Former Irish swimmer, Bethany Carson, talked about Swim Ireland, coaching, women in sport and maintaining participation levels in the activity recently on the It’s Just Sport Podcast.
Working with Swim Ireland, Carson is heavily involved in a lot of different initiatives to keep people engaged in sport, as well as her role as a female representative at the top of her game.
“Swim Ireland has been passionate about women in sport for a long time. We’ve been driving those initiatives for a few years now,” said Carson.
Currently involved in an initiative called ‘Swim For A Mile’, the 30 year old is encouraging respondents at all levels to swim a full mile in ten weeks.
While the initiative was open to everyone, the numbers of women who initially applied were quite small in comparison to their male equivalents.
What an awesome group of @swimforamile'ers! I had such a blast with the group from Tralee on Saturday! There is no shortage of determination in Kerry anyway! A lot of thinking, skill acquisition & laughing was had by all! Thanks for coming! 🏊♀🏊♂💙 pic.twitter.com/xTXRnCTuvd— Bethany Carson (@BethanyACarson) January 28, 2020
Carson cites the reason for such a disparity as females being a “bit more self-conscious in a public group setting” than their opposite gender, but since then the organisation is seeing a boost in numbers of women participating.
Another programme the former elite swimmer is involved in is ‘Swimmin’ Women’, which started out as a beginners programme but now is centred on female focused groups such as those who are pregnant, in postpartum, experiencing menopause and also teenage girls, with the programmed tweaked for each code.
“We’re doing loads of research. Healthy Ireland and Irish Society Of Chartered Physiotherapists are involved in the programme”.
Having retired from the sport at the age of 25, Carson reflected on the high dropout rate of women in her sport.
“When I reached 21, I was the oldest female in Irish swimming” she said.
“If we knew the answer [as to why the number is so high] we wouldn’t be talking about it. Teenage girls [drop out] to spend more time with their peers and it’s a demanding sport.”
“A lot of people when they quit, they walk out the door and don’t come back”.
The high levels of dedication needed to excel exert a lot of pressure on those involved, but recently more and more clubs are working on weaning people off the sport and helping them transition into a coaching role.
What is also being tackled in swimming and female sport in the need to acknowledge differences and accumulate insight into how to best preform as a woman.
With body image and the menstrual cycle increasingly amongst the public discussion, Carson stresses the importance of “fuelling” your body.
“Fuelling around those weeks and getting to know your body [is vital], because you can struggle when you’re tired and get cramps”.
She also emphasised the need to get more iron into one’s diet, the gravity of balanced meals and the usefulness of an emergency standby snack on the It’s Just Sport Podcast!
“You don’t need to look at the scale…the female body goes through so many changes during a month” she said.