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Special event instils confidence and inspires teenage girls

Pupils and staff from senior schools in Dorset and Hampshire attend the ‘Sport in Her Shoes’ Conference hosted by Bryanston

“It’s only through open and candid discussion that we will overcome the barriers and common misconceptions that so many girls and young women experience in the world of sport,” says Alex Fermor-Dunman, Director of Sport at Bryanston and the organiser of the ‘Sport in Her Shoes’ Conference.

“We know that exercise has a profoundly positive impact on body and mind, but the physiological changes experienced during teenage years sees only a third of all girls over the age of 16 continuing to pursue the sport they love or participating in regular exercise. When there are so many inspiring opportunities for young women to fulfil their sporting passions, such a statistic is truly shocking and totally unacceptable.

“That’s why I’m delighted with the high attendance and feedback from the Conference. It has demonstrated the value of inclusion, openness and honesty and has shown girls and young women how to overcome the challenges, improve their experience and continue their participation and enjoyment in all types of sport.”

Organised in collaboration with The Well, the ‘Sport in Her Shoes’ Conference was attended by 13-18 year old girls and staff from Queen Elizabeth School in Wimborne, Talbot Heath in Bournemouth, Canford School, Milton Abbey School, and King Edward VI School in Southampton, as well as Bryanston itself. Topics featured during the day included the development of the female body and mind during puberty, female-centric nutrition, how to develop injury resilience and optimise training as well as maintaining performance during the menstrual cycle.

The keynote speech and many of the inspirational sessions at the event were delivered by Dr Emma Ross, The Well’s co-founder and an expert in women’s health and performance. Alongside the Conference, Bryanston also held an online session for parents that covered similar topics. The objective was to address areas of potential embarrassment and to normalise parent-child conversations around uncomfortable matters for teenage girls such as changing body shape, hormonal changes and menstruation. A number of special staff training sessions were also held on topics including the menopause and injury and concussion.

The ’Sport in Her Shoes’ Conference follows recent international acclaim for a major sports science research programme undertaken in the Performance Sport suite at Bryanston with the active participation of 35 of the school’s pupils. Organised by specialists in the Department ofHealth at Bath University, the programme investigated the risk factors of knee-ligament damage in adolescent females who are eight times more at risk of such injuries than boys.

“Our contribution to such ground-breaking research and our commitment to provide the right training, support and encouragement for pupils during such a critical stage of their growth and maturation is ingrained in our approach to sport,” continues Fermor-Dunman. “However, for girls and young women, such progress is only possible if difficult, sensitive and uncomfortable topics are normalised and if any misplaced assumptions are discarded. It’s important to be honest and open about all the physiological and psychological changes girls experience during puberty, so that they receive the right type and level of support. As Dr Emma Ross and her colleagues have shown, such an engaging approach removes barriers and helps to maximise female participation and pleasure in sport.”

The Well is an organisation that helps girls and young women to be the architects of their own health, happiness and performance. It builds on cutting-edge science, expertise and experience to bridge the knowledge gap in health and fitness disciplines. And, through community, resources and specialist insight, it provides practical guidance and encouragement for girls as well as their teachers, their coaches and their parents.

The Sport in Her Shoes Conference was held at Bryanston’s Coade Theatre.

Dr Emma Ross delivers the keynote speech at the ‘Sport in Her Shoes’Conference hosted by Bryanston.