Q&A: Sharon Hutchinson, Founder of Sportswomen Ireland, Speaks on the Organization and Irish Women in Sports

Women’s Sports World continues its focus on highlighting websites for women in sports, with an interview of Sharon Hutchinson, a former hockey player and founder of Sportswomen Ireland (sportswomen.ie); the organization focuses on supporting, promoting, and covering Irish women in sports. Sharon answered the following questions via e-mail.

1. How did creating and developing sportswomen.ie come about?

The creation of sportswomen.ie came about through my frustration with the lack of coverage of Irish women’s sport. I set it up in January 2015 with the idea coming maybe a year before. I employed someone to create the website as I did not have that expertise but I knew what I wanted and how it should look. I also did the PINC programme in the Rubicon Centre here in Cork, this was a women’s entrepreneurship programme which helped me to focus on the project before it went live.

2. What is the media coverage of female athletes like in Ireland?  

At the moment it is better than what is was. I think the local media has been good over the last few years, it is the national media that has been lacking. However since mid 2015 there is a definite focus on women’s sport and I do think there are efforts being made. LIDL started a three sponsorship deal with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association this year and this has made a huge impact on the game and on women’s sport in general. It is nearly normal to see full page ads in a newspaper or at a bus stop.

3. Do you find that there are any barriers or challenges that affect Irish women in sport specifically? 

In Ireland there is an organisation called the GAA, the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is the governing body for hurling and football, played by men only. These are our national sports and are huge in Ireland. The women play football and camogie (Hurling for women) and they are governed by the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association respectively. All GAA grounds around the country are used by both men and women in the clubs but the facilities are mostly owned by the GAA which can lead to complications. The history is complicated but there is an inequality there where huge government funding has gone to the GAA in comparison to the two women’s organisations. Women’s soccer in Ireland is poorly supported compared to the mens. The Women’s Rugby World Cup will be held in Ireland in 2017 and this should give a huge boost to the game. There are still not enough rugby clubs around the country offering rugby to girls aged between 12-18. Individual sports like athletics and swimming are equal at a participation level but at coaching and administration levels it is dominated by men.

4. What needs to be done in order to provide more opportunities for sports women in Ireland? 

Money and facilities. It also needs to be acknowledged that girls in all sports deserve the same opportunities as boys. Sport is for boys and girls. There needs to be more facilities and in particular in the less affluent areas around the country.

5. Studies show that playing a sport can positively influence women during their professional careers, outside of their sport of choice. Have your experiences as a formal international goalkeeper influenced how you run the organization? If so, how?

From sport, I have learnt to be a team player, to be focussed, organised and very determined. These traits have helped with the running of sportswomen.ie I have a team of writers which I am growing slowly and the ultimate would be to have an editor for each sport featured on the site. I am on a mission to change the media landscape and make people more aware of the greatness of women’s sport, it has loads to offer and for our teenage girls they need positive female role models like our great sportswomen.

6.What is sportswomen.ie working on next?  

I have just started a #WSportHour (Women’s Sport Hour) on twitter. The first Tuesday of each month from 9pm-10pm using the #WSportHour the conversation will continue. Come and join us.

Thanks!

by Mariela S.M.

 Image via twitter.com

 

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