Judy Murray: Separate shower cubicles in schools would encourage girls to do sport

Scotland’s best-known tennis coach – and Andy Murray’s mother – wants to see a radical revision of sports education in schools

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The Independent Online

Schools could encourage more girls to take up sport by being more sympathetic to the image-conscious world that young women grow up in, Judy Murray has said.

Scotland’s best-known tennis coach – and Andy Murray’s mother – wants to see a radical revision of sports education in schools, supplementing established games lessons with more modern fitness activities in order to improve health levels among future generations.

“Physical education in schools needs to have options away from the traditional sports like netball, hockey, cross-country and so forth and look at things like Zumba and Pilates, the things that are trendy,” she told The Independent. “It’s all about getting women active and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sport or some kind of fun activity if you start to enjoy exercise.”

She said schools should modify PE classes to address the fact that some girls were nervous about the impact of sport on their appearance.

“The whole thing of doing PE at school and getting sweaty and not being able to shower afterwards, straighten your hair and put your full make-up back on can be quite traumatic for many teenagers,” she said. “We have to recognise that and maybe PE becomes a double period so that there is time and even things like separate shower cubicles, because girls don’t like getting changed in front of other people.”

Ms Murray, 55, who is captain of Britain’s Fed Cup women’s team, added: “We always make sure we have the picture of us in our tracksuits but we also have team dresses because we realise that the whole image thing with girls and women now is so much bigger than it ever was before.”

Ms Murray, who, aside from having coached her sons Andy and Jamie to professional tennis success, is the daughter of former professional footballer Roy Erskine of Stirling Albion, said that for more women to take up sport it was important to raise the media profiles of the leading female athletes.

“We need to get more girls active and we need to get more women into coaching, refereeing and decision-making positions within sports and I certainly would like to see more women’s sports in general on television. You can’t ‘be it’ if you don’t see it and we see a whole lot of men’s sport but nearly so much women’s sport,” she said. “I have always believed that, in women’s sport, it will be mainly women who will watch women.”

Women engage with media in different way to men, she claimed, calling for greater coverage of female athletes in women’s magazines and in the features pages of newspapers. “Women are not so likely to go to the back pages and be interested in whether [Scottish golfer] Catriona Matthew shot a 65 or an 82. They are far more likely to be interested in how she copes with being a full-time golfer on the road with two young children and a husband who caddies for her.”

Ms Murray was a successful amateur tennis player who won 64 Scottish titles and represented Great Britain at the World Student Games before she turned to coaching. She has developed several initiatives to encourage more young women to take up tennis, including a scheme called Miss-Hits, a starter programme for girls aged between five and eight, and Tennis on the Road, which takes the sport into areas of Scotland where it is barely played.