‘Women in sport’ was largely reserved for television sport presenters, the infamous wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of England footballers, and the odd Olympic gold medallist throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The occasional breakthrough star, such as the Grand Slam-winning tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, were the exceptions who proved the rule.
Fast forward to 2021 and it’s a whole different ball game. England’s female footballers, the Lionesses, are regularly on BBC2; Emma Raducanu broke TV broadcast records whilst winning the US Open in tennis; and new cricket format The Hundred’s debut match was a women’s game, hosted at The Oval and live on both BBC and Sky Sports.
There has never been a better time for women in sport. On and off the field.
My career as a rugby player and in marketing has mirrored this change in perceptions towards female athletes. From first picking up a rugby ball aged eight and not playing in a team with another girl until I was 13, I was well aware I was ‘out of the norm’, but that was fine – in fact, it was probably perfect training for my development off-field.
Having progressed through various levels in rugby, achieving top-tier club and international honours, I have learned to be adaptable. Club moves, league reshuffling, varied off-field support staff resources such as physiotherapy, strength and conditioning and psychology, the ever-growing levels of dedication required from me, travel, all in return for the love of the game (read: unpaid). Yet these are all commitments I am happy to make. Payment has never been a determining factor in my dedication to my sport.
Without the lure of money, you truly find out what your values are, what drives you and what makes a difference, rather than chasing a buck.
This experience is very common in women’s sport (although we are on the cusp of a new era of professional women’s sport). Breeding highly driven, high moral value and proactive people.
In 2019, these experiences of breaking boundaries in sport led me to push my career to a new (and very unstable) level. After studying graphic design and working in marketing I took the plunge to launch a start-up I called The Perception Agency, focusing on changing perceptions of women’s sport through marketing. Starting a business is a risk, every day brings new ground, nothing is promised and if you want to make something happen, no one else is going to give it to you. Funnily enough, a very similar experience to my sporting career.
I strangely felt comfortable in what would seem a very uncomfortable time.
Since 2019 I have gained a series of clients across different elite sports teams and athletes, run several social change campaigns, spoken on panels regarding equality in sport and led workshops pushing marketing of women’s sport to new levels. That internal drive, moral value and proactivity my sport taught me allowed me to pursue a career that ticked boxes outside of ‘salary’, which brings wealth in a way that is far rarer in the working world.
Starting my own business means I have flexibility around my sport but also something to look forward to when I retire. I have followed my passion and built a foundation that will feed my drive, want to win and values when a rugby pitch (and more so my body!) fails to do that for me.
The best time to develop your passions off-field? Yesterday.