Abbey McCulloch: Women in sports

by frank-stuart

A little over two weeks ago, I settled in front of my television to watch the inspirational Australian Diamonds claim their third consecutive World Championship.  Before that, the Australian’s women’s cricket team got their hands on the Ashes after defeating England.  Let’s not forget the courage of our Women’s soccer team – the Matilda’s – in their world cup bid for arguably the best ANZ Netball Championship grand final ever.  Sally Pearson and world champion cycling duo Anna Mears and Kaarle McCulloch are more examples of the caliber of female athletes our wonderful country has produced.  Yet we continue to be undervalued in comparison to our male counterparts.

photo2Now I’m not saying men don’t deserve the recognition they receive; what I’m saying is that females deserve more.  And not just in the form of more television time or back page spreads in the newspaper.  These women deserve to call their passion a full-time profession, not a pastime.  The amount of time, passion and sweat that goes into winning a World Championship or an ANZ Championship is astounding; coupled with a full-time profession or study, and suddenly these feats are even more mind-blowing.

Some may argue that the intensity, speed or excitement of female sports is substandard in comparison to our male counter-parts.  The hits aren’t as hard and the skills aren’t as good, but I’ll tell you this – we hit hard, and we get bruises, bumps, concussions, and injuries.  We also lift heavy, run fast and train every day of the week.  So why aren’t we paid as professional athletes?  Why don’t we get individual sponsorships?  Why can’t we live off the salary we make playing the sports we love?

The Australian Diamonds are a prime example of this imbalance.  This privileged and talented group of 12 has just had an extremely successful 12 months, winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and gold at the World Cup in Sydney.  Twelve girls that I have played alongside and against for the past four years.  Girls that are committed, strong, passionate, modest, down to earth and some of the best role models in our country.  Girls that will happily sign autographs and take photos for hours just to give back to the people that keep our sport alive.  Girls that don’t have a consistent income and are only paid during the months they play.  So what about the other four months of the year?

My sister Kaarle McCulloch is a full-time track cyclist.  She is a World Champion, Commonwealth Games Champion, has a bronze medal from the London Olympics and is currently on her own ‘Road to Rio’.  Yet the salary she receives is barely enough to get her from day to day.  Unlike us netballers, her training schedule has her at the track or in the gym at all hours of the day, and this makes it impossible for her to hold down a job.

It’s time for our country to step up, for journalists to report on the achievements of our women, and for news stations to broadcast their achievements first, not as an afterthought.  It’s time for sponsors and big businesses to associate themselves with female sporting teams and individuals, and reward the female gender for work they put in at the gym, at training and in the community.  It’s not just about the money – I know there are people worse off than female athletes – it’s about the recognition!

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