At Riverside Leisure Centre, ice hockey is played competitively. The Chelmsford community come along to show support for the Chieftans home team. Weekly, they battle against various rivalry teams, creating an energetic and gripping atmosphere for those watching. On weekends, I like to attend with my dad and join in with the passionate crowd in cheering on their most loved players. Not only do I find the games entertaining, I quickly became interested in how individual players feel about the sport.

Gender differences in sport has always been a controversial matter which brings about democracy from opposing outlooks. Growing up as a girl, I noticed a significant difference in levels of participation of sport, in terms of gender. Whether a lack of female participation is due to a lack of ability, interest or commitment is difficult to find out, however in my opinion, the treatment of women in sport plays a key role.

To solidify my knowledge, I interviewed head coach of Chieftans, Joe Wilson. I was pleased to hear he felt women are just as respected nationally in the industry, and that both sexes recieve equal praise and recognition. He explained that ice hockey is one of the only sports that acknowledges the women's national team, providing females with rich opportunity. There is a women's under 16s, under 18s and a senior tea, highlighting the efforts made for women to feel equally supported. Recently, for the National Hockey League, March has become a gender equality month, celebrating women's independent success and resilience. This shows an awareness of female discrimination in sport, and an eagerness for such stigmas to be suppressed, ecouraging fairness and a push for social change. Is this enough to ensure women feel equally recognised in sport?

I also discussed the topic of female inequality, in specifically ice hockey, with a player, Ellie Wakeling. She has played on multiple teams and so has a detailed, professional insight into how gender can effect participation in sport. 

Ellie explained that there are fewer female players and that male players are typically more favourable in the eyes of fans. I was surprised to discover that female hockey recieves little to no funding, marginalising women in terms of their chances for success. Additionally, to play on a womans team you must play on a top divisions league, whereas men do not, making the sport tougher and more restricted for females. 

I learned that womans leagues are non-checking whereas mens are full contact. Ellie appeared passionate about being treated equally to the boys on her team. It irritated her that females are protected by males when hit in a game, as she chose to play a sport which involves aggressive physical contact. As much as men are socialised to possess chivalrous qualities, it seems unfair to play a sport differently with someone, simply because of their gender. Similarly, men avoid hitting women during games, though the women are aware they play a male sport and so expect to experience all aspects of a hockey game. In some ways, treating women differently depicts them as weak and incapable, undermining their self confidence. This supports the idea of lower levels of female participation in sport, being due to discrimination.

After speaking with Joe Wilson and Ellie Wakeling, I felt their views contrasted strongly, indicating towards a comparison between personal experience of ice hockey, which may differ due to gender inequalities. Overall, potentially gender differences in sport remain more significant than some of us imagined. How can this issue be resolved for good?