NGWSD: AMS Women in Sport Club creates safe space for sport empowerment

When Amanda Lee and Sam Chen were in their second year, they went to a drop-in basketball session where men dominated the courts.

“We were one of four or five girls that were there,” said Lee. “It was very intimidating, hard to get a spot to play, [but] also when we were playing … it [was] hard to be involved and share the ball around,” especially from the male players.

After the drop-in, the girls who showed up to play ball left disappointed and feeling excluded.

“If someone had made the first step to be like, ‘Do you guys want to join in?’ I think that would have helped a lot,” Lee said. “I think, if we were included in that drop-in more, maybe we would have probably left feeling a lot more hopeful for women in sports at UBC."

Adding on, Chen said, “I don't think anyone should have to ask to be included in a space.”

Together, Lee and Chen decided they wanted to create that safe space for all women to partake in various drop-in sports, such as pilates, volleyball, badminton and soccer. They are now co-presidents of the AMS Women in Sports Club (WISp).

WISp’s Sports Committee is made up of women enthusiastic and knowledgeable about an assortment of sports, coaching members during drop-ins about the different sports they are passionate about.

But the club’s main focus is building a safe and empowering community for women to have fun together. During their first drop-ins, Chen noticed the community element right away.

“We noticed that people were a little bit apprehensive at first, but by the end of it, we saw a lot of people connecting with each other. I think it was really cool to see connection[s] happen so fast.”

“[WISp]is a great way to meet friends while also getting to try a sport that you’re not familiar with or do that’s outside of your comfort zone, while also being supported at the same time.” Chen added.

“We don’t really care how good you are at a sport … we’re not judging you based on that. We just want to have fun,” Lee said.

"We just want to have fun,” Lee said.
"We just want to have fun,” Lee said. Delaney Agodon / The Ubyssey

Although Lee and Chen grew up playing sports, they first saw the effects of stigma for women in sports when they came to UBC. According to a 2020 report by Canadian Women & Sport, 1 in 3 girls will drop out of sports by the time they are 18 years old.

“Any barriers like intimidation, not knowing anyone to play sports with, feeling like you’re not good enough to play — it’s more the societal barriers that we’re trying to address,” said Lee. “Removing the barriers … was a big part of our mission statement.”

At the end of the day, Lee and Chen are advocating for equal opportunities and representation in sports, asking everyone to participate in inclusivity.

“Just understanding where you have the upper hand or privilege in a setting, when you're the majority … understanding you have more of the power to step in and include [others]. That can make the hugest difference,” said Lee.

Chen said that WISp hopes to normalize sports being a “space [that] is for everyone and making sure that everyone is confident enough and motivated to [participate].”

“UBC has a lot of policies to make things equitable for people, but it’s not always visible. What we’ve been trying to do is make it visible for everyone to see.”

February 7 was National Girls and Women in Sport Day