It’s no secret that female athletes haven’t had fair story coverage in the past.
No matter how hard they rowed, pedaled, ran or jumped, female athletes of yesteryear were often covered as an afterthought, a brief addition to male-dominated sports coverage.
That led to fewer stories, photographs, and ultimately a lack of positive role models for younger athletes.
When the Chilliwack Museum and Archives was looking for material for this year’s current exhibition, Game On, it turned out women were all but missing from the historical sports record. They wanted to feature just as many amazing female athletes as men, but the information wasn’t there.
But they knew those stories and women were out there, and eventually a joint partnership with the equity in sports organization called viaSport was born. Game On, which focuses on local sports and athletes, was the perfect match for viaSports’ campaign #levelthefield, which seeks to create a more inclusive sport culture.
Together they are planning a special event at the museum that will shine a spotlight on female athletes of the past and the present, in hopes of inspiring future generations of girls to stay active and competitive.
On March 31, a panel of four inspiring women will share their stories in a special Chilliwack Museum event called Game On: Women in Sport.
The speakers will be athlete and ambassador Lara Mussell Savage, Dr. Joanna Sheppard from the UFV kinesiology department, Sherry Hunt from PacificSport Fraser Valley, and Dominque Falls, who is both an athlete and a professor.
“The panelist section will appeal to a lot of different people,” said Stephanie Clinton, the museum’s education and engagement coordinator.
Museum staff have been keeping busy with their own portion of the event, searching their archives, along with The Chilliwack Progress online archives, for headlines, stories and photographs to accompany the evening’s panel. So Clinton is eager to see the viaSport panel, especially Savage, who is a two-time World Ultimate Champion and Aboriginal sport advocate.
“There’s a story from when she was a young athlete,” Clinton says “trying to name inspiring female athletes.”
Savage could think of several men at the time, but the only female athletes to come to mind were tennis star Steffi Graf and gymnast Lori Fung. Now, years later and an ambassador for viaSport, it’s likely Savage would have no trouble listing athletes of all backgrounds, races and genders.
Her rise as a trailblazing champion is just one of the positive stories the audience will hear on Thursday night. It wraps up viaSports #LevelTheField Gender Equity campaign, and will be facilitated by viaSport CEO Sheila Bouman.
Overall, it’s a night designed to inspire and empower young athletes, Clinton said. It’s also going to be a chance for some oral storytelling. But there is a historical element that will appeal to a wide range of people.
“What we’re hoping to do is to bring in an audience that wouldn’t necessarily come to the museum,” Clinton said. “There is a history side and a sports side it.”
The history side will include a slideshow of interesting stories, photographs and headlines.
“I found some very interesting wording going through the archives,” Clinton said.
Admission to Game On: Women in Sport is free but space is limited. Register a seat by visiting the Chilliwack Museum online.