Fast and Female: empowering Canadian girls to be active for life

Fast and Female: empowering Canadian girls to be active for life

Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford is walking her dog while she chats about her life and non-profit work.

“It’s perfect,” she says. “I can be active while I talk.”

It may seem like a small thing — walking her Golden Retriever, doing interviews with press — but it is exactly what Crawford is trying to encourage.

She wants women of all ages to be active for life.

Fast and Female

Upcoming events include two major full-day summits:
– Oct. 24 in Toronto
– Nov. 8 in Calgary
Get more information and register at Fast and Female

And, indeed, that desire to encourage others to move is what spurred Crawford into starting Fast and Female in 2005.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the not-for-profit organization is about encouraging girls ages eight to 19 to understand the importance of sports and a healthy lifestyle. As part of that mandate, Fast and Female works with female Olympic athletes and top female athletes in a variety of sports to offer non-competitive, fun programs for girls, as well as educational programs for parents and coaches.

“I started Fast and Female out of a real desire to keep girls in sport,” says Crawford, who won a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. “I was lucky to have role models, and I want other girls to have what I had, too.”

Crawford, 31, says her own role models include fellow Olympians Sara Renner and Beckie Scott. “They were so radiant — always smiling, strong and healthy,” she says.

But even while she was competing, she could see very few young women coming up in the ranks behind her. She wanted that to change.

Fast and Female was born.

“The message is that there are a lot of ways to be a girl. You need to stay active and in sports. And that you’re great just the way you are,” Crawford says.

“They leave empowered and with a lot more confidence.”

Crawford says the organization has come a long way since 2005. That first event included 50 girls, Renner and Crawford at Silver Star Resort in British Columbia. Everyone had hot chocolate and T-shirts, and the entire event cost about $1,000 to put on, Crawford says with a laugh.

In comparison, about 150 girls attend the November 2014 summit, as well as 50 parents and coaches.

But is participation in one Fast and Female event enough to spark long-term change? That’s a question Crawford has asked herself.

“I worry — one event, it’s a flash in the pan. Can we really change anything?” Crawford says.

“But then we get feedback — a lot of it from parents — that is very meaningful. A girl that was struggling with bullying, or ones who don’t feel they fit in. And really, that’s all girls. We all feel at some stage like we don’t fit in.”

She says she’s been surprised at the need for the parent panel, too; many parents attend and they all want to speak to parents of the Olympians, to ask them about how they handled everything from competition to injuries.

Another sure sign that the program is making a difference? The number of girls who come back to various Fast and Female events, year after year.

“Some of the Canmore girls have been going for nine years now,” she says. “They’re our junior ambassadors now. We give them that title and it gives them some responsibility.”

Speaking of responsibilities, Crawford has plenty of her own these days — not just walking her dog. She currently splits her time between working with Fast and Female and studying. She just finished the first year of her MBA degree at the University of Calgary.

“Learning about inventory management, accounting — those skills will enable me to make Fast and Female sustainable for years to come,” she says.

“I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring. We all need to be active and healthy, to live our lives to the fullest.”

Image courtesy Fast and Female

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