This Girl Can: Why Sport is Ready for a Female Uprising
The revelation that girls play less sport than boys is hardly a bombshell. For most, it’s as unsurprising as a midnight tweet from Donald Trump. Or, Ed Sheeran topping the album chart. It’s something we accept as the norm.
Sure, some girls make great athletes, but competition is better suited to the guys, right?
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expect girls to fall out of love with sport. They might adore football or trampolining as children, but puberty brings distractions. When they lose their passion and drop out of teams, we treat it as an inevitability.
We say ‘Look, girls don’t have the drive to succeed.’
The good news is things are changing. The gender gap is substantial, but participation is at an all-time high. In 2015, 1 in 2 girls played sport at high school. In 2016, the figure rose to 3 in 4. Female footballers, gymnasts, swimmers, and tennis stars are making headlines and winning big titles.
It’s getting harder to dismiss lack of participation as lack of interest.
It’s a Man’s World (For Now)
According to a recent study, boys (8-15 years) play sport twice as often as girls. They have a daily participation rate of 39%, compared with 26% for females. Yet, both genders express the same degree of enjoyment. When girls are fully supported, as boys are, they show similar levels of passion and enthusiasm.
So, the drive is there.
What we’re missing is the right perspective.
Femaleness is not a barrier. Yes, female bodies are complex, particularly during puberty, but the muscles and bones are no less efficient. Strong bodies run fast and jump high, regardless of gender. If a girl can shoot hoops or tear up an 800m track, the rest is background noise.
It’s customary to gripe about girls and ‘body issues.’ Yet, we ignore the fact coaches, managers, and sponsors go to extraordinary lengths to ensure male athletes are competition ready. In truth, obstacles are only impassable if there’s no drive to overcome them.
The Pursuit of Progress
The best chance to engage girls is preadolescence. There’s time to prepare for future trials and, most importantly, prove sporting prowess is worth the effort. It’s why Amaven works with primary schools to measure fitness and offer targeted support as early as possible.
Our approach is unique because it develops the individual. Irrespective of age, schoolgirls aren’t an amorphous group. Within a class, there are varying body types, abilities, interests, and concerns. We build a digital record of physical activity in schools, so that teaching and coaching nurtures every pupil.
It’s a person-oriented system, but teaching requirements are minimal. After establishing a baseline for physical fitness, (with a class assessment), it’s just a matter of repeating key tests. Results get recorded and added to an interactive platform. It tracks performance and helps teachers identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
If you’re a PE teacher, try these clever ideas for getting girls excited about sport:
- Connect with an inspiring female team. Invite them to your school. They can talk to the girls about the benefits, challenges, and surprises associated with playing sports.
- Organise a trip to watch a local team play. It should be an all-female outfit, so pupils can experience the skill and excitement of women’s sport.
- Hold a Sports Fair, with desks or ‘stations’ describing a variety of games. Show pictures of female players, explain the benefits and register interest. That way, you can make an informed decision about which activities to introduce next.
- Make time for talking. Encourage girls to share their concerns by offering practical solutions. Make it known, if they want to play sport, there is nothing standing in their way. There may be obstacles, but there are no barriers. Work together to find the answer.