“Women must support women.”

The topic of gender equality isn’t new in the sports industry. Here are some numbers. Only 27% of sporting activities among children and young people are led by females. That number drops to 15% when it comes to floorball. Put them in context, and we have about three in ten female-led sporting activities in general, and about one in ten in floorball

These numbers may look disheartening, but here’s the good news. Gender disparity in sports has generally improved throughout the years. But of course, much can still be done to close the gap. And today, we’re very honoured to have Sarah Mitchell — IFF Events Manager, ex-Australia national player and revered coach — here with us to talk about gender inclusivity in floorball — and her advice to all aspiring female floorballers out there. So here goes!

How has IFF created a welcoming and inclusive environment for women in floorball?

IFF strives to promote gender equality in all areas of floorball – playing, coaching, refereeing, administration. We aim to give equal status to all our events, whether they are for men or women, including equal prize money, for example, in the IFF Champions Cup. It is important to us that everyone has a voice in our sport, and feels that there are no barriers to their participation. 

Unfortunately, women are not always given the same access as men in many countries, especially during the early stages of the sport. Focus has always been on the men’s game. That is why the IFF actively works with member associations today — to ensure that they are providing equal access and development to all groups in their society. This, however, can be difficult with limited resources. And we recognise that things are not always equal. 

GoGirls! Floorball is an IFF project aimed at promoting the participation of girls and women in floorball. It provides materials and ideas for clubs and associations to increase the number of females playing, as well as to keep them playing or involved. 

What advice would you give to young women interested in pursuing a career in sports?

I would like to think that all doors in sports, especially floorball, are open to young women today. Unfortunately, I know that’s not necessarily how it is in reality — but it’s what we must aim for. No matter how impossible it might seem, it isn’t. I have been involved in sports my whole life and there is no doubt that things have changed (for the better). However, there is still a long way to go for things to be totally equal. But that also relates to society in general, not just sport. 

First and foremost, women must support women. We must encourage each other and champion the great work of women in our sport. If there is someone you admire — a coach, a player, a referee — don’t be afraid to reach out to them. I think most women recognise the struggle for equality, and are willing to help others achieve where they may not have been able to. 

Can you share a funny or interesting fact that people might not know about you?

I carried the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch…. and today it sits very proudly on display in my living room!

Can you share any stories of how you’ve seen empowerment positively impact players?

I remember a game that I once coached. Our team had a power play, and as per our set play, we were trying to open a space for a shot from a particular player — but the opposition continually covered this shot. The player who was controlling the ball at the top of the formation was doing their job, passing to this player, trying to create a scoring chance. But by only concentrating on this, they did not see that a shot was open for themselves! 

Then, there was a break in the play and I had the chance to quickly talk to the player and tell them the shot was on for them, and that it was okay to look for this shot. The team went back on and within 10 seconds, the space opened. This time, the player took the shot. And scored.

Empowerment to me, is about trust and respect. As a coach, I have seen it countless times. When you give players the freedom to make their own decisions on the court, you show that you trust them. And this gives them confidence. 

It’s no different off the court as well. By giving someone the responsibility to make decisions, you give them the possibility to grow. The decisions may not always end up being right, but that’s how someone learns. And the positive impact when they do get the decision right can be life-changing. 

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