An annual school event that could not be discouraged by unusual circumstances is LP Girls Can Week. Established in 2017 by Head of Netball, Zoe Macpherson, it has become a highlight of the Summer calendar that students and staff alike look forward to.
“LP Girls Can inspires our female students to try different sports and gain opportunities which they may want to continue later. The programme also supports their mental well-being and increases participation in female exercise which globally suffers a huge dropout rate. We discuss body image and bring strong sport women on board to lead sessions with Q&As for the students too.” explained Zoe.
Having shown innovation and commitment to Guided Distance Learning, students and staff similarly stepped up to the plate for the inspiring programme of activities and talks that took place from Monday 15th – Friday 19th June. From Gaelic football to the more traditional sports; there was something on offer for everyone.
What better way to start the week than with the return of Old Leightonian, Nike Ambassador, Personal Trainer and Athlete, Fabby Fabunmi. After wowing the girls last year with her energy and enthusiasm, Fabby shared an update on her training during lockdown, advised on how to stay active whilst facilities are closed and gave an insight into her sporting career to date.
Fabby reflected, “Before I got into LP I’d never even tried playing hockey or netball, but they ended up being my favourite ones… I definitely think that being active in school and doing such a wide variety of sports, helped me later on to be sure and confident in what I wanted to do. But it also gave me a lot of life skills that I use now; being able to work with people, being able to communicate with people and control my feelings and emotions at the moments you need to.”
No stranger to championing female figures, Fabby has previously been involved in promoting Beyonce’s clothing line, Ivy Park; a campaign in which she was proud to use her profile to encourage more women and girls to partake in sport, and has even put Former British Soldier and Adventurer, Ant Middleton, to the test in a resistance training session.
For the first sporting fix of the week, Woodley Netball Coach, Alice Ledson, warmed up our sportswomen with a skills session, before Lower Sixth students, Ellie and Tabby, carried out live training.
London Bees Footballer, Ellie Wilson, was next to get behind the LP Girls Can cause; “Without sounding too cliché or cheesy, you guys CAN literally do anything you like!” she exclaimed. Ellie spoke about her sporting role models, overcoming setbacks and being accepted into Reading Academy on her fourth trial.
“For those four years it was obviously hard hearing you’re not quite there yet, you’re not quite good enough, try again next year. But I think that spurred me on and made me more motivated to want to go and try and make sure that I did get in because I’d be told ‘no’ a couple of times.” Commented Ellie.
The footballer continued, “Whether experiences are good or bad, they all accumulate and you can use them positively to motivate you, to inspire you, to look back on… it’s about making the most of those experiences and taking and learning from them as you go along.” Not letting the rain hinder her, Ellie proceeded outside to demonstrate technical footwork drills.
To finish the first day of events, Superleague Netballer for London Pulse and South African Commonwealth Games, Sigi Burger, joined the girls for a motivational talk. Sharing her favourite motto Sigi said, “Today I will do what others don’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
On Tuesday, LP Girls Can learnt five football skills with PE Teacher, Heidi Kenny, and enjoyed a live netball session with 1st Team Captain, Livvy. Now nearing the end of her school sporting days, Livvy in the Upper Sixth reflected, “[LP Girls Can] is probably one of my favourite weeks at school; it’s so much fun. Over the last couple of years, it’s been so, so successful!”
Later, students found composure as they practised meditation with Jannet Madden, Founder of Seriously Fun Swimming Schools. Once a competitive diver and synchro swimmer, Jannet now spends her time aiding individuals to develop self-confidence and overcome sport related fear.
In a first for LP Girls Can, parents and staff were invited to join students for a number of evening events, including a live CrossFit workout with former Leighton Park PE Teacher, Alex Fox, who advised, bring a “Water bottle, towel, determination and a smile”, live Parkour with Director of PE, Sport and Wellbeing, Jez Belas and SWEAT FEST session with former Ballet Dancer turned Personal Trainer, Sereina Mowlem, better known as rainydayfit on Instagram.
Erin in Year 9 commented, “Rainy P.T Sweat Fest got all our hearts pumping! I really enjoyed the exhilaration of such a quick workout fitted into half an hour! Although we did sweat a lot. I also tried Jez’s Recording of Parkour. I have to admit, I wasn’t very good at rolling, but managed the jumping. Even if you can’t do it yet, it’s good to try something new every day!”
Midweek, GB Hockey player, Kathryn Lane, demonstrated hockey skills that can be practised around the house or garden. From flicking a ball into your washing machine (with parent consent!), to knocking the lid off a screw top bottle, to employing family members to throw socks at you whilst you keep control of the ball, Kathryn showed that training opportunities need not be limited to leisure facilities.
Former Head of Geography and Gaelic Football Goddess, Eithne Laird, returned to coach the sport close to her heart. Senior students were thrilled to see a familiar face, as they caught up with her in Ireland. Addressing her hopes for LP Girls Can, Eithne said, “If some girls are just able to find a sport that’s actually for them; and I think there is a sport for every person, then they will keep involved in sports and keep themselves fit and active.”
In time for worked up appetites, Nic in Year 11, inspired students to get busy in the kitchen with her cook-along, where she served up wholesome lamb and mint burgers with homemade potato chips and a healthy yogurt coleslaw.
On Thursday, PE Teacher, Nicky Charter, encouraged students to test their tennis skills. Leaving the ball in their court, Mia in Year 11 then shared her running drills, whilst Rosanna in the Upper Sixth showcased rugby. Everyone was later able to gain a club experience with Head of Netball, Zoe Macpherson, and Livvy, in a live Woodley Netball Club session.
To end the week, Olympic Gold medallists for England Hockey, Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh offered their knowledge on all things sport. “Being part of a team is really special… there’s just so many benefits from playing sport. We all know that it really helps with people’s mental health, as well as their physical health.” Commented Helen.
Kate added, “Regardless of age, regardless of how active you are, what sports you do or don’t play, what your physical disabilities might be, all women, all girls, should have access and opportunities to play sport and I think that’s why the campaigns like This Girl Can are really important to promote that.”
Sixth Formers, Tabby, Ellie and Livvy then put the sister’s words into action and delivered a fantastic hockey skills session, followed by kayaking fitness with Upper Sixth student and GB competitor, Kate and a cheerleading demonstration from Juliette in Year 9. Megan Gaffney, Scotland Women’s 7s and 15s rugby player also shared her sporting experiences and garden drills, and Dance Teacher, Beth Butler provided an exclusive session.
To round off the week, a compilation of messages to Leighton Park from inspirational England Hockey, Cricket and Rugby female athletes was shared. Lyndsey Davey of Dublin Senior Ladies’ and top Gaelic football player ended, “Well done to everyone that’s taken part in the LP Girls Can week. I think it’s a fantastic initiative to try and encourage girls to get involved in sport, and to hopefully stay involved.”
Zoe remarked, “I would just like to say a massive thank you to the PE department for supporting LP Girls Can Week and to all the students who took the time to lead live or pre-recorded sessions! It has definitely been an amazing week, well done to all the students who have been involved throughout the week by trying new sports!”