On Thursday 9 and Friday 10 of June 2022, Highgate School hosted a Sport in her Shoes Conference, led by The Well HQ – a visionary team of medical, scientific, and high-performance specialists who are on a mission to tackle inequalities in female health and create positive change.
Statistics show the gender gaps inherent in women’s sport, fitness and physical activity, highlighting a clear need for information sharing and collaborative progress. Topics covered at the conference included the impact of inevitable life changes, female centric nutrition, injury and physical repercussions, breast support, cultivating a positive mindset to help girls thrive, and coaching girls to nurture a life-long enthusiasm for exercise.
Stephanie Pride, Director of Sport and Exercise at Highgate, who coordinated the event, explains: “The Well HQ are doing incredible things – they’re putting the research in the gaps in knowledge and resources in full view. I was particularly keen to explore this topic in the context of education; to look at how we can bring it into our everyday teaching here, but also to open up the wider conversation with other schools and institutions. The atmosphere was genuinely so positive and it really resonated with everyone who was there – either as a personal experience or in their role as parent/teacher in a girl’s life. Whilst there is a long way to go, the energy and enthusiasm is galvanising.”
Over 150 participants, from girls and co-educational schools and sporting bodies in the UK and Europe, gathered at Highgate for a range of sessions looking at how to bring science into practice and how to reduce the stigma of talking about some of these topics.
Participants from the day have offered some of their personal reflections:
“The honest reality is that as a society and within the sporting system we need to increase our level of understanding about the female body and to remove the stigmas that prevent us talking about it. The Sport in her Shoes conference explored ways in which we can do just that.” Andri Rauber and Alexandra Newman, UK Sport
“It is rare that you go to a conference and come away feeling you can employ everything that has been covered at your own school. One of the biggest things we will look to implement at The Perse immediately is signposting young athletes to sports bras and educating them on how the right bra can help them feel comfortable to be active. Baz and Dr Emma addressed the taboos around the subject of periods and bras and have given us the confidence to start to normalise discussions around these areas within our school.” Emma Jones, Assistant Director of Sport (Operations), The Perse School
“The conference was absolutely incredible! I was both shocked by how little I knew about how my own body worked, and annoyed at the lack of female representation and research there still is at this day in age. I had no idea how quite so male-centric the sporting world was. The thing that really struck me, is that I’ve experienced first-hand or have friends who’ve experienced a lot of the things that were covered, and I think we all just sort of assumed this was something we had to put up with as girls, and “oh isn’t annoying” and that sort of thing. I feel empowered by the new knowledge and excited to be a part of the coming change, which I am keen to be as involved in as I can, both in my last year of school and beyond.” Catherine Y12, Highgate Netball Firsts Team
“It was one of the most informative and arguably most important talks I have attended at school. It really opened my eyes to the things that we have passively accepted as normal and focused my mind on educating myself to better support my girls.” Highgate Parent
“I’ve spoken to parents who will now tune into their daughter’s participation in sport from a different angle, teachers who will look at what the content means for their own planning and male sports staff who will invest in driving better performance outcomes for girls at school. I hope that this is just the start of things to come!” George Neocleous, Head of SpEx Operations at Highgate and part of the team who coordinated the Conference
“One of the best events I have attended in the last 5 years, it has enabled me to feel more included when women are taking about their issues, not only with colleagues and friends, but as a husband and a father to a daughter. This event has also enabled the DTE department to include a module on this topic in the new Product Design A-level.” Andy Thomson, Director of Design, Technology and Engineering at Highgate
“The Well HQ gave us the opportunity to think about how we can open up conversations between young people and adults to ensure that what is happening in girls bodies is never a barrier to them accessing education, exercise or enjoying school.” Rebecca Baxter, Deputy Head Pastoral at Highgate
“Sport in her Shoes was a vital and inspiring conference. For too long, there has been a lack of research, funding and understanding of the female body and mind, and how to improve the health and happiness of girls and women (both in sport and life more generally). It feels like a wave of change has started.” Louise Shelley, Senior Deputy Head at Highgate
Stephanie Pride has shared her reflections from the event with School Management Plus magazine. Click here to read.