Allison McArdle (left), pictured with fellow Fast and Female Aus. co-manager Brooke Darlington.
By Morgan Rogers, Jr. Web Ambassador
Allison is a rambunctious Aussie who is now based out of Canmore working with Canmore Nordic Ski Club as head coach of Train to Train program, and assistant coach of Learn to Compete program. She is also co-manager of Fast and Female Australia, National Coaching Director for cross-country skiing – Ski and Snowboard Australia, the lead coach for the Australian World Junior/U23 team 2015, and a member of the FIS ladies cross-country sub committee. She is experienced, qualified and works at a high level to say the least!!! Below is a coach’s view on the gap of female participation in sport.
F&F: What is the biggest gap you’ve noticed at the development level for female athletes?
Allison: There seems to be a high attrition rate from development to elite level competitors, more so for females than males. Cross country skiing is not a glamorous sport outside of Europe and Scandinavia so it is difficult to sell the dream of being a successful athlete and it’s even more difficult when you live in a country where winter sports are really in the minority (Australia). There are so many other sports with higher profiles and where success comes at an earlier age that making the transition from a development athlete to say a training centre athlete seems less appealing. Young people have so many more opportunities now in terms of education, careers and travel that choosing to be an athlete is certainly not an easy one. What a lot of young women don’t see is that all of those things are possible when you’re involved in sport at the highest level!
As many athletes and successful business people with tell you, it’s not about the end result it’s about the journey however that’s a hard message to sell when it involves long hours of training and weekends away from friends.
That’s why Fast and Female is such a great concept because it helps girls find a network of other committed athletes that can share in the experience and create a supportive network for those striving to achieve their sporting goals.
F&F: Why is Fast and Female important to you?
A: It’s such a wonderful environment to be part of! The message is holistic, it’s not just about supporting girls to be successful athletes it’s about encouraging them to be their best happy and healthy selves! It exposes young women to a network of fantastic role models and provides a supportive environment for those who want to achieve their goals in sport and also life. The programs reinforce all the positives about being active and wanting to work to achieve your goals. It has also created a fantastic network for ambassadors, giving them the opportunity to meet other female athletes from different sports to share experiences and ideas with. Each of the ambassadors in the program is passionate about supporting and inspiring the next generation of females athletes, with this kind of network we are definitely on the right track to ‘Dominate the world’! Who wouldn’t want to be part of a program where you get to have great fun with great people while helping to empower girls through sport?
F&F: What is the best way to improve Female participation in sport? (In your opinion)
A: To continue to promote programs such a Fast and Female and other similar concepts. Additionally, through schools and clubs encouraging and supporting sport as a life long activity. To continue raising the profile of women’s sport by contacting local, regional, provincial, national news and social media with success stories of females in sport. To continue to create networks of women in sport so we can support each other in our journey. I believe we are moving in the right direction here with more and more initiatives, conferences and social networking sites designated to the promotion of women in sport.
F&F: What are some differences (or similarities) between Canada and Australia in terms of Female participation in sport?
A: The profile of female sport is poor in Australia. You rarely read about or see female athletes in main stream media. Inspiring women to become professional athletes or involved in sport at the highest level is difficult when you don’t see a lot of women in high profile positions.
If anything I think the greatest difference is that studying while training and competing as an elite athlete it is much easier in Australia and more strongly encouraged. We don’t have the same collegiate sports system as the USA however those athletes who also have academic goals are enrolled in a university course and making their way through it at a pace that allows them to train and compete. This is quite widely supported by the university system albeit not through a scholarship program necessarily. For example our top female cross country skier and Fast and Female Australia ambassador, Esther Bottomley has competed at 3 Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014), been on the World Cup circuit and competed at World Championships since 2003 and is a qualified High School teacher. A qualification she gained while training and competing and uses to help fund her athletic career.
MORGAN ROGERS (CANMORE, ALBERTA)
I’m a 17 year old Cross Country skier with Canmore Nordic Ski Club. I have been participating in events and in recent years helping out with Fast and Female for 8 years. I’m extremely passionate about Fast and Female, and inspiring the next generation. I also love giving back to the sport that keeps giving me so much, so whether it’s helping at Fast and Female or helping coach younger athletes within my own club, I’m extremely excited about every opportunity I’m fortunate enough to receive.
Fast Females in the Spotlight: Delphine Duvernay-Tardif