The South African Fed Cup tennis team’s recent relegation to Europe/Africa Group 3 in Lithuania has shone the spotlight on the country’s failures with regards to producing world class female athletes.
Although it is still early in the season, only two women compared to 16 men have posted A-qualifying times for the IAAF World Championships in London in August. At least four more women are expected to meet the mark but it pales in comparison to the amount of men that are likely to earn selection.
South African swimming is going through its worst drought in terms of developing word class swimmers.
Swimming failed to qualify a single female in the pool at both the Rio Olympic Games and the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Breaststroker Tatjana Schoenmaker broke the cycle at last month’s national championships in Durban but she may opt to focus on the World Student Games instead.
In an attempt to produce more female swimmers, SA Swimming will accept women who have met the B-standard.
Instead of burying their heads in the sand Tennis South Africa (TSA) admit they have dropped the ball and are looking for ways to remedy the problem.
Following the Fed Cup team’s relegation, TSA announced they would launch a women’s tennis task force that will provide recommendations on how to improve the women’s game.
The Department of Sport, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, and individual federations should consider launching similar task teams.
The South African White Paper on Sport and Recreation which was released in 2012 prioritises giving women more opportunities to participate in sport.
“In all its programmes and projects, SRSA will put special emphasis on the inclusion, empowerment and promotion of the government’s priority groups, namely the youth, the aged, women, rural communities and people with disabilities,” the White Paper reads.
“Sports programmes can also empower and promote the inclusion of marginalised groups, especially women, the youth, rural communities and people with disabilities.”
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation girls drop out of sports at two times the rate of boys at the age of 14. This does not only have a radical impact on female sport but also on the health of those who drop out.
The knock-on affect is fewer role models in sport while they are denied social and leadership skills.
Gender pay parity remains one of the biggest issues facing world sport with women earning far less than their male professional counterparts.
To demonstrate this, a report written by Women on Boards mentions that Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s highest paid athlete with annual earnings reported to be more than $88-million, compared to the highest paid female football player, Alex Morgan ($2.8m).
There seems to be few incentives for women to stay in sport and only the persistent few reap the benefits.
It is clearly not only a South African issue but it is one that deserves attention as we look to ensure girls they have every reason to dream big like the opposite sex.