Can you promote yourself as a female athlete without selling yourself?

It’s no secret that millennials take social media very seriously. But nowadays professional athletes have a duty of care in the way they promote themselves via social media.
Athletes use platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to boost their image and share their stories, making them more attractive to brands, sponsors and viewers; not to mention bringing in extra dollars and credibility into the world of athletics along the way. Some athletes choose to do this with humility while others choose to use their physical appearance to attract an audience, rather than their athletic ability.
At the recent Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, Hawaiian John Florence won a prize of USD$100,000. This came after Sally Fitzgibbons earned her 1st place winnings of USD$60,000 the day before. Both athletes surfed the same break, within the same conditions, at the same time. The discrepancies do not stop there. According to the most current Forbes The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes List the top 39 paid athletes in the world, are ALL men. With Serena Williams being the only female athlete in the top 87 of the list, coming in at #40.
Does this infuriate yourself, like it does the women reading this discovery? This begs the question: Why are female athletes less valued then their male counterparts? In almost every professional sport. Sexualisation, plays a big part.
Some women may feel the pressure because they are not receiving equal pay to men in the same sport. This can result in no longer viewing athletic achievement as a priority and distorts the perception of the female athlete, who then may choose then to use their appearance to gain social media presence and become more influential. This in turn allows them to earn more in endorsements and sponsorships, than relying on their performance in their chosen field.

Comparing social media statistics between the current #1 and 5-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore’s 466K Instagram followers, Alana Blanchard’s impressive 1.8 million followers, and Ellie Jean Coffee’s strong 784k followers. Why does Blanchard and Coffee’s popularity far exceed Gilmore’s? Maybe because the two are notorious for their faces seen in every Rip Curl or Billabong campaign (respectively) as well as their Instagram filled with selfies in glamorous, tropical locations. Yet neither compete on the WSL tour, placing a long way past 100th in the rankings, or are nearly as athletically gifted as Gilmore. A quick scroll through their feeds and you’ll notice a big difference, in comparing the current world champion, who’s feed showcases videos of her recent tubes and training sessions, the others choose to showcase the latest bikinis, captured at a strategic angle.

www.instagram.com/stephaniegilmore

 

www.instagram.com/elliejeancoffey

“Some girls are definitely self-sexualizing, they know what the market is and what gets the best response. In the culture of surfing, sex sells. They’re making a lot of money out of it.” Scott Atheron, Surf Coach, Manly Surf School.

This doesn’t apply to surfing alone. The current fastest women in the world, is Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica. After winning an Olympic Games in 2012 and being the current reigning world 100m champion, you think she would be a household name? With only 211k Instagram followers to her name, the world’s fastest female was paid US$60,000 for her world title win in 2015. In comparison to Mr Usain Bolt, undoubtedly the world most successful sprinter and known to almost all people who own a television, around the world. He attains 6.7Million Instagram followers, is number 32 on Forbes Highest-Paid Athletes list and for the same race, at the same championships was paid US -$120,000 for his 2015 World Title, in comparison to Shelly-Ann’s $60K.

This necessity for over exposure, it seems, is growing the gap for women in sport. Tim Wigmore, of NewStatemen Sport, has this to say about the matter. ‘’The roots of this discrepancy lie in the birth of modern sport, 150 years ago. Women’s treatment in sport has always been a manifestation of wider gender inequality and, as sports evolved and professionalised, became self-perpetuating. The huge funding disparity between male and female sport means that women have had fewer opportunities to play sport, have suffered from inadequate coaching and facilities compared with those enjoyed by men, and have been paid meagre sums, even for playing international sport. This has damaged the quality of sport.’’ 

 We are left with the issue , in this social media, millennial world, if women want to cover that gap, they must be perceived, first and foremost, as athletes and not as Instagram models. If sexuality is the main qualifier for popularity in women’s professional sport, then women’s sport will not be seen for what it is; a sport, rather than a glorified modelling industry.

Too Much Ego, Kills Talent

For some people, their world can revolve around, how many ‘likes’ they need to attain on social media, in order to validate their existence, or feel worthy. It could be easy to get caught up in the popularity contest. By comparing how many ‘followers’ you have, to the person next to you. Some people too, feel the need to create an idealistic life with pictures; to make themselves seem more attainable to people viewing behind a screen. This is not real life

Once upon a time, I too was so naive to get caught up in this world. And was worried about my social media life reflecting how many people liked me, in real life. Then I realised how shallow and Ridiculous this thought process, really was. You are worth much more than that. And to be honest, now that this no longer phases me – I’ve been a lot happier ever since. 

Your success in this world, depends on gracefully you move through life, how much you put in and how well you treat others. 1000 likes on a selfie, ain’t going to save you when you’re in trouble or keep you warm at night. 

I have noticed the world of Track and Field, has become very much similar in following this Trend. I love track. I always have. It’s my passion. And a huge part of my life. This will be my eighteenth season, as a competing athlete. And I’ve begun to notice these negative trends progress over the years. 

Politics, gossip and ‘followers’ – have somewhat been a closer focus and point of conversation, rather than how fast, strong, or agile someone is. Those other elements have nothing to do with performance. This doesn’t make sense. This frustrates me. 

Being an individual sport, it can become very lonely out there. No Team, backing you. Just the track. Your thoughts in your head and the hard work you’ve put in, to get you to that point. And then, this ‘Trend’ is continuing to emerge and take focal point. Where it seems people have progressively begun to judge another athlete, based on how many followers she or he has, or how their social life matches up to their fellow competitors.

I’m sorry, but that isn’t going to make you run a PB. Attain a qualifier. Or win a medal. It’s going to create a false sense of security. Make you worry about your reputation. And create an environment for yourself, that encourages popularity based majorly on looks. Rather than yourself as a human being. 

Don’t get me wrong; Social media is a wonderful tool! For sharing memories, marketing and promotion or advertising. But it should not be a platform for bullying and slander, because someone doesn’t ‘match up’ to their competitor online. Even though they might be a greater athlete on the track than them.  What has our sport become? Bullying is never okay.

I, personally have been bullied on social media, a few times over. It’s strange encounter. Having Someone hiding behind a keyboard, throwing words at you. Having someone try and bring you down, in order to make themselves look more cool, or more attainable for what ever reason. 
Having someone judge your worth, based on a picture? They don’t even know you. They don’t know how deep their words could be cutting. They don’t know your situation or the state of your mental health. They don’t know you, as a person. Yet, they attack – for personal gain? Or for a laugh? That doesn’t help anything. Or anyone. 

Your ego, is your worst enemy. This negative energy thrown around, will only ultimately come back to bite you. 

I’ve found this trend translate from behind the screen to real life, in more recent circumstances. I recently had a former bully, approach me in a social situation… and try and get some kind of gain from making a public personal attack. 

Fortunately I was mature enough, to defuse the situation. Act politely. And discontinue that encounter as quick as it started, much to their dismay. But, I do wonder – what fuelled their experience? What was their goal behind doing that? To want to personally attack me… for being me? I kinda felt sorry for them, in that moment. 

I’ve never done anything to harm this person in any way metaphorically or physically, but yet I am a target? No. I will not stand for this. I deserve to go through life, being authentically me. Free of judgement, just like the next person. Or fear of someone trying to bring me down for simply being myself. And, as does each of you, equally have that right! 

This egotism, can move into how you interact in front of people. If you surround yourself with that negative persona for long enough, it can become you. And I’ve seen it change people’s personalities, just like this individual’s. 

To say the right things in front of the screens and then slander other people behind the scenes. 

Humility

And I can only wish these people, attain enough self confidence to become humble. To realise their actions aren’t making themselves a better person, a better athlete or making the world better. It’s only bringing someone else down. 

I encourage you: Never lower yourself to your bully’s standards. Don’t follow The Trend. Negative people will find their flaws. Karma will take care of that. 
Your job it to keep doing you. Authentically you. And move through life attracting all the positive energy, you solely deserve.  

Run your race, you beauty! 

Athletics Australia Announces Summer 2017 Competition Structure

Australian athletics fans, are in for a delight as Athletics Australia finally announces the competition structure for the 2016/2017 summer season.

There are some major changes to the association’s most anticipated competition: The 2017 Australian Athletics Championships, National titles. Once formally a four-day long event, for both abled-bodied and para-athletes Open aged category athletes.

The decision to combine both junior and senior competition, has created and eight-day long event for next year’s National Titles.

This new structure was designed in conjunction with Athletics Australia’s Member Associations and will be the largest annual athletics event in Australia and the Oceania-Pacific region. With an estimated 3500 Athletes to be competing, next March.

It will bring together participants of all ages in the pursuit of Personal Best’s and national championship medals, to the host city of Sydney, held at Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre.

Another major change to the competition schedule is the ‘’Summer of Aths’’ Grand Prix Event. This is the first time it will be held over two days, hosted by the nation’s capital, at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, ACT.

The aim of this change, was to attract more spectators to the championships. The two-day elite series, will welcome the very best able-bodied and para-athletes as they make final preparations for the 2017 Australian Athletics Championships.

‘’Nitro Athletics’’ is another exciting addition to the calendar. This is something Athletics in Australia has never seen before. It will be a ground-breaking team-based athletics series that will pit the best athletes from across Australia and around the world against each other across three events. More information will be confirmed on the Athletics Australia website, but there is a promise that the Fastest Man in The World, none other than Usain Bolt will be making an appearance, in this new exciting event.

Other smaller, structural changes, to each state and territory were made in this year’s calendar. Predominately including more competition and more elite level competition, with the change to record performance eligible for overseas competition.

For more information on the exciting changes, keep checking Athletics Australia and relevant state and territory associated websites, for updates.

Women in a Wruck

Saturday November 12th, 36 Degrees, 4 Games of Rugby Union and a team of strong women, you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Sydney University Women’s Rugby 7s team, took to Campbelltown Showground in the annual ‘Harlequin 7s Tournament’ for the year. The stakes were high with a $2000 cash prize on offer, for the team to take out the five-game-tournament on the day.

Rugby 7s, is a modified traditional Rugby Union game. It only last seven minute halves, with a 30 second break for half time. The name also resonates with the fact there are only seven players, per side on the field at one time. Because of these changes, there are also changes to wrucks, scrums and how many people per tackle to ‘clear out.’ It is a much faster, more cardiovascular based game and some might say, much more entertaining

Sydney Uni were off to a fine start, with both their A and B teams taking out their first matches. The heat, the tackles and the Bindi patches soon took their toll on the women, as they both lost their second games.

For spectators, it was an exciting and impressive day of Rugby. The Women’s side had both NSW Samoa and NSW Fiji teams take the field. And the men had both an Australian 7s team and Australia Fiji team, dominate their side.

Eventually is was the Sydney Uni A team, victorious through to the semi-final match, only one game between them and the championship game. After a good start up 1 try on the Campbelltown Harlequins, Uni went down in an exciting match 1-5.

Every athlete who took the field should be commended on their perseverance, their effort and enthusiasm as players clearly left everything on the field this tournament. Next championship isn’t scheduled until February 2017. For more information about how to become a Rugby 7s player for Sydney University, please visit:  https://www.susf.com.au/

Body Building a Legitimate Career.

I’ve been curious about the hard-core world of body building since the first time I saw my Dad practicing a ‘’Double-bicep’’ pose in the mirror. He was an amateur body builder in his glory days and finds great joy in telling me his stories of competition journey, the different equipment they would use back then and his brief moment of fame, in shaking hands with the Greatest of All Time, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The world and the sport have both progressed, since Dad’s hay-day and I took the time to sit down with an up and coming body builder from Anytime Fitness Macquarie Park, John. John explained he has been a body builder since his early twenties and at twenty seven years of age, he hasn’t looked back. He firstly begun lifting weights to gains size for his chosen sport, Martial Arts. But then soon, found a passion for growing muscle and the rest was history.

When asking him about what he has gained from his competitive body building career he begun by saying ‘’you gain your first essence of control.’’ ‘’You find your limits, and you develop mental toughness.’’ That’s some very interesting knowledge, shared by someone with the mental drive, to purposely dehydrate themselves 24 hours before stepping on the stage for a body building competition. The athletes do this to ensure they look most vascular on stage. Which is one of the three categories they are judged on, along with Symmetry and conditioning.

John shared that he has met some interesting characters, during his time training 6 days a week twice a day; on his body building journey. We discussed the temptation involved within the sport to make it easier for himself: performance enhancers. Many others competitors, just like John choose to inject themselves with performance enhancing stimulants such as testosterone or human growth hormone. This is legal in some categories of body building, but John remains ‘’All Natural’’ competing in the ANB (Australian Natural Body Building) category. He is constantly on a strict diet, but not the typical athlete’s diet that you’d think. John indulges in a high-protein high-carbohydrate loaded meal plan, with the goal to eat six times a day! This is to maintain his impressive triple figure scale weight. Because John trains so vigorously, he maintains his muscular physique rather than putting on weight around his waistline.

John went on to explain it is an ‘’ongoing triumph,’’ to maintain size. As he works as a laborer during the day, it can be easy for him to lose weight, unintentionally. ‘’I’ve got to remember to eat someday,’’ he jokingly explained, of his demanding physical lifestyle. Most body builders are fortunate to make preparing for a competition their full-time job. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for John, whose work demands a nine-hour day, sometimes six days a week.

John had some great final advice to give to young athletes, desiring to make body building career of their own: ‘’Leave your ego at the door, constantly challenge yourself, do not think. Act.’’ Sounds easier than it looks to us.
If you or someone you know is interested in embarking on their own muscular-growth journey, you can find out more by visiting: http://www.anb.com.au