FIFA’s ‘Live Your Goals’ events teach girls to play to win

When it comes to my favourite childhood films being remade terribly — I’m looking at you Annie — I’m the first to cry about the way things used to be. But lately we parents seem to be wallowing in grumpy-old-man nostalgia for our carefree days that completely misses how much better off our kids are, especially in leadership and physical fitness opportunities.

One example of this forward-thinking is Live Your Goals, which aims to encourage girls to follow their dreams; the focus is on soccer, but the overall aim is to encourage women to be the best athletes they can be by participating in events with soccer stars and playing with women from all over Canada.

Last year’s events were held in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada’s 4 host cities (Toronto, Montreal, Moncton, and Edmonton) and saw “over 750 girls between the ages of 8 and 12 selected by the Provincial Soccer Associations to participate in an afternoon of on-field soccer skills, coordinated by the Provincial Soccer Technical Directors and Women’s Committees, responsible for the mentorship and promotion of female leaders in soccer.”

This year’s events were held in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, but the message and the lessons were the same. I can’t help but wonder what my life might have been like if they organized these sorts of programs for girls when I was growing up.

I was encouraged like other girls to take dance, so I did. Skating, skiing, tennis, and swimming were social and provided physical opportunities, and that’s how it was approached. Not as an ideal, not as a lifestyle goal, but as something you should do because others were doing it.

Since I didn’t feel comfortable in sports, I never considered how little anyone thought outside the box. How wonderful it would have been to offer programs like Live Your Goals, to tell girls they’re not an after thought, that they should be encouraged to play baseball, football, soccer, hockey.

When my daughter, now 8, was starting with extracurricular programs, she did the traditional music/dance/art combos, but I was thrilled to find places like Sportball, which were inclusive of gender, age, and abilities, and offered the opportunity to help give her the foundation to develop her physical literacy when my husband and I — both well-intentioned — lacked the time and training to do it properly. We are seeing more focused programming in gym classes, more gender-encompassing sports options, and with the aid of powerful campaigns, lots of emphasis on rebranding girls from stereotypical little princesses to wonder women.

I may not appreciate Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan, but thanks to today’s pro-girl opportunities like the Live Your Goals event, I’m thinking the sun will definitely come out tomorrow for my daughter and other girls.

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