BSUK joins forces with ‘This Girl Can’ for university campaign

Mon 20 Nov 2017

By Luke Stott

BaseballSoftballUK has partnered with Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to support ‘This BUCS Girl Can Week’, taking place in British universities from 20-26 November.

The campaign aims to increase awareness of and celebrate women’s sport at universities -- a demographic that is often ignored by the mainstream.

To mark the occasion, BSUK has created a celebratory video as well as social media share graphics and a Facebook cover photo that university clubs and players can use to show their support for the campaign.


Potential

Research shows that gender has a significant influence on physical activity levels.  Currently, about 41.7% of men play sport at least once a week, compared to around 31.6% of women.  That means that two million fewer women get regular exercise, despite a healthy and active lifestyle being proven to be important for all of us to maintain good physical and mental wellbeing.

The BUCS This Girl Can Week aims to highlight the huge potential for women to get physically active at universities across the UK and to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities which the Higher Education sector provides to engage women students and staff.

Meanwhile, BSUK is taking this opportunity to celebrate our own success in growing softball and baseball in universities and showcase what fantastic options both sports are for female university students everywhere.


Challenge

“Softball and baseball allow for different levels of athletic ability and competitiveness, and softball is one of the only team sports at uni level that requires female participation,” said the University of East Anglia graduate and current Masters student at the University of Surrey Oona Ylinen.  “Both provide a great team environment, a great way to get fresh air, and a great way to stay healthy.”

With over a thousand students playing baseball and softball at universities, and over 300 of those being women, our sports are growing at a fantastic rate throughout the Higher Education sector.  If you speak to any number of female students, familiar themes emerge as to why each got involved in the game: escapism, challenge and belonging.

“I get very competitive but it makes me forget everything else, from coursework to whatever I'm stressing about,” said Ylinen.  “I don't think about much else other than what I need to be doing, whether that's where to throw, when to run or if I'm going to swing or not.”

Lizzy Robertson, a Durham University undergrad, has similar thoughts: “There is something so therapeutic about throwing a baseball as hard as you can to get some of the stresses of the day out.  Plus, there is no better feeling than making a tidy play.”

The challenge of making a so-called ‘tidy play’, as Robertson puts it, is universal, but traditional thinking has often incorrectly assumed that the challenges of baseball and softball put women off.  That’s far from the truth, as Kyra Bradley, a UCL Masters student and former president of Sheffield University Baseball Club, suggests.

“Baseball makes me feel like I really put all the athletic and strategic skills I’ve learned to good use,” Bradley says.  “I have to think quickly and play quickly, and after something happens in a game, I think it over and realise how much training and practice have paid off.”

Mary Schofield, undergrad and former President of the University of Southampton Baseball & Softball Club, has a similar mental approach: “I concentrate on how I can challenge myself to be the best player that I can.  How can I run faster?  How can I make the ball travel further when I hit it?  How can I make sure I catch the ball every time?”


Belonging

With mental health issues among students seeing a sharp rise in recent years, providing an outlet for the stress and strain of life at university is an under-appreciated facet of our sports.  And in addition to escapism and physical activity, they also provide much needed social interaction.

“I love that softball is a team sport,” says Jade Yerex, a Canadian Masters student studying at Queen Mary University London and someone who has played softball since the age of four.  “Because there is such a substantial amount of time spent training with the same group of people, you truly get to know the other players and cultivate great friendships in the process.  Being so far away from home, it’s nice to know that you have a support system both on the field and off the field.”

“My favourite part of softball is working together as a team,” echoes undergraduate Ashley Nakamoto, University of Brighton Softball Club President.  Her thoughts were in unison with every woman we spoke to for this article: “When everyone is cheering each other on and picking one another up after a mistake, it feels good to be a part of something bigger than just yourself.”


Growth

These qualities may be why our sports have grown so quickly in the last few years at the university level, especially among women.  Our sports are gaining footholds in universities across the country, with increased recognition among students, and increased interaction with British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) through their own events such as the London Universities Sports Leagues that, for the first time this year, had softball as one of its participating sports.

So join us in celebrating both our sports and the women who play them, and support the This BUCS Girl Can Campaign from 20-26 November by downloading our Facebook cover photo!

You can download the Facebook Cover Photo here and watch our This BUCS Girl Can video here.

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