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28th Nov 2018

Cora Staunton on the reason why it is so important for young girls to stay in sports

Keeley Ryan

“If the book helps or inspires any young person in any way, I suppose that’s your goal achieved.”

Cora Staunton told how she “didn’t have many female sports stars that I looked up to” while growing up – and how that inspired her to write her book, Game Changer. 

The 36-year-old won Sports Book of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards on Tuesday night with her powerful and honest autobiography.

The book follows the Mayo GAA star’s journey from teenage rookie to the highest-scoring forward in the history of Ladies Gaelic Football, as well as “the triumphs of her career and the personal struggles that have plagued it”.

In an honest account of the highs and lows of her life on and off the pitch, Cora also speaks about losing her mum at 16 years old – and how she found refuge in sports afterwards.

She told Her that she knew she had to commit fully to the book-writing process, which meant that she was going to be open, honest, and not leave anything out – even the things she found tough to talk about.

She said:

“Doing a book, you have to decide that you’re going to do it fully. There’s no half measures; you have to be open and honest.

“The way that I am, I would never leave anything out – I think it’s important to tell everything.”

Cora added that the response to the book has been “surreal” so far.

She told us that many parents with young daughters have reached out to her, thanking her for sharing her inspirational story – and telling how how it has helped their own children.

She said:

“At the start, I probably didn’t know why I was writing it. That took awhile. When I sat and thought about doing it, about writing it, that was the main reason I was doing it.

“That, you know, as a child growing up or as a teenager, I didn’t have many female sports stars that I looked up to. They weren’t visible, you couldn’t see them. Sonia O’Sullivan was probably the only one [for me].

“Any time you go into a a bookshop, or you’re looking for a sports book to read, the majority are male – I thought it was really important any time young girls or boys go into a bookshop, they have a choice.

“If they want to read a male autobiography or a female autobiography, I thought it was important they have the choice to do that.

“If the book helps or inspires any young person in any way, I suppose that’s your goal achieved. Based off the messages I’ve got [from parents], I would say my goal has been achieved.”

Cora explained how she has been working with Lidl and Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] as part of a pilot program, going to secondary schools across the country to emphasise how important it is for girls to stay in sports, both “physically and mentally.”

On the program, she added:

“That’s a pilot program at the moment, it’s all around trying to keep young girls in sports. It’s not that I want [them] picking up GAA and playing at a high level.

“The program’s all about building their self esteem, their confidence and you’re telling them it’s good to be different and  be yourself.

“In today’s society, a lot young girls have a lot of pressure on them – especially with social media, that would be a huge thing.

“For them, I would tell them [why it is important] to stay in sports – both physically and mentally.

“For me, growing up, I think you learn so many skills from being involved in a physical activity that you wouldn’t learn from anything else.

“Whether in school or college, or wherever else, if you’re involved in a sport or team activity it will teach you a lot of skills.”

She also addressed the reason that she thinks a lot of young girls drop out of sports as they get older, adding:

“I think the reason girls tend to drop out of sports is because of self condense; self esteem; body image – those types of things.

“It’s important to make them aware that there’s all kinds of people out there, and they’ve had their struggles through life – me being one of them.

“I think that when they can relate to you, when they can see your story, they think: ‘OK, it’s important to stay in sport’.”

Game Changer is available in bookstores across Ireland now.

20×20 is an ambitious two-year long initiative to better promote and champion women in sport.

With the tagline of “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it,” the 20×20 movement has three targets to reach by 2020:

  • 20 percent more media coverage of women in sport
  • 20 percent more female participation
  • 20 percent more attendance at women’s competitions and events

And at Maximum Media, we’re proud that Her and SportsJOE is backing the 20X20 movement as official digital media partners.