The first ever Women & Girls 1* competition in the north of England was a big success and a blueprint for more competitions in the region.

Here is Area Manager Lauren Evans’ account of the competition.

It is well known in our sport that there is a gender participation gap, in the North East around 87% of members are male while only 13% are female.

The member data demonstrates that Northumberland and South Yorkshire have the lowest women and girls’ participation rates and therefore I made it a priority to deliver two Women and Girls 1* competitions – one in Durham and one in Sheffield.

The Women and Girls 1* competitions allow players to compete against others who are a similar ability and encourage lots of matches in a fun, social and safe environment.

The Durham Women and Girls 1* was held at Brandon Community Hall and had 24 out of 25 possible players sign up for the competition. The competition attracted players from clubs such as NETT, Ormesby, Darlington, Swerve and Ackworth.

This was the first ever Women and Girls’ competition in the North and will prove to show others who are interested in delivering competitions that events like this are truly valued by women and girls of all ages in our community.

The competition was a round-robin format with players competing for position. Depending on where players finished in their group, they were then assigned a new group the afternoon; made up of players who finished in the same position respectively.

During the afternoon, spectators enjoyed watching winner Joanne Keighley and runner-up Barbara Kearney battle out a close five-set match, eventually won by Joanne by a score of 11-13, 11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 13-11.

There was also an award for Spirit of the Competition, which was awarded to Elizabeth, an 11-year-old player who showed true grit and determination, as well as great sportsmanship.

You can view the final placings HERE

Winner Joanne Keighley with Lauren Evans and Clare Flynn
Runner-up Barbara Kearney with Lauren and Clare
Elizabeth Coltman – spirit of the competition winner

Throughout the day, the women’s only group from Brandon Table Tennis Club held a raffle for Dementia UK as well as their table tennis group, with proceeds to be split equally.

This event was supported by many amazing volunteers, including women from Brandon Table Tennis Club who helped to set up the event and provided refreshments throughout the day.

Volunteers (from left) Diane, Lynne, Lynn, Rita, Ann

To successfully deliver this competition, I worked closely with fellow Local Organising Group member, Clare Flynn, who shared my passion for delivering an event by women for women. The competition has been well received and the feedback is extremely positive, as these comments show:

“[An] Amazing day, great players, fab atmosphere. Well done everybody.”

“A wonderful celebration of women in sport, with a great atmosphere and welcoming environment. Organised brilliantly, and a sure sign of significant progress and development in a sport historically dominated by the patriarchy. Empowering and special!”

“An experience to last forever. Skills, and energy, kindness and laughter all provided by table tennis and a great group of women. Generous solutions to spins and placements. Equality in action.”

“Amazing competition, lovely people [and a] lovely atmosphere. [I] hope there’s many more to come.”

This competition was the first time both me and Clare have delivered an event of this sort, this is what Clare had to say: “An inspirational day for Women & Girls in our sport. We were very proud to host the first tournament for W&G in the North East. The event went perfectly. The atmosphere and quality of table tennis was fantastic. This is only the beginning of very exciting times ahead!”

If you are looking to run a women and girls 1*, here are some tips based on my experience:

  • Complete your Tournament Organiser course to help you learn the basics e.g. setting up and budgeting.
  • Find a team who will help you organise, ideally friends who you don’t mind getting together with on a regular basis.
  • Pick a competition format that is easy to run until you are more experienced, don’t over complicate it.
  • Start small – pick an entry that doesn’t seem overwhelming. There will be lots of opportunities to grow.
  • Find women in the community who will help you spread the word, encourage them to get their friends to enter.

If you’re Interested in playing a women and girls competition in the North East. The next one is on 6th April 2024 in Sheffield, you can enter HERE