It is not about what I can get from the programme, it is about providing a group of women with the necessary skills to become involved in para-sport at organisational level and in return provide opportunities for other women to become involved.
Sixteen mentors and mentees are currently participating in the Agitos Foundation’s WoMentoring programme, which aims to increase the number of women in key decision making roles within para-sport by sharing of expertise.
Christine Nash, Co-Deputy Head of Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, mentors Eimear Breathnach, a former para-table tennis player working on a new career in sport.
Mentoring is fascinating to be involved in! From not knowing, or knowing very little about someone else, you are expected to give and take advice, share aspirations and dreams and above all trust each other to be honest and objective. It can be a scary endeavour for both mentor and mentee. You learn a lot about someone else – for example, on a superficial level we both discovered our love of rugby and mutual support of Ireland. Luckily this weekend the result was the right one for us but unfortunately that had nothing to do with the mentoring!
The WoMentoring programme is very important when you think about women in sport – we are under-represented at every level. How many women athletes, coaches or administrators get any publicity, and if they do, is it positive? The importance of role models cannot be stressed enough – more female role models are needed to motivate and inspire others. As mentioned earlier, the Six Nations Rugby competition is taking place but how much talk has there been of the Women’s Six Nations tournament that is occurring at the same time? Have their games been shown live on television? Dame Sarah Storey also failed in a world record bid this weekend in London. Her failure was documented but her success in setting a British and para-cycling C5 best was ignored.
The WoMentoring programme is very important to promote and clarify the place of women in sport at all levels.
We think it is crucial at a number of levels to promote the inclusion of women at every level and aspect of sporting endeavour.
Christine Nash: I think that mentoring is a very powerful tool and the International Paralympic Committee are forward thinking in using mentoring as a development tool. As a mentor there is a great deal of responsibility for the success of the mentoring relationship. I have realised how much regular communication forms the basis of the relationship and it is extremely important to organise and provide the necessary dialogue.
Eimear Breathnach: Prior to our first weekend in Vienna [the WoMentoring launch event] where I met all the other mentees and mentors, I was unsure as to what benefits the WoMentoring Programme could provide me with. But that is a far too narrow view of the programme. It is not about what I can get from the programme, it is about providing a group of women with the necessary skills to become involved in para-sport at organisational level and in return provide opportunities for other women to become involved. Unfortunately I believe that women in sport need to excel over and above their male counter parts in order to be given the respect they deserve. Ideally there would be no requirement for a WoMentoring Programme but luckily for me there is. The programme has given me a structure, it has helped me to decide how I want to be involved in para-sport and is giving me the confidence to achieve my goals. Maybe it is the Celtic connection or more likely it is just the fact that my mentor is very proficient, but she has been able to take some very sketchy ideas from my head and structure them into a logical detailed plan for me to follow and achieve.
At the culmination of my plan I expect to be in a position to be counted in para-sport and to encourage other women to take control of their destiny in sport.
Find out more about the WoMentoring programme at the Agitos Foundation’s website.