England Squash has today launched its Rally Together Pledge campaign on International Women’s Day which calls on everyone in the squash community to break the bias and support more women and girls to reach their full potential in squash.
The campaign supports England Squash’s long-term commitment to retain and engage more women and girls in the sport where only one in five qualified coaches are female and just 13% of weekly participants are female.
A number of high-profile players and coaches in squash including Commonwealth Games gold medallist James Willstrop, World No.5 Sarah-Jane Perry and National Coach David Campion have already signed the pledge.
By making the pledge, individuals commit to calling out sexism including ‘harmless banter’, to share the success stories of women and girls and to actively encourage women and girls to embrace new opportunities in squash.
Mark Williams, CEO at England Squash said: “There is a real need for better education and awareness within the squash community to ensure that all women and girls feel supported and empowered to reach their full potential in our sport, whether playing, coaching, refereeing or volunteering.
“New research by Women In Sport has found that more than one million teenage girls who once considered themselves sporty have disengaged from sport following primary school. We must all take action to keep girls engaged in sport and provide more practical and emotional support to help them stay active.
“We want to help clubs and venues that are serious about improving diversity and engaging more women and girls, to act now to create an inclusive and thriving community for everyone to succeed in.”
England No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry said: “As someone who was told they’d never make it as a squash player, this campaign is so important. The discouragement I experienced can really knock your confidence and make you question whether it’s even worth trying.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have my allies along the way. These include all the coaches I’ve worked with during my career; Steve Townsend, Sue Rose and for the past five years, Rob Owen. They all believed in me, gave me the confidence I needed in myself and kept me on a positive track. Positive experiences and emotional support is exactly what young girls in sport need to keep at it and grow into a confident player.”
Former World No.1 James Willstrop said: “I’ve seen first hand at my club, Pontefract, how fostering an inclusive environment can encourage women and girls to reach their potential. We have a great number of female coaches and this visible diversity has made a huge difference in getting more females to come along and try squash.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but this campaign from England Squash is a fantastic first step that we can all take to make a difference.”