17/4-2020Ten recommendations to include girls

The existence of gender inequality in sports is well documented. According to WHO 85% of adolescent girls globally do not meet the current recommendations of physical activity. Also, girls with minority background have a significantly lower participation rate in sports and physical activity than their peers.

This imbalance calls for rethinking how we develop, design and organize activities in order to make sure that all girls can find their way to positive communities. GAME has used an explorative approach and gathered knowledge about girls’ leisure time, their motivational factors and needs, as well as what barriers that may arise when it comes to sports participation. On that background we have developed 10 recommendations for engaging girls who is currently not active. We have taken the outset in underserved communities around Denmark where a majority of the girls have minority background.

1. Make sure the girls feel invited to the activities
The girls must feel that they are invited into the collective, e.g. by doing outreach work at schools and youth centres or by getting parents and local actors to be ambassadors for the girls’ participation.

2. Adapt activities to local context and needs
The girls must not adapt to the activities that are already available. Instead, locally based activities must be developed so as they are carefully adapted to the girl’s specific interests, wishes and needs. This requires thorough preparation and context specific knowledge of the target group.

3. Support diversity by understanding culture specific barriers
Girls with minority background seek cultural, practical and social confidence. Therefore, create a safe setting and use an enclosed facility if needed. In addition, you can arrange activities where the girls do not have to change clothes and allow girls who wear headscarf to participate.

4. Use comfortable, safe and nearby locations
Participation in sports and physical activity requires a sense of ‘belonging’ in the social context in which the activity takes place. It is important with places and people who are familiar and trusted by the girls. It is crucial with a location in near geographical distance. It may also work well to use a familiar and safe setting such as the school.

5. Involve female role models as coaches
A strong bond between the girls and the coach is vital. Engaging female role models in whom the girls can mirror themselves in and talk to about ups and downs can strengthen the trusting and close relationship. The coach must be welcoming, positive and empathetic and ensure that all participants feel included.

6. Involve the girls as co-creators of the activities
It is important to be attentive to the girls’ wants and needs and involve them in developing and defining the activities. Create a culture where it is natural for girls to provide feedback and inputs to the training content. This fosters a feeling of commitment and sense of ownership.

7. Create opportunities for the girls to cultivate their friendships
Many girls do not prioritize sport because they want to “spend their time on friends”. Therefor, foster a social space around the activities and create a sense of community. Reach out to groups of friends and make sure that the girls can build and cultivate their friendships, e.g. by allowing time to informal talks and to incorporate the relational aspect into the activities.

8. Remove the feeling of performance pressure
Many girls associate participation in sports with the capability to perform before they even start. Create a safe space where the girls can be themselves, and where it is acceptable to fail. Make sure that all girls are part of the activity and that achievable goals are set in order to foster recognition from peers and personal success.

9. Make the girls experience progression
It is important that the girls experience rapid progression in the activity and acquire new skills. The coach must be able to bridge the different levels, and pay attention to the girls who are beginners and might need some extra support. Progression can be supported by continually assigning the girls new responsibilities, e.g. planning a warm up.

10. Create trust in the activities amongst parents
Parents’ trust in and validation of the activities is crucial in motivating the girls to participate. This can be promoted through local parental involvement and dialogue about how sports can have a positive impact on other areas of girls’ lives. Create a framework where parents can get involved on their own terms so that comprehensive parental support does not become a prerequisite for participation.

Download 10 recommendation to include girls.

For more information, please contact Project Koordinator, Laura Bendix Pedersen: