'A male commentator was criticised for his comment during the Matildas game. I agree with him.'

In case you missed it, during the Matildas World Cup match against Ireland last week, commentator David Basheer made a comment about player Katrina Gorry that sparked backlash.

As the midfielder won a tackle, he said: "Certainly motherhood has not blunted her competitive instincts, that's for sure."

Critics were quick to slam him, saying he would never have made the same comment about a father on the field. 

Now, let's be clear about this. Katrina Gorry is an absolute weapon. Such a display of athleticism following extremely taxing physiological processes of pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum recovery and breastfeeding for 12 months must be acknowledged. 

Basheer did not deserve the public backlash for trying to point out the significance of this occasion. When you learn Gorry is a mother, her achievements take on new meaning. You realise she has had to overcome unique challenges to get where she is today.

A mother returning to elite soccer less than two years after giving birth isn't just noteworthy, it's impossible to ignore. It's an incredible physical feat that no man will ever lay claim to. If we want to see mothers crushing stereotypes, if we want to increase the visibility of motherhood, if we want to empower mothers, we must allow sports commentators to give credit where it's due.

Watch: The types of sports parent. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As far as commentary goes, it is a relevant and awe inspiring note about a player's background. Commentators will often point out if players have undergone a significant surgery or lost loved ones. Why is the mention of motherhood sending people into a blind rage?

The online uproar following Basheer's comment that motherhood had not 'blunted' Gorry's competitive spirit is a display of just how complicated our feelings around motherhood have become. It seems that these days it is more 'politically correct' to completely omit or ignore motherhood as part of a woman's identity. It's becoming the unsayable. It's a disturbing example of the steady erasure of motherhood in society and the minimisation of physical and psychological changes that go with it.

As aforementioned, Basheer's online critics complained that the comment was out of line because the same wouldn't be said of a father in the same situation, but this is not a gender-neutral situation. Childbirth is not a gender-neutral process – partners are emotionally invested in the birth of their children but they are simply not physically invested in the same way. A birth mother undergoes pretty extreme physiological changes over nine months of pregnancy that culminate in her muscles stretching and her bones literally shifting to make way for a 3kg watermelon out of a space that usually only fits a penis. Postpartum recovery can take years.

Fathers, on the other hand, can and do continue playing at an elite level right up until the day of the birth and can step straight out of the delivery ward onto the field. Of course, a baby will usually change their outlook on life and shift their priorities, but the psychological changes linked to the biological birth process – the hormones - do not affect men and women in the same way.


Motherhood does have the propensity to make us feel less competitive, at least in the short term, because we can become entirely focused on the baby's survival. Being focused on the baby is a successful and beneficial evolutionary adaptation, it's not something to be ashamed of.

Being less interested in competition may be a feeling that lingers or becomes longer term particularly if we lack support or experience postpartum physical and mental challenges. Childbirth is life altering, kids can change our focus. It's not a weakness, it's testimony to the enormity of the life change that is bringing another human into the world.

It is therefore notable that Gorry has been able to reignite her pre-baby mindset and competitiveness. She has done the work mentally and physically to restore her confidence on field after an experience which can leave our mind and body feeling a little foreign. My youngest is now 20 months old, I'm still breastfeeding, but I'm proud to say I too have reignited my competitive spirit in social mixed basketball.

Image: Supplied.


Last week I found myself screaming "Suck on that!" after we shot a goal to win, right on the buzzer. I realised that if it wasn't for excellent support systems, which many mothers lack, there is no way I would have been back on the court throwing down some low level sledging. Without good support systems, it can be a huge challenge for women to return to competitive environments.

Image: Supplied.


Childbirth presents obvious, well documented and well established challenges to returning to professional sport, but Gorry shows that with the right support and careful planning it is possible. This isn't about glamourising premature return to high impact sports in the post partum period, this isn't about glamourising super mums, it's about everyone learning how to feel comfortable with a mother on the field. It's about society learning how to celebrate mothers in arenas where they haven't traditionally gone before. Part of celebrating mothers is acknowledging the unique challenges childbirth presents in pursuits like professional sport.

Thanks to Basheer's commentary, for the remainder of the tournament I will be pointing Gorry out on the telly to my kids, to show them that mothers come in many forms. To normalise women, and mothers, in sport for my girls.

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Feature Image: Supplied +  Instagram @katrinagorry10.

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