It has been a long time since sport was considered just a ‘men’s thing’. However, there is still a lot to do in terms of giving voice to women and respecting them as athletes, without having to talk about sexism or gender inequality.
Kelly Mackay is one of co-founders of Halftime London, a community built by women in sport for women in sport with the intention of empowering females to become and remain active.
“The name Halftime came about because it’s a moment for reflection in a game, and that’s essentially what we want to be known for – a project that makes you think.”
Since meeting Kelly for the first time some years ago, she has always shown me how important it is to speak up and demonstrate the importance of females in our society and, even more, in sport.
So why create a platform about women in sport? She explains: “As a children’s football coach I’ve watched kids from as young as two playing football together, boys and girls.
“They have no problems with a mixed-gendered game until around the age of five. At this point, the girls get shyer and the boys get more confident. Why is that? Is this their education? Is this their environment?”
“I wanted to find out what was the true reason behind the sudden slip in confidence, which is why I started Halftime and why I believe that by empowering women and girls we will level the playing field across all sports.”
The idea was well thought-through and analysed before being realised. “I was sitting having a cigarette with my friend Marissa in her kitchen in Glasgow. We were talking about the importance of confidence when it comes to trying something new.
“This triggered a question for me about why women and girls feel held back from trying new sports. Fast forward a few months, I was sitting in a pub with Cari, Halftime’s other founder, and we were discussing who are the real women of sport.
“We realised that the everyday sportswomen – whether that’s someone running for the first time or a committed footballer – are the real women of sport.”
Halftime London began as a way of showcasing the women and girls they know and respect through their commitment to a sport.
“We started by taking photographs of them in a studio environment and interviewing them. It has now grown into a project which is entirely dedicated to empowering as many women and girls to become and remain active in any way that interests them through many different mediums.”
Although empowering females was the main intention why this platform and community was built, Mackay emphasizes that the real fight is against inequality. Empowering females in sport is as important as it is empowering men, being equality the outcome and only achievement Halftime London is after.
‘I still remember when the 17-year-old girl living in me some years ago was asked to share my relationship with sport to help them start this project’
Consequently, she tells me that “sexism is a strong place to start, but it shouldn’t be the only thing discussed. Yes, we all face challenges, but the most important topic is discussing and sharing the way we overcome them.”
A look through their Instagram account highlights loads of different types of women and stories.
Mackay says: “The difficulty is not in finding the stories, it’s in finding the time to cover them all. I find stories everywhere I go, so I usually have a pen and notebook on me to try and write them all down. Most females are very open with their experiences because they believe in the mission of our project.”
And that is absolutely true. I still remember when the 17-year-old girl living in me some years ago was asked to share my relationship with sport to help them start this project.
Every time I have met her since then, she has been with the notebook or paying attention to every single story surrounding her. When meeting her, I have sometimes doubted if it was me or her the journalist there, as she keeps asking questions and seeking stories.
“It’s incredibly important to acknowledge the difference between work and play. We all have our passions which are external to our business, and it’s important to feed both sides of our lives.”
Empowering women through their successes in sport, and not their personal lives, is what makes the difference. Why do we consider the personal aspects of successful women’s lives when they are not considered in men? Here, the media has a lot to do.
“Now that women are slowly entering the limelight, the media is trying to figure out the best way to cover these stories. So, unfortunately, pro-athletes get asked to twerk on stage, or articles are written which refer to a sportswoman as the wife of someone rather than giving them their own autonomy.
“This is changing, but it only exists because the media has been built with the tools of the patriarchy. We’ll get there, we’ve just got to grit our teeth and keep fighting.
“Acknowledging the irrelevance of someone’s personal life with regards to their successes is something that allows us to take success at face value, rather than looking for deeper meaning into why it happened.”
On Halftime’s Instagram account we can see posts from a solo-motorcycle road trip Kelly did from London to Lisbon, via Spain’s northern coast. She tells me it was a way to prove herself that she could do it.
“Many people told me that a 125cc motorcycle wouldn’t make it, but it did and so did I. Many problems faced, but overcome just as efficiently. That trip proved to me and everyone I know that anything is possible, regardless of doubt and fear.”
Moreover, this perfectly reflects Halftime’s principles. As one of the project’s co-creators, Mackay says she would love this trip to be an example for other women who don’t think they can achieve things through sport.
“I want Halftime to be a place to find stories, to feel both inspired and challenged to do something you’ve always wanted to try.
“Anything which involves travelling and meeting new people is beneficial to Halftime. It challenges me to ask questions and get out there, and it makes people feel heard and valued. Both important factors indeed.”
Moving on to the wave of feminism that has impacted our society, there is hope in Kelly’s eyes.
“Certainly in the past year or so, projects like This Girl Can and initiatives such as Women In Sport have had a huge impact on how we see and interact with women’s sport. The challenge now is to keep it all going until we see a completely equal outcome- financially and socially.”
Moreover, she claims that the most important thing for women is to realise that improving confidence is the best way to reach an active lifestyle.
“It’s all about showing people that they’re capable of any sport the minute they set their mind to it.”
On her future objectives for Halftime, she concludes: “Halftime is currently having a bit of a makeover. We’re looking at what we want to physically provide this year and how we can be as present in the world of female sport as possible.”
Halftime London is on Instagram. All photos used by kind permission of Halftime London.