29 Jun 2018

Fair Play: Speaking up in Sport

From Fair Play, 12:14 pm on 29 June 2018

Zoë George and co-host Yadana Saw discover how to speak up with sports psychologist Karen Nimmo, celebrate the LGBTQI+ community with the Central Pulse netball team, find out about pickleball and get the latest on the Basin Reserve toilets.

The Football Ferns do battle with Japan in Wellington.

The Football Ferns do battle with Japan in Wellington. Photo: Photosport

Speaking up can be difficult. But as the Football Ferns recently showed, it can also bring about change.

Thirteen players signed a letter asking NZ Football to address an alleged culture of intimidation and bullying in the team environment under coach Andreas Heraf.

An independent investigation has now been launched and Heraf is currently on special leave.

Everyone can learn from the assertiveness shown by these athletes, says sports psychologist Karen Nimmo.

Sports Psychologist Karen Nimmo

Sports Psychologist Karen Nimmo Photo: Angela Vidal

Being assertive and asking for what you want can be hard, but it’s time for women in sport to have their needs and wants met and their voices heard, Karen says.

“Assertiveness is being able to ask or state what you want and need ... It’s also about factoring in the other side of the argument. You have to be reasonable.”

She acknowledges that it can be difficult to be taken seriously, particularly in a complex sporting environment.

Age, ability and relative power within an environment all impact how vocalised needs are met.

“With women’s sport, we have to start to speak up about speaking up ... and about having more women in the managerial environment.

“Why are [sports organisations] so top-heavy with male representation? In my mind, that’s not right, its time women spoke up for their needs.”

The Football Ferns against Scotland in Spain earlier this year.

The Football Ferns against Scotland in Spain earlier this year. Photo: Photosport

It is easier said than done, but Karen has some tips for helping get your point across in an assertive manner without being labelled 'aggressive' or 'bolshie'.

Clarity, being open-minded, being an active listener and understanding your reactive style help.

“Know when your trigger points get hit. Self-knowledge is a massive power,” she says.

Pushing pause is Karen’s secret weapon for assertiveness.

“Pause. Take your time over things. That’s the gap we can pull ourselves together in and become clear about what we want."

Football Ferns.

Football Ferns. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

“If we rush… we are likely to overreact. That’s the time when women, in particular, have to be careful.

"Who wants to be labeled 'bolshie' … just because we acted slightly too quickly with what we have to say.”

According to Karen, pausing before responding is a strategy used by good leaders.

“You don’t have to know the answer in the moment. It’s better to buy yourself some time, think about what you want to say and present it well.”