Richmond Rugby chair Laura Kapo hailed the progress of women’s sport, but believes there is still a long way to go.
Kapo, who also plays for the Tyrrells Premiership 15s club, is taking part in a guest panel at London South Bank University discussing breaking down barriers in sport.
Dr Leeja Carter, a sports psychology expert, and director of fitness charity Silverfit Eddie Brocklesby will also be on the panel, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 7 and focus on the #pressforprogress campaign.
Kapo said: “We have come quite a long way in breaking down the barriers and preconceptions about what it is to be a female rugby player, which has been brilliant with the engagement with the men’s side of our club which is quite traditional.
“Within local schools we have helped with women’s coaching and engaging and role models for girls who otherwise predominantly only have male role models.
“There is still a lot to be done in order to make these programmes sustainable, getting additional female coaches trained. The number of female coaches needs to be increased.”
In her role with Richmond, Kapo has instigated and developed numerous schemes to increase female participation in sport, and identified one programme as particularly successfully.
She said: “It works brilliantly because the girls at London Scottish really do put in a lot of time and effort into their training and when they get to 18 they don’t have a women’s section to go to.
“Equally why should London Scottish start a women’s section when we have such an established one nearby?
“The partnership works we really well because we send our senior girls along to their sessions to help as a role model and be more relatable to the girls.
“And we talent identify girls who have the right ability and skill set to join us on nights during senior women’s training.
“They actually do get to practice some of their skills alongside their senior counterparts who in three or four years time they will be playing with or against.”
Kapo admitted she is constantly looking for new ways to develop her club, and is keen to learn more from those she is sharing the panel with.
She said: “I’m looking forward to hearing how others are breaking down barriers.
“Seeing and hearing how others are finding it from a different perspective within sporting environment, particularly what other obstructions and barriers they may come across and how they’ve managed to combat those?
“I want to see what other ideas and initiatives there are out there to help to continue to break down those barriers, and how we can support each other better.
“As a nation we should be trying to motivate each other and find these solutions.”
Richmond will also be participating in the first-ever women’s ‘Big Game’ against local rivals Harlequins on Saturday March 10.
Kapo feels participating in the game, which hopes to draw a record attendance for a women’s club match, will continue Richmond’s tradition of leading the way in the sport.
During the area surrounding the Stoop will host exhibitions of women’s sport from organisations such as UK Sport, British Rowing and England Hockey.
She said: “Richmond has always prided itself on being a pioneering club in women’s rugby.
“Without a lot of our historical figures the sport wouldn’t be where it is and we very much want to continue that.
“It is brilliant that Harlequins have the financial commitment and drive because they are best suited to do that, they are a well known brand within rugby so its great that we are the ones who get to be on the stage with them
“It is going to be really positive and regardless f the outcome on the day its still a huge achievement for women’s rugby to be given that stage at the domestic level not just at the international level.”