Sarah Kerrigan has a passion for inclusion, diversity, equality, mental health, recovery and nature. She is self-employed and has worked with Mental Health Ireland, Sport Ireland and Swim Ireland across various projects.

She is a keen swimmer and believes in the transformative power of engaging in the outdoors, especially for those with disabilities. She is quite the adventurer and shares a lot of her explorations on her @troubleonapegleg Instagram.

Sarah sat down with Ger, CSP Communications Officer, and she had some wonderful insights for Tuesday’s theme of Visibility. Her insights shed light on the importance of inclusivity and the barriers faced by underrepresented groups in the sporting world.

How do you believe increasing the visibility of underrepresented groups could positively impact the sports community?

I think there’s much more awareness now around equal opportunity. Judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree, means it spends it’s life thinking it’s stupid. I think there’s much more awareness around different approaches to life, neurodiversity, just individualism in general, and I think reflecting that in sport reflects life in general because none of us are the same and we’re all different and we all have our different strengths. I think realising that difference isn’t necessarily a bad thing or it’s just not a bad thing at all, that we can all learn from one another. I think bringing that into sports, it can only be positive. It can only positively affect our communities and drive inclusion and engagement.

What advice would you give younger girls who may be starting their journey into sport?

When I think back to my first Sports Day, when I was in junior infants, it’s the first sporting memory that I have and it’s probably the worst one that I’ve ever had as well. It was the egg and spoon race, and I can’t run for my life. Don’t call me if you need something in a hurry, I’m not that girl, but I can swim.

I can swim for hours; I can swim great distances. I can, hike, golf, I can do so many activities. But if I was to take that first incident or first exposure to kind of sport and competition I never would have returned. So that’s just what I’m talking about that quote that kind of comes to mind is like don’t be deterred if something doesn’t go well for you the first time.

My advice to younger generations and younger girls who are looking to get into sport like you might not like it. If you get it right the first time, if something clicks happy days and I know how demoralising it can be if something doesn’t go right the first time. I think if I was to quit at that first hurdle, I never would have ended up like pursuing sports management in college or I never would have had the opportunity to be where I am now, 25 years later.

How have you witnessed positive changes in the perception and acknowledgment of women in sports, and what moments of progress inspire optimism for the future?

It’s hard to narrow it down, there’s so many examples. You look at HER Sports sports with Niamh Tallon, the coverage of women in sport and the acknowledgment they’re getting as athletes, it’s phenomenal. And she has been such a key driver, in the industry and that’s been incredible.

If we were to look at women in leadership, Nora Stapleton, Women in Sport Lead in Sport Ireland, now a director in Sport Ireland, Doctor Una May, one of the first CEO’s Sport Ireland. You look at the number of initiatives that they’re working on. HER Moves, HER Outdoors and Women in Sport Week.

There are so many opportunities for women to get active. Even if running isn’t your thing, you can go outdoors, appealing to teenage girls. There’s a significant number of initiatives and opportunities available, with drastically improved quality, promising for the future.

Last year, I participated in a women in sport leadership program with Sarah O’Shea and Lisa Clancy. Being in a room full of women hoping to develop themselves in sport, whether as volunteers, coaches, or in other capacities, was inspiring. They all aimed to bring their best selves back to their sport, which I found cool.

How can we enhance the visibility of athletes from underrepresented groups, ensuring their stories and achievements are widely recognised and celebrated?

I’d like to see more representation from people with disabilities or underrepresented groups in grassroots sports. While there’s a significant focus on the Paralympics, not everyone fits into that category.

There are already numerous barriers to overcome in sports, like transportation issues or a lack of suitable equipment. We shouldn’t feel pressured to be the best; sports should be about enjoying the experience and socializing, not just reaching elite levels.

Throughout my life, I’ve observed that winners often receive the most attention, overshadowing the achievements of everyday heroes. For instance, during a recent trip to Greece with the IWA, I met someone who fell off a roof at 17 and has since spent much of his life in a wheelchair. He was initially terrified of swimming because his legs would sink, and now he loves it. Stories like his deserve more attention, showcasing different versions of success and overcoming challenges in grassroots sports.

The barriers faced by people with disabilities are often overlooked, whether it’s transportation issues or adapting to what your body can do. It’s different but not inferior. I also want to emphasize the role teachers can play in nurturing a love for sports, as they are influential figures for many young girls growing up.