Like many impactful ideas the seed is planted and then grows into a forest.
Alison Smirnoff, videographer and founder of Change Her Game was shaped by her experience working in professional men’s sport. The experience planted the seed for what is now a unique video storytelling platform for females in sport, working to inspire us all and make it easier for the next generation of women.
As one of the seven finalists of our Female Empowerment Grant, we sat down with Alison to hear more…
Tell us about the idea behind Change Her Game…?
The seed was planted in a couple ways and was shaped by my experience working in professional men’s sport for a while.
I loved the work and I really enjoyed the role, but it wasn’t until I left that I realised it really had an impact on me and not always a positive one. Working in a male dominated space, I had that sense of – which is not always overt – exclusion.
In 2014 I went to one of the women’s exhibition games and fell in love with football all over again. There were women sitting together cheering on their team mates and it reminded me of what I loved about the sport.
Then, I started to meet some of these female’s athletes and I noticed that they put in just as much into their preparations as the male athletes I worked with, yet they weren’t actually getting paid! There was inequity there and a story that had to be told, so Change Her Game was born.
What is the vision for Change Her Game?
I’d just love to continue telling the stories of female athletes and give young girls visible female role models. When I was a kid my sporting heroes were all men.
In some way, the vision for Change Her Game is to not have to exist in a way, because women will have equal media coverage in sport!
What does female empowerment mean to you and how are you empowering women through Change Her Game?
I am empowering women by representing them, their achievements, sharing their stories and giving girls visible female role models.
Female empowerment means not being limited by your gender and having freedom to choose any career you want, without barriers.
I've discovered that women actually love to hear about the amazing things other women are doing. We've grown up with this notion that women like to tear each other down, but it’s actually a complete myth. I have found overwhelming support through Change Her Game.
What sets Change Her Game apart?
It’s through the importance of storytelling. Everyone has a story to tell and I find the stories of female athletes really compelling because quite often they’ve had to battle with the fact that they can’t just choose a sport and know they can earn a living from it. They have to “exist in the real world”, they have to fund their sporting aspirations.
Has there been a game changing moment in your journey so far?
There have been a few little milestones since I started Change Her Game in late 2014.
In 2015, a couple of interesting things happened. The Matilda’s did really well in the World Cup, that kind of spiked more interest in them, which started some kind of industrial action over pay conditions. Then Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup.
It felt like divine timing in a way.
The night before the AFL announced the eight teams that would be competing in the inaugural women’s competition, I produced a video that outlined the journey that a lot of these women had to experience in getting to this point. It took off and had something like 50,000 views on Facebook. It was another little confirmation that I’m telling stories that people want to hear.
What is inspiring about the female athletes you interview?
What I find really interesting and inspiring is that female athletes often have to juggle all these different life things and hold down jobs. I just always get struck by the work that goes in for female athletes.
The mere fact that they exist in the real world, whereas a lot of male athletes, from the age of five, know that they can make a living from any sport if they wanted to. It’s not always the case for women and I just don’t think it’s fair that women have to some point make that choice – between getting a “real job” and or living at home to survive and play their sport.
What is the importance of storytelling in sport?
I have this firm belief that everyone has a story to tell and something that drives them. Storytelling also personalises an athlete as quite often you only get to see what they do on field, but understanding the story behind the athlete is so important.
I’m always struck by what goes into being professional athlete because you’re a professional athlete all the time, it’s not just about two hours they’re performing for you. They live it and video from my side is a really great way of tapping into that.
Do you feel like there’s anything holding Change Her Game back?
I think probably the main thing that’s holding me back is that I am doing this on my own. I have had some volunteers help me here and there.
Being a video producer by trade I am used to collaborating. To have a team around me, on this journey with me, would help take Change Her Game to the next level.
What does ‘next level’ look like for Change Her Game?
Creating more content and sharing more stories and probably venturing into other sports that I don’t have expertise in!
I’ve got a really strong background in AFL football, but I love watching the Matilda’s play and I love watching the Southern Stars Cricketers and Basketball is back on the map. I’d like to be able to collaborate with experts in those fields and tell more and more stories about women in sport.
If you were successful in winning our Female Empowerment Grant, what would you use it for?
Definitely to pay a team of contributors, and use the funds on the ongoing costs of running and online business like I am. Stuff like web registration and my Adobe subscription and consumables for video production and things like that. I just have to be able to have those resources available to keep doing what I’m doing.
Photo of Alison courtesy of Your Creative taken in the TOM office garden.