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According to a new survey, the majority of Irish women quit playing sports before turning 18

We’ve teamed up with Allianz for our Securing Your Future series.

FOR SUCH A small nation, Ireland’s women consistently punch well above their weight when it comes to sports.

Katie Taylor is a two-weight belt holder in boxing,  Ellen Keane is a gold medal-winning Paralympian, and our women’s football team will be heading to the World Cup this summer. 

It’s an understatement to say that we overachieve when it comes to sport, and that’s without mentioning our national games, Gaelic football and hurling. As part of our Securing Your Future survey* series with Allianz, we wanted to investigate our links with sport at a non-professional level and see the participation of women who play a sport as a hobby or past-time. Allianz is known for its connection with sport through its sponsorship of the Allianz Leagues for over 30 years, sponsors of Paralympics Ireland since 2010, an eight-year worldwide partnership with the Olympic & Paralympic Movements, and its most recent announcement that they will now sponsor the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and that they’re now the official sponsor of the Camogie association. 

Firstly, we discovered the participation rate of those we surveyed: 

As you can see, 15% of those surveyed play sport on a regular basis. Whilst this is a low number, there are positive signs for the future. Women aged between 18-34 are the most likely age group to be playing sport, motioning towards a positive trend that will see women’s participation in sports hopefully grow even more in the coming years.

Of course, just because those surveyed said they don’t play sports now, doesn’t mean they never have before. We wanted to find out who had tried their hand at sport before stopping for one reason or another.

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A whopping 39% of those surveyed gave up sport between the ages of 10 and 19. This high dropout rate can be chalked up to a number of factors, such as developing different hobbies, not having time when moving over to secondary school, or simply losing interest in sport. Retaining a child’s interest in sport, when they might be developing new interests and passions, can be a tricky job. 

Next on our mind was investigating the reason why 84% of those surveyed don’t play sport. Multiple reasons were given by the respondents, with 26% citing the most popular reason, ‘I would not physically be able to play’.  

‘I do not have the time due to work/family’ and ‘I do not like sport’ were the second and third most popular reasons at 21% and 19% respectively. Difficulty trying to fit sport into everything else going on in your life is a common theme throughout the survey, so it is no surprise that it’s the second-most common reason. Sport isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that is reflected in both the 19% who gave disliking sport as their main reason for not participating, and the 33% of respondents overall who said they have never played sports. 

The results of this survey does not mean that those not involved in sport don’t exercise regularly. There are many ways of staying fit and healthy without participating in sport, such as going to the gym or walking. You mightn’t like the rigid and organised aspect of some sports, and prefer to exercise on your own time, which is totally understandable when trying to juggle a busy life! 

If you are keen to try your hand at sport, the best way of getting involved is to simply go for it! There is never a perfect time to try old or new something, but if you have any desire to play sport, don’t hesitate! Here are a few options to get you started in your search for a sport to play:

Gaelic4Mothers and Others is an innovative way to introduce mothers and other women to playing Ladies Gaelic Football with weekly training and organised (but relaxed) competitions against other clubs, as well as being a great social outlet in GAA clubs. You can discover your nearest team here.

Social soccer teams vary, depending on the club. The sport’s organising body, the FAI, has set up recreational leagues for women over 35; you can check out your local club for more information here.

Women’s rugby clubs are always on the look out for new members, with no experience necessary to join. Many clubs also run “bring-a-friend” days to encourage women to tag along with their friends for a training session or two. A useful regional interactive map to help you find your nearest club is available over at irishrugby.ie.

These are just a couple options if you are looking to start a sport for the first time or fall in love with an old passion of yours again. Local community social media pages are a great source of information around women’s sport activities and are well worth keeping an eye on.

Sport is a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy, but finding a way to exercise on your own terms can be fun and make the daunting task of exercising more enjoyable to you.  

Here are some handy ways to stay fit without participating in sports:

Walking - The most accessible form of exercise, walking only requires a decent pair of shoes before you can reap the benefits. Simply walking for 30 minutes five days a week results in two and a half hours of exercise every week. Walking helps increase cardiovascular fitness as well as being brilliant for bone strength and endurance,

Home exercises - Are you someone who loves the comfort of your couch and won’t move from it once you’ve settled in for the evening? You can still manage to fit in some exercises whilst watching TV or browsing on your phone. Simple exercises such as sit-to-stand, where you repeatedly sit up and sit back down again can benefit your thigh muscles and get your heart pumping. If standing up sounds like too much effort, you can even exercise whilst lying down by squeezing your leg muscles and holding them for ten seconds or doing leg raises that build your abs and loosens your hips. You may look strange but don’t knock it until you try it!

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Yoga - Yoga is another easily accessible form of exercise as many tutorials and classes are at the tips of our fingers thanks to our phones. You can start at any level you like before building up over time. Practising yoga a couple of times a week is a fantastic way of staying healthy and building up strength across your whole body. Benefits of yoga include improved flexibility, circulation, and digestion, and all you need to start is some motivation (and maybe a yoga mat).

*Poll conducted for Allianz & TheJournal.ie by Ireland Thinks. Date of Survey: 16th to 19th February, 2023. Sample size: 716 Margin of Error: +/- 2.5 per cent

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