UNTIL last month, Wollert resident Nawal Jaleel didn’t know how to hold a softball bat or throw a ball, but after one introductory session her natural talent was evident and she discovered a new passion.
Nawal, 12, was one of many girls and women across Victoria who spent the last week of March getting active for This Girl Can Week.
The initiative was dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and giving more women the confidence to try new physical activities, or return to an activity after a break.
In the City of Whittlesea, several sports clubs hosted free come-and-try sessions in soccer, cricket, softball, golf and tennis for beginners.
Nawal attended a free This Girl Can Week event, hosted by the Cheetahs Softball Club in Mill Park.
“She’s a very shy person and I wanted to draw her out and be confident and get involved with team sport, because I know that will really benefit her with her confidence,” Nawal’s father Asim Jaleel said.
“She did really well. She didn’t know how to hold a bat or throw a ball but as time went by, she processed all that information – she got better by the minute, really.”
Cheetahs president Kerry Laird, who ran the session, said Nawal had natural talent.
“This was the first time she tried softball and I have to be honest with you, she just did so well,” Ms Laird said.
“We did some batting off the tee first, as we would normally do for newbies, to show them the stance.
“She did really well and we progressed to some throwing and catching. We showed her how to stand and throw the ball and hold the glove. She picked it up so quickly. It was actually a really fun session.”
Mr Jaleel said she was smiling for the rest of the day and asked immediately to sign up.
“She said, ‘I think I want to enrol with softball’,” he said.
Other participating sports clubs in the municipality shared similar goals to make their clubs more inclusive and recruit more female players.
Doreen United Soccer Club’s priority for the year is to achieve an even split of men and women throughout the club, dramatically improving its current numbers from just 15 per cent girls, and no senior women’s team.
Committee member and children’s coach Michael Trim said the club was on a mission to increase female participation, planning several new programs designed to encourage women and girls to give soccer a go, including a non-competitive women’s social soccer group.
“There’s about 40 junior girls playing at the moment – we don’t have a senior team at the moment, that’s what we’re trying to get going. And unfortunately we only have one female coach, but we do have four female committee members,” he said.
“Our whole aim is to go 50/50 in the split of males and females at the club across players, coaches and volunteers.”
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023, Mr Trim said he hoped to see a big jump in interest over the next two years.
Vic Health launched This Girl Can Week in 2018 with the aim to empower women to be more active after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that less than half of Victorian women were sufficiently active. Research also showed 52 per cent were worried about being judged while exercising.
This Girl Can Week has helped hundreds of thousands of Victorian women try new physical activities, growing in participation numbers each year.