Women and girls, who account for more than 50 percent of the population of Canada, continue to be under-represented in the sport and physical activity system. Awareness about biomechanical and physiological considerations unique to women and girls has increased, providing a foundation to improve training methods and competition programs for athletes. However, large gaps persist in knowledge and practice relating to the psycho-social factors that influence women and girls as participants, athletes, coaches, officials, leaders, or administrators.
It is vital to address these issues. Optimal conditions and improved system readiness for the life-long participation of women and girls in sport and physical activity must be created. Strategies must match the unique requirements of women’s and girls’ lives, their interests and involvement. Furthermore, since females represent a significant proportion of many organizations’ stakeholders, it is difficult to address this group’s views and needs without women assuming leadership roles. Valuing females’ leadership styles and skills and recognizing their contributions are also important.
Research indicates that girls and women become involved in physical activity and sport for many reasons. Most commonly, females are attracted to sport for the elements of affiliation, skill development, personal improvement, a nurturing environment, and a social network.
Common barriers to females’ involvement in physical activity and sport are a lack of encouragement, a lack of opportunity, lack of basic skills, conflict with other activities, low self esteem and low self efficacy, and parents, coaches and peers who perpetuate stereotypes of femininity by associating sport with masculinity.
Program Recommendations for Female Participants
- Create a fun practice environment by incorporating unstructured social time and a variety of team and individual challenges.
- Encourage females’ involvement through friends and social networks.
- Invest time to develop positive social relations amongst teammates.
- Create physical challenges that allow females to positively experience their athletic capabilities.
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