How to Encourage Girls in Sports

How to Encourage Girls in Sports:

Tips from the Increasing Female Participation in Sports panel discussion on January 23rd, 2014.

by Michelle Fenelon

1.  Make sure women have good early experiences. It’s important to help girls have a positive first experience, in order for them to return.

2.  Understand the role of culture. Some females struggle to engage in sports because of what they’re culturally expected to do. Dr. Jen Meade acknowledged how one of the softball players at Bridgewater State “has to make a choice between doing what’s culturally expected of her and doing what she really wants and loves, and what’s she’s very good at.” Understanding their culture allows coaches to understand the struggles that some women face when they are trying to participate in sports.

3.  Make sports kid-centric again. Dr. Justine Siegal called for adults to give the sport back to children so they can enjoy it and want to participate.

4. Increase the visibility of successful female athletes. Exposure to successful female athletes who made a name for themselves within their respected sport can drive young women to want to participate as well.

5. Have sports as an option at an early age. “You’re just seeing [sports] getting deleted out of kids’ lives,” says Ms. Rebekah Splaine Salwasser. “And I think it’s really important that there are options and opportunities to play for young kids because those times are when kids are going to say, ‘I get it. I feel comfortable in my body. I have confidence, I want to keep moving.’”

6.  Equity. Make sure girls are given the same opportunities as boys, such as using the same equipment and space.

7. Coaches have to have postitive expectations for girls. “We need coaches who expect girls to do things. We can’t have coaches who do not expect girls to sweat. We can’t have them think that they can’t work as hard as the boys,” Siegal said.

8. Change the outcome. “Changing the outcome so that (girls) are more orientated towards participating,” Siegal said. Don’t make the sport all about winning. Perhaps change the rules, so players can earn points other ways besides scoring. Asking girls which rules they might want to play under also gives them the opportunity feel like they’re more involved in the sport.