My sporting life: Synergy managing director Lisa Parfitt on women’s sport and her passion for running
Synergy's managing director Lisa Parfitt on championing women in sport, running and her hockey umpire father.
What is your sporting passion?
My passion for any sport has never really faltered but my true energy and personal passion now is women’s sport. I have two young daughters and I want them to grow into strong, independent women loving sport and getting the physical, mental and social benefits that make it more than just a game.
I care a great deal about girls having a variety of options available to them which are not defined by what society deems suitable for a girl.
Women’s football is a brilliant metaphor for how attitudes and sport is changing. Isabel, my eldest, started playing football aged four and now plays for our local Milford Pumas under-nine girls team. It really makes my Saturday morning – and worth missing a lie-in – seeing how much the girls love being together, enjoying the sport and progressing.
I talk a lot during my work week about the importance of engaging women with sport so I’m going to walk the walk and I’m doing my Level 1 coaching badges and taking on managing and coaching the Milford Pumas U9s. It’s part of my #WhatIf pledge for Women In Football.
How did you first get into sport?
I grew up in a really sporty family. Both my parents played hockey and my dad also played football and cricket. He was also the youngest ever qualified football referee and eventually an international hockey umpire.
We spent all our time at hockey and cricket clubs and I loved the social environment, being outside playing and the teas! I went on to play netball through school and university and still do when I have time.
My dad died suddenly when I was 13, and playing and working in sport keeps me feeling connected to him. I know he would have loved hearing all the stories behind the scenes.
Do you also participate in sport?
Other than netball, I run. Running is my complete escape. I took it up after having children as a quick and easy way to keep fit and got hooked.
Typically I run 10–15k a week and I did my first half marathon this year after my brother signed me up for my birthday!
It can be hard to remember why I do it as I drag myself out of bed at the weekend but that is what’s brilliant about running: it hurts, yet it’s quite a primal thing that humans feel they have to do.
It makes me happier, keeps me mentally and physically fitter, and gets me to push myself in a different environment to work. Research shows running boosts memory performance which is something I need a lot of help with!
What is your most cherished sporting memory?
Waking up in the middle of the night in the summer of 1988 to my dad screaming at the TV, sneaking downstairs to watch the men’s hockey final at the Seoul Olympic Games and seeing Sean Kerly and Co win gold. Months later my dad was mortified at having to send Sean off at his returning match.
Other favourite memories include taking my grandad to a Lord's Test match. It didn’t matter that he snoozed for a good hour in the afternoon session. And England netball winning gold at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year. What a spectacular sporting performance – a team that had belief right to the dying seconds.
What is your greatest hope in sport?
Gender equality. More women in senior positions, more women coaching, packed stadiums for women’s sport, and a closing of the gender gap in participation and pay.