Sporting superstars?

Sporting superstars….  they’re easy to spot, pictures in the tabloids all the time, expensive watches and jewellery, quite a few tattoos, hordes of fans around them at all time, hard to get close to if ever spotted in a public place….

Well, that’s certainly true of our (non-world cup winning) male rugby players, football players and cricket team, but it’s not true of our (world-cup winning) female rugby players (about to attempt to defend their title in Ireland this month) and cricket players, and our medal-winning Lionesses.

So what’s that about?  Just a few weeks ago, we witnessed that incredible World Cup final match, it could hardly have been scripted better – victory seemed assured in the direction of the inspirational Indian team, then with just a few wickets left, fate swung victory round to the host nation to bring a scintillating end to the most watched game of women’s cricket ever (- though sadly, I don’t know that there was a lot of precedent….), watched live by 27,000 at Lords, and by an estimated 100m globally.

Surely they became superstars overnight, reaching such sporting heights through such a classic compelling final match.  Yes, it was on the news Sunday night, yes there were some great articles and pictures in the newspapers on Monday, the odd piece around the rise of women’s sport still on Tuesday, but not much since then.

After doing a few radio interviews that Monday to talk about the significance of the brilliant England women’s cricket team’s success for women’s sport, I walked out of BBC Broadcasting House and spotted a face lining up in that queue at reception waiting to check in, get a photo taken, be issued with a pass, then wait by the sofas to be taken up to a studio somewhere…. I was so excited to recognise that face immediately as no other than the brilliant Heather Knight, the Captain who led her team to World Cup victory and who I had previously encountered as one of a group of inspirational Athlete Mentors employed by the Youth Sports Trust to support life-changing programmes in schools.

I felt so excited, how wonderful to see her in the flesh less than 24 hours after that match, to be able to go up to her and hug her and congratulate her, how easy it was as I didn’t have to wade past security men, or hordes of others mobbing her, or others in reception asking for autographs, I didn’t have to wave or try to grab her whilst hastily being escorted like a VIP up to the BBC studios…. Quite right too, I don’t think that we should over-idolise our sportsmen and women, the best Olympians I have met are always extremely down to earth, and that is part of what has driven their high work ethic to get to the top.  So, in itself, I think that’s fine, as long as that’s what would happen for the Captain of a World Cup Winning England men’s cricket team?  Ah well, you see that’s still different….

It’s laughable to imagine even a losing England men’s cricket team captain standing anonymously in a queue to get a pass the day after winning the World Cup.  And yet could you find better role models than Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole, than Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman, or Casey Stoney and Jodie Taylor?  All of these teams have been a real and vivid personification of teamwork, hard work and commitment.  How brilliant to have such fantastic sporting superstars, but what a shame that we aren’t using them more for the fantastic role models they are, that our still male dominated world of sports journalists, photographers, agents, marketing and sponsorship experts are missing out on a great story of what real sporting superstars can be like.


Image courtesy of Youth Sports Trust


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