Female Athletes in an Australian Setting

Australian Rules Football, (AFL) a game which has been played for over one hundred years in Australia. Born out of Melbourne in the late 1850’s. John Northey, of Swooper Coach suggests that today’s game is controlled by the corporate dollar, with the 18 team strong league, many clubs fight to increase profits. It allows participation at all levels able to be played by all levels of physicality, children both male and female, as young as six right through to veterans playing a modified game called Super Rules. AFL Community Club, 2017 says that AFL is becoming the sport of choice for diverse communities, and is one of the most multicultural in terms of participation levels, that the Australian sporting landscape offers.  It was also reported by AFL Community Club, that up to 25% of current AFL lists are from diverse backgrounds (11% Indigenous Australians and 14% Multicultural Australians). There are programs which are also enabling young talent identification and giving more opportunities to future players.

When analysing AFL and the introduction of the Women’s League, for the first time in history this 2016/2017 season, it’s important to be mindful that AFL need to keep pushing for equality and have the support behind it. As long as the women are playing the same game, they deserve the right to be paid equally. This was compared to Australian Surfing and then compared to Track and Field’s place in Australia. The following resonates across all three sports in Australian society, that females are being represented as a ‘Female Athlete’ rather than simply ‘Athlete,’ like their male counterparts.

Firstly, analysing Australian Rules football,(AFL) and exploring current topics with the introduction of the Women’s league reveals that the AFL has a large pay gap between men and women professional AFL players. But Is the sport really doing enough to bridge that gap so women unlike men, must work alongside their professional football career in order to make a living? Recently ABC online provided statistics showing that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. It was also made apparent in the AFLW’s annual report that an entire women’s AFL team cost less that an individual average male player.

To gain an insight, AFL mega fan Clare, was interviewed. She has this to say on the issue: ‘’ With it being such a massive thing firstly, to the women in the AFL league, I think they’re doing a fantastic job this season, with the introduction of women. However, there’s still a long way to go for women to have the same opportunities as men do.’’

With so much exposure and fans barracking for their favourite teams, it would make sense that football would be a full-time job for the female athletes, like the men? Think again. The top two players of each team will get about $25,000 for the season, and then $10,000 for high profile players, and $5,000 for everyone else, for an eight-week season. All are expected to train about nine hours per week, plus pre-season. This seems incompatible with an average male player who earns just over $300,000 (ABC.net). This essentially equates to buying an entire women’s team for the cost of a single male player.

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www.instagram.com/erinphillips131 Premiership winner, Best and Fairest and mother to twins. Also plays professional basketball for Australia. But would need a second job to supplement her family if playing AFL alone.

Clare voiced her concerns on this topic by saying, ‘’As a mother of a daughter, I am very excited by the fact that women’s league has been introduced. And by the time she’s old enough, hopefully those years would have provided enough time for it to have developed and become an equal opportunity. ‘’ The problem seems to lie with broadcasting rights to women’s matches, as that’s where the big money lies. It would be expected to take a few years before the broadcasters would pay rights to show women’s footy matches, according to AFL’s general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean.

As long as the women are paying the same game, they deserve the rights to be paid equally. Below is what the public had to say:

AFL Fb Poll

AFLTwitter Poll

When it comes to professional female surfers in Australia, there is also a divide between males and females. This begs the question, why are female athletes valued less than their male counterparts? ‘’Viewership,’’ says Scott Atheron, Surf Coach, Manly Surf School, in my group member Andrea Kovszun’s Story entitled: Sex Sells: How Female surf athletes are using social media. ‘’The value in women’s surfing comes from their lifestyle factor, I feel like they are forced to go into bikinis and lifestyle campaigns to subsidies their value as surfers.’’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.

ELLIE

www.instagram.com/elliejeancoffey – Face of Billabong and Roxy Australia, but not in the top 100 surfers in the world.

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. Andy makes a great note in her piece by going on to say ‘’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, rather than their physical achievements and performance it will never be seen for what it is, a professional sport.

This doesn’t apply to surfing alone. When reviewing male and female track athletes there seems to be also a notable discrepancy. 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. For her world title race, she was reportedly paid US$60,000. In comparison to Usain Bolt, undoubtedly the world’s most successful sprinter and is number 32 on Forbes Highest-Paid Athletes list. For the same race, at the same championships as Fraser-Pryce, Bolt was paid an astounding US $120,000.

This is what the public has to say:

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When discussing these surprising facts, with Track and Field guru Mike Hurst, who was a former Daily Telegraph journalist and coach of 1988 400m Mens and Womens Olympic Finalists as well as the current second fastest man in Australia, over 400m, had this to say on the issue of pay equality in Track and Field: ‘’Shelly-Ann Fraser pryce clearly hasn’t spoken up enough. I’m surprised, I thought there was parity in the IAAF World Championships.I think people need to have a voice, I don’t think track and field athletes have a voice.’’

Mike firstly gave his insight on how females are compared to male athletes in Australia by saying: ‘’Are they recognised as being great athletes in their own right? Or are they being forced to portray themselves in bikinis or whatever? I think in Australia track and field athletes are very well respected. I think popularity will come with performance. But there are some people who just don’t resonate with the media. They don’t resonate with the public.’’ To change this and move forward, Mike offered the insight that if women support their own processes, and own campaigners, they will have  a much more powerful lobby, and will be able to achieve much more, like they should do in comparison to their male counterparts at the same level of competitive sport.

Just like Australian surfing, it’s been notable that Australian female track and field athletes feel the pressure that they need to over-sexualise themselves on social media, to be more attainable to potential sponsors. ‘’Followers,’’ and ‘’Likes,’’ has progressively become a trend for these women and a point of conversation, to make them feel esteemed over their competitors. This has nothing to do with performance and does not make sense.  Mike also discussed this issue and whether men have this same pressure, by saying: ‘’I think it works both ways, but not in the way the women do.’’

Moving forward, in order for women to seek equality he said, ‘’There should be a professional athletes association, for Track and Field. There should be one for all sports. And there should be one for Olympians overall. He suggests it’s the athletes and the sports that have got their act together, through strong leadership and not just winging or bullying, that the future is bright for them.He commented on the new structure of the women’s Suncorp Super Netball league. ‘’I think what netball has done is fantastic. However the problem is, you put the product out there, it is not a seller’s market, it is a buyers market. If the public buy the men and not the women, the people who organize the women’s game need to have a very strong look at why it is not being marketed correctly, promoted correctly – the media presence may not be strong enough. They need to do something about it. ‘’

That is the expert opinion. In order for women’s sports, in an Australian male dominated sports society it is important that the athletes keep rallying for change and don’t remain complacent on important issues and seeking quality. They deserve to be seen as professional athletes and not just ‘’female Athletes,’’ as women at the top of their game.

 

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.