Did you know that by age 14, girls are dropping out of sport at twice the rate of boys? Did you know that when matched for age and maturation, they are three to six times more likely than boys to sustain non-impact ACL injuries? And did you know that the main reason most girls play sports is to experience social connection and acceptance?
These are just a few of the key facts contained in the new Keeping Girls in Sport online training program for coaches. It’s an extremely important curriculum because it teaches coaches and leaders the challenges faced by girls in sport and physical activity. It also shows them how to run quality programming that girls are sure to enjoy and return to.
If you are a sport organization delivering programming to girls, you need to look at mandating this training course for your coaches. And if you are a parent with a daughter in sport, you need to talk with her club or association to see if they are providing this training.
Knowledge and expertise
Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities developed Keeping Girls in Sport, in partnership with the Coaching Association of Canada and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, specifically to address the high dropout rates for girls in sport. The program ensures that organizations, coaches, and leaders who coach or mentor girls understand the unique challenges that girls face in pursuing sport and physical activity. Then it provides practical solutions and insights for creating programs for keeping girls engaged.
Leaning heavily on the subject matter expertise of Dr. Vicki Harber, professor emeritus in the faculty of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta, the course begins by outlining the unique motivators, barriers, and coaching needs of female athletes from the earliest years. These research-based findings address all aspects of the athlete—physical, mental, social, and cognitive—and they show why some girls quit sport and others don’t even get involved to begin with.
Girls are getting injured
One of the most important sections of the training course describes the different types of injuries that girls suffer in sport and physical activity. There’s more to this topic than most parents and coaches realize.
There are essentially three types of injuries that girls suffer in sport and activity: mechanical, energetic, and relational.
- Mechanical injuries
Mechanical injuries are the physical injuries sustained by their muscles, ligaments, and bones. These are generally the result of accidents, impacts, overuse, or poor technical execution. Most coaches understand the basic issues around physical injuries, and many coaches probably understand how to mitigate injury risk to some degree.
- Energetic injuries
Energetic injuries are less familiar to coaches and parents. These are the outcome of girls not consuming enough calories to fuel the demands of training or competition and, in some cases, the basic needs of their bodies. This creates a high risk for disordered eating in the short term, and it creates a long-term risk of lowered bone density, bone fractures, and early osteoporosis due to nutritional deficiencies. There are many reasons why young female athletes might not eat enough, but one of the biggest ones relates to social pressures around body image and fears of becoming “fat.”
- Relationship injuries
Relationship injuries are still less visible, but these account for many girls finally deciding to quit sports. These include girls not feeling valued or accepted into their program or club, or not being given the opportunity to acquire skills and create social connections. It also includes negative relationships with coaches and breaches of trust.
Thoughtful reflections and practical solutions
Throughout the online program, Keeping Girls in Sport asks coaches and leaders to reflect on their own attitudes and knowledge around coaching female athletes. Then it addresses the main issues by providing practical advice on how to create quality programming to keep girls engaged in sport and activity programming for the long term.
Robust interactive online learning platform
Keeping Girls in Sport does all of this using a robust interactive online learning platform created by Respect in Sport, a national leader in online training for coaches and sport parents. The program only takes 90 minutes to complete, and participants can choose to complete the four learning modules over any number of days or weeks in increments of five to 10 minutes at a time. For even the busiest person, it’s not a difficult or time-consuming undertaking.
With its rich learning content and intelligent instructional design, Keeping Girls in Sport is an important offering to the world of sport coaching and leadership. Sport organizations that run girls’ programs should consider mandating the course for their coaches, and parents with daughters should talk with their clubs and associations about adopting the training. For the health and well-being of young female athletes and participants across Canada, it’s an important undertaking.