Cori Gauff (15) beat her idol, and five-time Wimbledon champion, Venus Williams on Tuesday at the prestigious tournament. She is now through to round three after beating Magdalena Rybarikova the day after. As the youngest person ever to qualify for Wimbledon, we look at how she is an incredible role model for teenage girls.
Puberty, peer pressure and boys are a few reasons why many girls ditch their favourite sports when they enter their teenage years. At the age of 14, approximately half of all Irish girls drop out of sport, according to a study conducted by Lidl and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association in 2017.
Upon entering teenagehood, many girls feel like it is ‘un-feminine’ to play sport, or that the encouragement that boys are given is not as readily available. A heavy school workload is also another reason that many girls drop the ball or give up the hockey stick.
With the many benefits of sport, this attitude in Ireland needs to change; and is partly the reason for projects such as the 20×20 campaign — a movement aiming to “shift Ireland’s cultural perception of women’s sport” by 2020. It aims for a 20% increase in media coverage of women in sport, a 20% increase in female participation at all levels of sport and a 20% increase in attendance at women’s games and events.
Their slogan is “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it” — very apt when it comes to Gauff, who has proven herself as a great role model for teenage girls.
Orla O’Loughlin, who coaches children’s and teenage tennis lessons through Hugh’s Tennis Academy in Donabate in Dublin, says that much more girls tend to drop out of the sport in their teenage years compared to boys.
“Sport is so important for teenagers — not only for health reasons but also for their development and the community aspect too. I think the reason why many teenagers stop playing sport is because of their peers. If their friends aren’t playing sport, then they won’t either” she said.
Orla thinks that Cori Gauff is a great role model for teenage girls to have.
“A professional tennis player is always going to be a role model for younger tennis players, but I think because she is so young they can identify with her more. I hope she doesn’t just inspire current tennis players to strive for their goals but also encourages teenage girls to give the sport a try” she added.
It is important to note that tennis is one of the few sports that garner relatively similar attention to both men and women. According to the BBC, 4.5 million tuned in for their coverage of the men’s singles final in 2018 while 4.6 million tuned in for the women’s singles final.
Tennis was one of the first major sports which was seen as acceptable for women to play. This could be why the game seems to be years ahead of other sports in terms of their coverage on women’s tournaments. It may also be that often tennis players like Serena and Venus Williams are not only sports stars but celebrity personalities in their own rights, encouraging more people to tune in.
Hopefully, with the likes of Cori Gauff we will see more teenage girls not only take up tennis but sports in general. Paired with the continuation of the 20×20 campaign, an increase in coverage and encouragement of women in sport would be an amazing outcome.
Featured Image: Javier García/BPI/REX/Shutterstock
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