to keep spreading awareness, so why did the England and Australia cricket teams decide to fade away so early, and would other teams make the same mistake?

A later incident, this time involving South Africa, also resulted in a fair amount of scrutiny. As a team, they decided ‘unanimously’ not to take a knee before their T20 series with England, in November. They stated that they would instead be continuing to work in their personal, team and public spaces to dismantle racism. This was a strong message from the South African team and perhaps a highly effective one, suggesting rather than just sporting a gesture and leaving it at that, they would be trying to implement real change in the community. Although, it led to a separate statement from Kagiso Rabada, who stated that the Black Lives Matter movement would always be important to him, which is the only hint of discontent at the team’s decision.

This decision did face backlash, as journalist Neil Manthorp described it as a ‘missed opportunity’ and cited reasons such as their history with apartheid and feelings of loneliness from South African players as to why they would have been better off making the gesture. Then, although unrelated to Manthorp’s comments, South Africa decided that they would be making a gesture during their test series against Sri Lanka, after what was described as ‘a process of deep democracy within the team’, opting to raise a fist, a symbol of huge significance to South African history with reference to Nelson Mandela. This was perhaps, the perfect solution to the debate.

For cricket, moving forward, no matter how awkward or difficult it is, the priority has to be not to hide from any discriminatory incidents in its past or present day, but to acknowledge them, and most crucially, ensure that the relevant bodies do all they can to eradicate these incidents of injustice from the game. And in terms of the approach teams take to the fight for equality, I would love to see more teams adopt the approach that South Africa took. Although initially deciding against it, the image of them all raising their fists together against racism before playing Sri Lanka, that came after their U-turn was an incredibly powerful one. A country and team that, throughout history, has been battered time and time again by racial injustice, coming together, as one, to send a poignant message, one which other teams should be proud to follow.

 

References

BBC Sport (2020) South Africa v England: Proteas’ knee decision taken ‘unanimously’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/55076747 (Accessed: 23/01/21)

BT Sport (2020) Kagiso Rabada reiterates BLM support as South Africa opt against taking knee. Available at: https://www.bt.com/sport/news/2020/november/kagiso-rabada-reiterates-blm-support-as-south-africa-opt-against-taking-knee (Accessed 23/01/21)

Dobson, M (2020) ‘Michael Holding condemns England and Australia for not taking knee’ The Guardian, 10 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/sep/10/michael-holding-condemns-england-and-australia-for-not-taking-a-knee (Accessed: 23/01/21)

Gibson, R (2020) ‘South Africa players raise their fists in Support of Black Lives Matter movement before Sri Lanka Test after they were criticised by their own board for not taking a knee in England T20 series’ Daily Mail, 26 December. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-9088683/South-Africa-players-raise-fists-support-Black-Lives-Matter-movement-Sri-Lanka-Test.html (Accessed: 23/01/21)

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Exercising in the cold, dark and wet

By Simon PennEvery morning when I drive my daughter to nursery, I pass multiple cyclists commuting to work in the cold, dark and sometimes wet conditions.  I emphasise to my daughter how motivated these cyclists are and that they should be commended for their dedication to maintaining their exercise routine as the winter draws in.  I say this because I, like many, am a fair-weather trainer who loves exercising outside in the summer but struggle to exercise in the winter.Research shows that environmental variables (e.g. temperature, length of day and precipitation) can all affect our ability to maintain our levels of physical activity (Welch et al., 2018; Wagner et al., 2014).  To stay healthy, we should be completing 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise and some strength training a week (Department of Health, 2011).  In the winter, reduced daylight and lower temperatures both cause a reduction in an individual’s total minutes of physical activity carried out per day (Welch et al., 2018).  So, how can we overcome the winter blues and increase our motivation to exercise?

Understanding psychology can help to boost our motivation.  We need to identify the barriers that prevent us from exercising in order to establish effective compensatory techniques to overcome the barriers.  Additionally, setting appropriate goals can increase our effort and perseverance to an exercise routine because they provide purpose and direction to training (Wilson and Brookfield, 2009).

Removing Barriers

When we wake up in the morning with the aim to exercise, it may then be too dark, cold or wet to get us moving.  So, what can we do?  If you do not like the cold or the rain, treat yourself to some warmer/waterproof clothing or look at the weather forecast and plan your day so that you can exercise when it is not raining or during the warmest part of the day.  If you do not like the dark or exercising alone, exercise at lunch in built up areas or find a buddy to train with so that you will have company and an additional reason for completing the session (so not to let your friend down). Local running clubs are a great way for runners of all levels to help increase their commitment to exercise. Lastly, one of the most important things when planning exercise is to choose something that you like and enjoy.  If you don’t like running, then don’t plan to run because you will spend more time debating whether to run or not.  Work out how to do your exercise of choice.  If you like cycling or rowing, can you purchase a second-hand indoor bike/rower to replicate your training inside?  Once you have removed your barriers to exercise, you can then determine why you are going to train.

Setting Goals

One of the most useful motivational strategies is that of goal setting and when applied effectively it can provide direction to your training.  For optimal goal setting, the goal should be applicable to your training.  For example, aiming to complete a future event (e.g. run, cycle, triathlon) will provide purpose to your training and establish a timescale to complete the training by.  To increase your motivation, goals should be difficult, yet achievable (Weinberg and Gould, 2015).  Therefore, when deciding on your long-term goal, make sure that it is challenging and that you can measure your success (e.g. completing the event or not).  To improve the chance of succeeding in your long-term goal, break the goal into short and medium-term goals.  For example, if increasing the distance in an event (e.g. 5 km to 10 km), your long-term goal may be to complete 10 km within 12 weeks.  Appropriate short and medium-term goals would be to complete 7 km within 4 weeks and 9 km by 8 weeks.  Additionally, you can set process goals (things that will help you achieve your long-term goal) such as weekly targets (e.g. complete a minimum of three 60-minute sessions) which can provide daily motivation.  Setting the right goals and using them effectively will help you to beat winter.

Beating winter?

I have already begun to beat winter.  I removed my barriers (the cold and mornings) by purchasing cycle overshoes and exercising at the warmest part of the day.  Then I set my goals:

  • Long-term: Bath duathlon (16 March 2019)
  • Short term: Run 5 km in 22 minutes by Christmas
  • Medium term: Run 5 km in 21 minutes by February
  • Process goals: 2 cycles and 2 runs a week

Can you beat winter too, and become as motivated as the dedicated cyclists commuting to work that my daughter and I applaud?  Understanding your barriers, setting appropriate goals and planning exercise that you enjoy will help you keep fit and healthy over the winter.  Good luck.

References

Department of Health (2011) ‘Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers’, London, The Department of Health.

Wagner, A. L., Keusch, F., Yan, T. and Clarke, P. J., 2016. The impact of weather on summer and winter exercise behaviors. Journal of Sport and Health Science. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2016.07.007

Weinberg, R. S. and Gould, D. (2014) ‘Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology’, 6th edn, Champaign, Illinois, Human Kinetics.

Welch, W. A., Spring, B., Phillips, S. M. and Siddique, J. (2018) ‘Moderating effects of weather-related factors on a physical activity intervention’, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 54, no. 5, pp. e83-e89.

Wilson, K. and Brookfield, D. (2009) ‘Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program’, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 89–100.