Judy Murray talks about the fight to 'step up, speak up and stand up' for women in sport

Judy Murray has spoken of the need to “step up, speak up and stand up” for women in sport – and her willingness to make herself unpopular “if that’s what it takes”.

The former Scottish National Tennis Coach was speaking as part of the Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week – which ends today – of which Scotland on Sunday was given exclusive access.

Murray spent part of the week in Aberdeen carrying out tennis coaching sessions in a bid to increase participation in the sport, while showing the physical and mental benefits to health.

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While in Aberdeen she was among a panel on a Diversity in Sport: Empowering the Next Generation webinar, hosted by Scottish law firm Brodies where concerns were raised about the challenges facing women in sport, at all levels, including the often low levels of participation among girls.

Judy Murray with pupils from St Margaret's School for Girls, Aberdeen, as part of Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week. Picture: Conor Ross

Murray, a former Scottish international tennis player and winner of 64 national titles, said: "On the women’s sport side, we have to keep pushing and we have to be prepared to step up, speak up and stand up and make ourselves unpopular if that’s what it takes.”

"We have to keep forcing this issue,” she added. “I try to encourage others to get involved in my sport by going out and showcasing it, whether that’s letting people try it out or whether it’s encouraging people to get involved in delivering it or administering it, or officiating it, because we need more women in the workforce.

"If we had a more balanced workforce I think we would retain more women and girls in sport because women understand the world according to women. Men don’t and that’s completely understandable.

“We lose so many teenage girls from sport through the high school years and I feel if they had more female sports coaches, and female PE teachers, we could create an environment for girls when they are going through those physical and emotional changes. I think we would have more chance of keeping them. I am hugely passionate about encouraging more women and girls to get involved, not just in taking part, but actually in delivering it as well.”

Murray spent time with pupils at Aberdeen’s St Margaret's School where 17-year-old Camille, captain of the basketball team, said that moving from a mixed school, to an all girls school, allowed her confidence in sport to develop.

"I feel more empowered here. In my mixed team, the girls were outnumbered,” she said. “I have more fun here and would love to take my basketball further to university.”

Murray also ran a ladies teams workshop at Rubislaw Tennis Club and a girls only session with the Denis Law Legacy Trust Street Sport at Cruyff.

Mel Benson, head of the middle school at St George’s School, in Edinburgh, works closely with Judy Murray on community sporting events across Scotland.

She will be involved at the Battle of the Brits, Scotland v England, live tennis event at P&J Live in December, where Andy and Jamie Murray will compete.

She – like Murray – is passionate about increasing the numbers of girls involved in sport.

"I feel very strongly about it,” she said. "If people get out and work with communities there can be change. There has to be more than just talking about it.”

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