Gender inclusivity through mixed-gender tournaments
Mixed-gender sports tournaments at the grassroots level can help overcome the gender barrier and instill valuable skills in children and youth, as witnessed at a mixed-gender table tennis tournament organized by Pro Sport Development in January 2023.
Following the trend of mixed-gender competitions, which have been adopted by many sports such as tennis, golf, badminton, volleyball, and athletics, and with the aim to make a change at the grassroots level, Pro Sport Development (PSD) has been organizing mixed-gender tournaments since 2017. The latest edition was a mixed-gender table tennis tournament, supported by the ITTF Foundation, which took place on 29th of January 2023. The tournament took place with participants of our Community Table Tennis (CTT) program, and saw passionate participation of 46 girls and 62 boys. The enthusiasm shown by the 108 participants only confirmed our belief that mixed-gender sports are the way to go.
The primary objective of this event was to emphasize the Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5), i.e., to promote gender equality and end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls.
This was the second mixed-gender table tennis tournament organized by PSD, with the first one taking place in July 2022, as part of the CTT program’s launch event.
Participants noted their improvement from the previous tournament, and increased confidence:
“I learned a lot from the mixed gender table tennis tournament. I was very nervous in the previous tournament and lost the match. In this tournament which was held in 2023, I participated in Girls Singles Senior, I played with great confidence and became the winner. Compared to the last tournament, I practiced a lot and performed much better than before.”
-Rashmita Hembram (Beena Bharti Vidya Mandir, Class 8)
As Rashmita confirms, sport can be an important tool to help girls break the barriers of gender inequality, increasing their self-confidence and cultivating a sense of self-worth in them.
Communication skills cannot just be learnt in the classroom – communication is intuitive, spontaneous and, in some way, inherent in us already, all we need to do is to refine it through practice. Sport, hence, becomes a good medium to understand and sense what others want to communicate. As Jharana Pradhan, a class 8 student from Been Bharti Vidya Mandir, noted:
“I participated in Mix Doubles Senior division. My partner and I had very good communication, which helped us a lot in playing the match. We also trusted each other and cooperated which was another reason for our success. I was champion in the Girls Singles Senior in the 2022 tournament, and my partner Dipraj and I also won in this tournament.”
These mixed-gender tournaments also help to open up a new way to engage young students in sports, providing them with an opportunity to engage in healthy competition, with peers from different genders. Such events mitigate the development of gender stereotypes and allow the children to generate a healthy and inclusive attitude towards everyone.
Furthermore its important to consider the fact that children are more likely to develop character and moral principles like fair play, build friendships and become well-rounded individuals. The success of the event is testament to the fact that mixed gender sports is the future of sports.