Women's Sport Week: The Inspirational One

Alex Danson in action against Japan 480 x 290

In the latest of our Women's Sport Week series we talk to England and Great Britain striker Alex Danson about her work with young people in sport and the importance of inspiring the next generation.  

Alex Danson is a familiar face to a lot more people than she probably realises. Not only is she one of the most experienced members of the current squad, with over 200 caps and 80 goals to her name, she is also an athlete mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport, in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust and she is also working with United Learning. Both roles are of huge importance to her:

“I do what I love doing but I’ve always felt it’s a responsibility that comes with what I do, to give something back. I love playing but at the back of mind the one thing I want in the future is to know the next group of people are coming through and playing our sport.” she adds “It wasn’t until I got involved in these projects that I realised how valuable and how transferable some of the skills I have learnt are. Actually it has amazed me what engages a young person and what people find interesting. I feel privileged that I am in a position to be able to pass on that knowledge. I am so proud of my team mates and the positive effect we are able to have on young people.”

Danson has been in the spotlight for a long time, having made her international debut aged 16, however she admits that she was oblivious to the famous faces in the public eye as she was growing up, instead choosing her role models from her family:

“A famous person could have walked past me and I wouldn’t have known. I think that’s something we need to change even now. Female role models should be more visible and more recognisable. It’s hugely important but it’s also important for people to recognise that role models don’t have to be famous people. Mine were my mum and my sister. They are the most generous, time giving people and they’re also influential, determined and strong. They have values that I’ve tried to pass on myself and I hope I’ve been able to do that.”

Alex Danson signs autographs for the fans

With a discussion on visibility of female role models the conversation inevitably turns to media coverage of women’s sport. Whilst the attention women’s sport receives has undoubtedly improved, there is still, as Danson says, a long way to go.

“It’s getting better but there’s so much room for improvement. We’ve had some great coverage from the BBC and Sky and it’s great the women’s cricket and rugby teams have had some spotlight, too. There are aspects of women’s sport out there, but there is such an imbalance. We have to generate crowds in the sports in order to generate the coverage and then we’ll see the benefit. I’ve seen a huge uplift in coverage across my career but there still needs to be more.”

With Danson often touring the country in her various ambassadorial roles, it is fair to say she has developed a keen sense of the sporting landscape for young people across the country. Whilst she loves the sport of hockey and everything it has given her, she is keen to emphasise that there are plenty of choices on offer for aspiring athletes.

“We live in a diverse world and there is not one sport for every person. Physical activity is key for life. I strongly believe that. Not just for enjoyment, but for the physical benefits, the skills and all the health benefits. You can’t achieve that by just pushing a handful of sports. The better the variety available, the more opportunities the young people have, the better the place we’ll be in terms of health, well-being and sport itself. That’d be a marvellous future.”

With that in mind, Danson’s advice to youngsters taking their first steps on the sporting path is simple:

“Give it a go. Don’t be shy. Don’t be nervous and don’t be scared. If you go out and give it your all and don’t be afraid of looking silly you’ll gain far more than if you don’t. Try different things, take a friend along, have a good time and never ever say no to any sporting opportunities.”

Women's Sport Week

To find out more about Women's Sport Week, visit the Women in Sport Website.

Keep an eye out on Twitter for #WSW2015 and of course you can visit the England Hockey Facebook and Twitter pages for some of our very own content celebrating the extraordinary women who play our sport.