Jenny Egan on Education and Women In Sport

Jenny Egan talks about balancing education and athletics, avenues for females in sport, and the emotions she feels on the podium.

Jenny Egan on Education and Women In Sport Jenny Egan on Education and Women In Sport
Kelley Laxton

Education vs Athleticism - How To Manage It All
Many athletes spend hours a day training for their sport. Even facing the opportunity that it could transform into a career, Egan stresses the importance of getting an education and finding other avenues to travel down in the future. Athletes always risk injury or an unexpected retirement from their sport, and it is important to have something else to do.
“You’re not always going to be an athlete,” she said.
Egan attended DCU on a scholarship from the institute of sport that allowed her to train and focus on her studies. It is increasingly common to find advisors at academic institutions that will help student athletes balance school and athletics. Sport can help keep people active, but it is also important to keep the mind active.
While in school, Egan viewed the balance of social life and athletics less as a sacrifice and more as a series of choices. She would attend parties with her friends but only stay a few hours to allow for time to get enough sleep for practice early the next day. It is all about the balance of academics, athletics, and social life that kept her happy. Once she became an international canoeist, she began to travel the world for competitions. Although Egan may not go on holiday with her friends often, she is grateful for the opportunity to travel the world to compete.
“I wouldn't have that opportunity if I wasn't in my sport,” Egan said.

New Avenues For Female Canoeists
At the Salmon Leap Canoe Club, where Egan trains, her fiancé, Jon Simmons, holds summer camps for kids to develop skills. From there, they have the opportunity to move into race boats where they can begin to level up in the sport. To minimize the pressure on the young girls to compete with the boys, Karen Caffery and Aisling Smith created a girls-only canoeing group which consists of 30 athletes. Although Egan liked to train with the guys growing up, she felt lucky to have the opportunity to train with women while in Florida and knows the benefits of a female only group at that age.
“I am very passionate about women in sport,” she said.
A member of the Sport Ireland Women in Sport Steering Committee established in March 2019, Egan is honoured to be the athlete representative and continues to advocate for women in canoeing.
The Women in Sport Policy has four main target areas aiming to improve women in sport around the country. They include: Coaching/Officiating, Leadership, Governing/Participation and Visibility. Canoeing Ireland is looking at the leadership area and has picked 30 ambassadors in the sport. Egan has just completed her two modules in the leadership program. She has a few 1-on-1 coaching sessions before she can become a qualified leader. This will be useful in the future of canoeing and even other sports and directions in her life.
“It is important for people to see that it is not just about high-level sports,” Egain said. The four target areas appeal to a wide range of athletes from the international level to recreational.
Sport Ireland has also introduced a maternity policy that will fund pregnant athletes for 12 months. Many women are having children and returning to their sport to compete again and are achieving things they had never achieved before. Childbirth is no longer an automatic retirement from sport.

This Is The Era For Women To Flourish In Sports
“When I was younger, there were very few girls involved in the sport,” Egan said.
10 years later, there are more girls participating in clubs which will lead to more international canoeists in the future. Egan says that this is a good time for women in sports, especially for teenage girls. When she was young, being strong and muscular was looked down upon. Now, the most influential athletes are lifting weights and are just as strong as their male counterparts.
Women have different challenges then men. Every month they have to deal with symptoms from their menstruation which can have an affect on training. Recently, women have begun to plan their training around their cycle. Egan says that girls shouldn’t be afraid to discuss it with their coach. Half the population has menstruation and it is important to have discussions about these types of things, and coaches should be more open to the conversation. She has even had to alter her training to manage the symptoms she gets such as cramping and fatigue. Instead of running, she will choose to bike and continues to stay aware of how her body feels while on the water.
Many girls leave sport because of these types of changes in their bodies. It is important to educate young girls around the topic so they are prepared and are not afraid to continue their training through it. 

Is The Podium Worth All The Training?
“I always think about those hard training sessions and how they have helped me get on the podium,” Egan said.
Some sessions that require her to work her weaknesses hurt the most, but were necessary to her success. Egan says that it is very emotional when she stands on the podium. She has put so many hours into her training and sacrificed a lot to be where she is. Hearing the Irish national anthem play while standing victorious at a world cup event sends shivers down the spine.
Many don’t realize the time and effort athletes put into their sport and she believes expressing emotion shows how much the sport means to her. But, most importantly, she believes in learning from her mistakes and continuing on the journey no matter her results.
“You don't just value the medals, you value the journey,” Egan said.


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