Widening Participation in Sports

There is encouraging evidence that shows that greater numbers of women are participating in traditionally male-dominated sports such as rugby and MMA. This seems to suggest that some of the long-standing ideas regarding women's capability to compete in these spheres are gradually weakening, and that women seeking to enter these sports face fewer barriers and less discrimination than they previously did. Sports have the ability to empower, so increased female participation is something that must be understood as positive progress and a move away from the macho attitudes normally associated with sports, to something more inclusive and egalitarian.

The number of women participating in sports such as rugby is risingPhoto by Laurabodenschatz // CC0 1.0


Perhaps one of the most striking examples of women penetrating into and becoming incredibly successful in a field that for a long time was dominated by men is the rise of women in MMA. Fighters such as Justine "Cyborg" Justino, Meisha Tate and Joanna Jedrzejczyk have become genuinely popular among fans of the sport, and women's MMA bouts are now highly-anticipated affairs, demonstrating how much progress women have made since 2011 when UFC president Dana White claimed that women would never compete in the UFC.

The woman who changed this was Rhonda Rousey, who made her UFC debut in 2013 and was the first women's champion in the competition. She has since been overtaken by the likes of Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, but Rousey opened a lot of doors to women when she was in her prime. She helped to challenge patriarchal notions regarding women's place in MMA, forced fans and pundits to take female fighters seriously as professional martial artists, and raised the profile of women's MMA. The current state of women's MMA and the high calibre of fighters breaking through is, in part, Ronda Rousey's legacy.

Photo by Jdcollins13 // CC BY 2.0
Caption: Ronda Rousey was the first UFC women's champion

Field Hockey

Despite being one of the most popular sports in the world, field hockey is very rarely televised and its star players lack the household-name status enjoyed by athletes in other sports. This may well be due to the fact that many people do not take the sport seriously, probably due to its identity as a sport played mainly by women and girls. One woman, however, that may have a legitimate claim to being a true field hockey celebrity is Fatima de Moreira de Melo, former Dutch international and Olympic gold medallist. Her profile has risen dramatically since entering the world of professional poker.

One particularly interesting aspect to this professional poker player's story is that she crossed over from field hockey, a sport long considered to be a firmly feminine pursuit, and as such one that is quite often looked down upon by male sports fans. The former field hockey star from The Netherlands has been playing big stakes poker since 2009 and has amassed an impressive total earnings of over $500,000.


The rising popularity in women's rugby is also noteworthy. There has been a concerted effort on the part of rugby's governing bodies to reconstruct the sport's identity and effect changes in popular conceptions of the quality of women's rugby. Campaigns such as "Try and Stop Us" are effective in their attempts to narrow gender imbalances in rugby and to remove barriers to participation. There is statistical evidence to show that these efforts are bearing fruit, with figures showing increasing numbers of women and girls are getting into the sport. This seems to be part of a general trend which shows that sports are becoming more inclusive, although sports traditionally perceived as inherently 'masculine' still lag behind sports like golf and tennis, which are some of the most equitable on the planet in terms of equal participation between men and women.

Women such as Ronda Rousey and Fatima Moreira de Melo have done great things in the drive to widen participation and to question prevailing attitudes regarding women in sport. Their success in their respective fields should, hopefully, motivate and inspire women and girls to redefine the boundaries of their potential and to become more confident in their ambitions to excel. And, from the way things are going, it looks as though they are.

4 min read

Tropism, Mindfulness, and Responding to Your Environment

One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.

If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.

In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?

For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.

Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.

Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.

I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.

Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.

Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.