Halifax MP backs the Courier’s #sistersport campaign

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Halifax MP Holly Lynch has given her backing to the Courier’s #sistersport campaign and talked of her own involvement in women’s sport in Calderdale.

Figures from Sport England show that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21 million.

However the difference between the number of men and women playing sport still stands at 1.55 million.

Ms Lynch took up Rugby Union when she went to university, playing first on the wing before moving to fly-half for Lancaster University.

She then went on to play for the Halifax Vandals when she returned to Halifax.

At the time, the team struggled for players and the decision was made that they couldn’t continue with such low numbers.

Illingworth Girls training session at Illingwort RLFC. Isobel Graham, 11.

Illingworth Girls training session at Illingwort RLFC. Isobel Graham, 11.

Speaking to the Courier, she said: “It was so disappointing to see this brilliant team have to fold as there simply weren’t enough women to put together a team.

“Rugby is often thought of as men’s sport yet it really is for all shapes and sizes and as a smaller player, it certainly taught me a lot of life skills which have been as useful in politics as they were on the pitch.”

Sports chiefs are looking at ways to improve numbers in the women’s game. Last October the Rugby Football Union (RFU) revealed plans to double the number of women playing rugby in England.

Its goal is to increase the number of women playing the sport from the present 25,000 to 50,000 by 2021. They hope to double the number of women’s fixtures being played, to increase the number of teams by 75 per cent to over 800, and to increase the number of active women’s clubs to over 400.

Illingworth Girls training session at Illingwort RLFC. Olivia Atkinson, 14, left, and Sophie Harris, 16.

Illingworth Girls training session at Illingwort RLFC. Olivia Atkinson, 14, left, and Sophie Harris, 16.

Ms Lynch has welcomed these moves to increase participation.

“It’s an ambitious goal to double the number of women playing Rugby, but I think it’s achievable,” she said.

In September 2014, the RFU said that they wanted to increase the number of women playing contact rugby from 15,000 to 25,000 by June 2017, and they hit this target last year.

“There’s some fantastic sporting opportunities in our area. A few months ago I joined the Park Run at Shroggs Park in Halifax which I’d highly recommend as a really fun and social way to keep fit.

“Campaigns like the Courier’s #sistersport are important in raising awareness so that all women recognise how much there is to get involved with in Calderdale”.

Ms Lynch has tackled this issue in Parliament raising the issue of female participation with the Sport Minister Tracey Crouch.

In one of her first appearances in Parliament following her election in 2015 she asked “What steps she is taking to halt the decline in female participation in sport since the London 2012 Games?”

And in May last year she called for a debate on participation in sport.

She asked: “Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in congratulating FC Halifax Town on their outstanding victory in the FA Trophy at Wembley?

“Will she allow a debate to discuss how best to encourage people to participate in sports at all levels?”

Through #sistersport we want to celebrate women of all shapes, sizes and abilities who are active or involved in sport and we will highlight the work of clubs and organisations supporting them. We aim to profile the sports and activities in our area, giving you all the information you need to find one at a time, place and cost to suit you.

And ultimately, we want to encourage and inspire more women and girls to give sport a go by sharing the sporting stories of women of all abilities in our district.

To share your story, email newsdesk@halifaxcourier.co.uk or call 01422 260209.

Looking for a new sport to try? Rugby might just be the game for you...

Illingworth Girls ARLFC is going from strength to strength.

It runs out of Illingworth Sports and Social Club, Keighley Road, and was set up two years ago after one girl found she could no longer play mixed rugby because she had turned 12.

She had played since being a part of the under 8s and wanted to stay playing rugby league, but couldn’t find any other opportunities in Calderdale.

Coach Steven Stead decided to change that and began hosting taster sessions in his own time at local schools. This spawned a huge amount of interest and he soon found he was swamped with players.

In the first year, a series of friendly games was held and in the second year, they have played under the Women’s Rugby Football League banner in development leagues.

The under 12s managed a successful full season, the under 14s managed a limited number of games because of player availability and the under 16s held their own against other, well-structured sides. This culminated in three girls who had previously never touched a rugby ball - Emmi Manning, Erin O’Grady and Caitlin Stocks - being selected to represent West Yorkshire. They won all three games against Hull FC, Batley Bulldogs girls and the Central Yorkshire select team.

Girl’s rugby is on the up in the county - the Yorkshire West region along has more than 750 signed-on players.

Illingworth Girls now has more than 60 girls signed on from all corners of Calderdale and due to demand its hoped the club will have an under 12s team, an under 14s team and an under 16s team, as well as a Girls Academy (17-21 years old) and a Women’s Open Age team.

Currently all teams train on Tuesday - 6 to 7pm for under 12s and under 14s and 7 to 8pm for the under 16s and academy at the Halifax Boxing Club, Old Lane Halifax, but the club will revert back to outdoor training when the clocks go forward.

The whole section meet at Illingworth Sports and Social Club, Mason Green on Sunday from 10.15am until 11.30am. If you would like more information, you can visit the Illingworth Girls Facebook page at www.facebook.co.uk/illingworthgirlsRLFC/

Email: illingworthgirls@gmail.com or call Steven Stead on 07840722213