With International Women’s Day just around the corner, if you haven’t already embraced the opportunity to engage and empower girls in sport, now’s the time to open your doors to this underrepresented but talented pool of sportspeople for our next generation of athletes. Whilst it’s high on everyone’s agenda at the moment, it’s important to not just make your efforts a seasonal tick-box exercise. What’s real is driving long term change that shows your sport is committed to equality 365 days a year, not just the one. Start today, and as you mean to go on.
Change can be scary, especially when you’re not really sure where to start, but that’s where online courses like Engaging Teenage Girls in Sport can help. You don’t need to go a journey like this alone, and the organisations and case studies of real girls in sport we’ve brought together will give you all the background information and practical tips you need to get started and action plan. At the heart of this are the ‘eight principles for success’, including attitudes like ensuring your sport has clear emotional rewards, having no judgement and building on existing habits.
Change is widespread, don’t get left behind
The commitment to increasing girls and women’s participation in sport has skyrocketed, and inspiring stories from clubs, organisations and national governing bodies reach us every day. New TV shows like ITV’s Driving Force from Judy Murray OBE (esteemed tennis coach and mum of Wimbledon champ, Andy Murray’s) put women and girls firmly in the spotlight they deserve. From the ‘First Lady’ of English women’s rugby, Maggie Alphonsi, to England Football star Eni Aluko and World Boxing Champion Katie Taylor, the hit show highlights just how successful females really can be if given the right start, and why it’s so important to level out the gender playing field.
But it’s not just big-name superstars dominating the news, as up and down the country girls are ranking up and speaking out to get more and more teenage girls involved in sport. They recognise the physical and mental health benefits and they want others to experience that. It’s difficult to not feel blown away by the school students across Dundee who have teamed up to create a committee called Active Girls, setting themselves the goal of increasing girls’ participation in sport in the area by ten per cent by April.
Women’s rugby is on an upward trajectory, with the Rugby World Cup for women being held towards the end of the year and the mighty Red Roses in England topping world rankings. The Coventry-based WASPS even hold a free half-term rugby camp for teenage girls with the hope of keeping girls engaged in the sport throughout their teenage years. It’s about breaking down expectations; rugby and all sports are not just for boys or the girls who fall into sport easily.
Engaging all girls, not just the sporty few
This sense of engaging girls and keeping them engaged is one of the focus points in Accelerate Sport’s eLearning course, from eCoach and Women in Sport. It’s about how you reach all girls – the sporty types, the disengaged, the lapsed – understanding that everyone is different and varied approaches are needed to bring them on board (and keep them on board). You’ll hear from teenage girls themselves, as well as clubs and programmes like Football Beyond Borders’ who are putting hard to reach young women at the top of their priority list. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of teenage girls’ lives and relationships with sport, and start to understand how sport can change.
There are so many factors at play and barriers that can get in the way of girls taking part in sport. To list but a few, it’s the social conditioning and lower levels of encouragement that they receive to get active, right down to society playing up to gender stereotypes from a very young age. Things have changed a lot these days and it’s a far cry from the eighties and nineties, but it’s still something we can easily slip into without realising.
Teenage girls also face crippling anxieties that come with puberty, including body image and physical changes in their bodies, including getting periods, and how that can impact on their desire to be active and use changing rooms. Girls also report feeling trapped by a lack of time to dedicate to getting active with so many competing priorities, such as family, socialising with their friends, studying, religious and cultural commitments, and getting to grips with their place in the world.
But these barriers can be broken down. It’s just about getting into the shoes of young girls by listening to them, building their trust and confidence, and making it a fun and safe environment to be able to travel to and be in. It’s also breaking down the stigma they might have attached to sport that if they’ve had negative experiences in PE at school.
Take a step into the unknown and learn how to engage girls
Engaging Teenage Girls in Sport is out now and available in both individual and bulk licences, making it perfect for just a few key staff or your entire workforce to take. It takes just a few hours to complete (which you can do in your own time, at your own pace) and after a quick assessment, a certificate and CPD points are available for you to evidence your training.
If you’re thinking of making your club or sport a truly inclusive and equal playing field, it can be taken as part of an EDI pathway with three other courses on how to reach diverse audiences and tackle racism in sport. We’re fully committed to increasing the diversity seen across the sporting arena and so all our courses are low cost and have free supporting webinars to give an extra level of support.
* If your club or organisation is based in Wales, you are eligible for funding to access our courses via Sport Wales’ Be Active fund. Please get in touch for more information by emailing: [email protected]
Written by Alice Gunn