Having experienced sexism at the hands of online trolls, Katrina Parrock is aware of the perils and perks that come along with being a talented and influential sportswoman in the spotlight.
In 2013, following a broken arm, the Wexford camogie player acted as a water carrier for her teammates as they took on Kilkenny. On an Irish summer’s day, wearing everyday attire (not that it should matter), she was filmed handing a bottle to one of her teammates.
That evening, the clip was shown on The Sunday Game and began to circulate the internet and attract derogatory and distasteful conversation in comment sections. It wasn’t only on social media however; Parrock was degraded as the ‘GAA pin up girl’ of the year on some websites too.
As is so often the case, sportswomen are objectified and sexualised – missing out constantly when it comes to recognition of their actual sporting talent. If you need reminding, Katrina Parrock is one of the most naturally gifted athletes Ireland have produced. The former camogie star boasts four All-Ireland Senior Camogie titles and three All-Star awards. Having played 11 seasons for Wexford Camogie she made the switch to soccer where she took everything in her stride. Parrock went on to claim a league and cup double in 2018 where she scored the winner in the FAI Cup final.
7 years ago this happened and because I was living in a bubble and achieving my goals I never realised what kind of people there are in society knocking Women In Sport. Absolutely disgusted by these comments https://t.co/eENmzarNdL pic.twitter.com/WzeWLFOqQ8— Katrina Parrock (@KatrinaParrock) July 28, 2020
Parrock says she was “in a bubble back then” and so didn’t take much heed to the discourse instead opting to focus on her own game. After having time to reminisce, she condemns the idea that people would think it is, declaring “it’s not okay for girls to see that” and the reason she shared a post about it recently was to put a stop and highlight such actions.
“They shouldn’t have to deal with that”.
“It’s not okay for people to comment on a picture like the way they did in that. It frustrated me so much and I was so mad and that’s the reason why I shared it, it was basically for this not happen again” she says.
A global issue, she urges “present and retired athletes to make a stand on this”, as women are much more than an aesthetic, but rather a force to be reckoned with in sports or any other walk of life.
Sportswomen are grossly over-sexualised – a quick search of ‘women’s sport’ on YouTube will uncover disheartening and disappointing results, with “50 Hottest female athletes ever” and a wide range of clickbait thumbnails sexualising women, dominating the search results.
“Girls shouldn’t really be portrayed in images with their nail polish on showing emotions. They should be showing their strength, skill, power and their talent”, Parrock said.
“I think that’s the road we need to take to move on and we’re going to move on as a whole unit of women in sports and try to promote it out there.”
Recollecting on her own role models growing up, the former Camogie star reflects on the 2005 All Ireland Camogie final between Cork and Tipperary. She was impressed with one player in particular for her skill and physicality: Una O’Dwyer.
Crediting the Tipperary player with igniting the flame to spur her on and create her own goals, Parrock believes as much positive representation as possible is the way to advance dreams into a reality.
She says although media coverage of women in sport has improved in recent years that there’s still “a big gap” in the area of sponsorships and parity of opinions.
“If it wasn’t for the day that I saw Una O Dwyer playing on the television I might have never made it to Croke Park because I may have never had that dream to get there you know. It was just that one day that I witnessed after that drove me on and inspired me to make it to Croke Park and that’s where I got”.
“I think as you know people can’t see them playing, they just can’t and if only television was more out there with women in sports then young girls and boys can see that and then they realize that the females are actually probably as good as the males”.
As a three time All Star recipient, Parrock credits the 2007 All Ireland as the most memorable for her as it ended a 32 year wait for Wexford camogie, while the three in a row in 2012 was a close second, a “big moment with amazing feelings that [she] will never ever forget”.
Parrock describes her choice to concentrate on camogie as opposed to soccer in 2007 as “the right decision at the time, and I was very lucky to make that right choice”.
Following her return to the football scene after signing a contract with Wexford Youths in 2017, she adapted quickly to the changes between the sports.
The different types of fitness, 90-minute matches and only 11 players on the pitch were all of foreign nature to Parrock at this stage and had to refamiliarize herself with the game after her illustrious 11-year GAA career.
With Wexford Youths she won two Women’s National Leagues titles and the FAI cup. Parrock scored the winner in the Aviva Stadium against Peamount United where she also claimed the Player Of The Match.
Having retired from elite competitions she now plays for Terenure Rangers and is a major advocate for sport in general as it “has given [her] everything”, from learning how to set goals to making friends.
“The most important thing is to enjoy it because I always felt when I was growing up if I wasn’t enjoying a sport I wasn’t going to succeed. No matter how hard you try you won’t you know, you have to enjoy it and that’s the main part of it”.