American tennis player Coco Gauff is just one example of the potential of incredible young sportswomen, so why do they still lack proficient funding and support?
Following her historical game against Venus Williams, Cori “Coco” Gauff is continuing to smash her way through Wimbledon. Gauff, who is the tournament’s youngest player, beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3 6-3 on Wednesday (3 July) to reach the third round.
Speaking about the second win, she told the BBC: “I’m still shocked I am even here. I played well on pressure points. She was serving amazing. I’ve not been able to relax, there is so much going on.”
She then, rather superbly, added: “I believe I can beat anyone across the court.”
To quickly recap the significance of her place in Wimbledon: Gauff is the youngest player to qualify for the main draw after winning three matches without losing a single set. She won the junior French Open title in 2018 when she was just 14 years old. Off the court, Forbes reports that she is predicted to earn more than $1m (£790,000) in 2019 thanks to group of sponsors.
The world is excited about this teen sports star, and rightly so. But it prompts the question: why are we failing young female athletes in other sports?
Just last week, a new report by the Sutton Trust showed that young men are more likely to focus solely on pursuing a sports career, while women usually train alongside their university studies. This suggests that female athletes need a “plan B” in case they’re not given the necessary funding, support and opportunities needed to thrive in their chosen sport.
The Elitist Britain report also highlighted the high levels of privately-educated Olympians in the games, because they had better access to sports facilities at school.
And last year, the charity Women in Sports claimed that many girls and young women are missing out on the benefits of playing sport due to the gender gap. It came after Sport Wales released figures in 2015 showing that 69% of girls played sport outside school at least once a week compared to 74% of boys.
England Lioness Alex Greenwood recently spoke to Stylist about how more girls need to be encouraged to participate in sports and seriously consider it as a potential career. She said a huge problem is that the initiatives either aren’t there or they’re not being made aware of them.
“I want participation levels to increase massively,” she said. “I don’t know if girls know about the different pathways available to them. More can be done.”
Fellow Lioness Fran Kirby also told us that the media has a part to play in taking responsibility for the lack of support for female games, saying: “I think it is getting better and there are more TV shows and channels getting involved promoting women’s sport, like Sky Sports has Netball, and we’re going to be on BBC.”
She continued: “You see now more girls getting involved in their sports because they can see it on TV and see these people playing and I think the more and more it’s exposed and is out there – it will continue to grow and grow. They watch it on TV and think, ‘Well that could be me!’.
The undeniable fact is: supporting young women in sports is better for everybody.
Look at the roaring success of the Lionesses, whose World Cup game against America brought in the UK’s biggest TV audience of the year, uniting an otherwise disconnected nation together. And research in America from the Peterson Institute argues that investment in girls and sport has significant development payoffs and contributes to economic growth overall.
So, we are right to applaud Gauff. Because her wins are significant for young female sports players of all levels everywhere.