We have a really big issue in Canada with respect to girls in sport. They aren’t participating in organized sport, and those that do, leave early. In fact, girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than are boys in Canada by the age of 15. And if a girl is not involved in sport by the age of 10, she has a 10% chance of being an active adult. Let that sink in.
Now let’s start with the basics. Why is sport so important for kids, especially girls, to be involved in? First, there is the health aspect. Children need 60 minutes of exercise per day to be healthy. If you think your child is getting that at school, think again. They are not. Physical education programs are being cut year after year, and recess does not mean active play time. When girls participate in sport, they have a decreased rate of starting smoking, using drugs and alcohol, a lower rate of teen pregnancy rates, a reduced risk of being overweight, and lower rates of disease including cancer.
Second is confidence. A new report that surveyed more than 10,000 girls across the country has found a positive correlation between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance and personal relationships. Girls are more confident in their body image and looks, abilities and personalities when they play sports. This correlation is huge, and should be thought of every time you sign your child up for activities. And another cool stat? Over 90% of women who are CEO’s in North America played high performance level sports growing up.
Other than health and a more positive mental state, there are so many things that we learn from sport. We learn how to win, how to lose, teamwork, time management. We can meet new friends, travel across our country and around the globe. But even with all of these positive elements, girls are still dropping out. Why?
Research says there are six major reasons as to why:
- Lack of positive female role models in the media. In fact, less than 5% of all sports coverage is given to female athletes.
- Transportation and safety issues.
- A perceived lack of options for girls versus what is out there for boys
- Social stigma for being a female athlete. Think ‘tomboy’ or ‘butch’ terminology
- A decrease quality experience
But is there more? We think so. In 2018, we worked with hundreds of girls ages 5 – 21 who are currently involved in sports or have been involved in the past. When asking them why they or their friends drop out, we heard a few other concrete reasons that need to be addressed.
First, was time. When speaking with girls in junior high and high school, they only have so much time on their hands. They have school full time, community and/or family obligations, social or friend obligations, and perhaps other activities that are not sport (i.e. band, art, etc). One thing we heard over and over again was they needed to choose between sports and having a part time job. They want money to buy $20 mascara or new jeans every month, and parents don’t have the means to do this. And when you’re a teenager, these things can end up taking priority. We hear this from both the parents and the girls. We do our very best to encourage the girls and parents to think long term on this. Sports can bring you scholarships to university, work as a coach or mentor in the community, and an overall balance in your life! The long term gain far out weights the short term results of a minimum wage part time job.
Next, we hear an issue with regards to cultural differences. When speaking to a group of 30 high school girls in Winnipeg, girls were telling us that they felt awkward having to be the only person wearing a Hijab underneath their basketball or volleyball uniform. At a time in their lives where they want to blend in, this could bring attention to them they do not want. And it is not an issue of lack of cultural pride, but rather the sports not thinking about cultural norms that they may need to adjust to.
Lastly, is a sense of belonging. The number one thing that girls look for when being involved in sport and activity is that they feel a part of something. Be it a team, a club, an organization. They yearn for this feeling of togetherness, acceptance and inclusion. Without that, it doesn’t matter how much they are winning or losing, they are not going to be fully engaged. That is something that everyone needs to ban together on to make it work – coaches, parents, teammates and themselves.
At Fit Communications and FIT Women and Girls we are doing our best to help tear these blockades down for girls in Canada. From our Confidence Workbook, to our FITGirls Directory to the work we do in the media, we are in constant pursuit to make things terrific for girls in our country. Our goal is to have increased participation rates for girls in sport, and to see the future of our country happy and healthy. Thanks for joining us on this journey!