The issue of women and girls’ participation in sport has never had such a high profile...but are we really making a difference despite the volume of coverage and debate?
At the Youth Sport Trust the issue of improving girls’ attitude to PE has always been close to our hearts. Building on our work with Nike Girls in Sport and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation’s ‘Changing the Game for Girls’ report, our recent pilot programme Girls Active took an innovative approach and led to some remarkable results.
The pilot looked to tackle the negative attitude that girls have about their body image, improve their attitude to PE, and to help make PE more relevant to girls’ lives.
There is huge pressure on teenage girls to look and act a certain way. The programme tackles this by creating positive role models within school and empowering them to take ownership of the activity, developing a physical activity brand and marketing it to their peers. We have seen a remarkable impact through this approach – over the space of 12months, the amount of girls that were happy about the way their body looked doubled, while the number of girls looking forward to PE and Sport rose from 38% to 71%.
If we want to get Girls Active, we need to let the girls decide for themselves what they want to do. Their needs have to drive the experience - not the skills or background of the coach or teacher. If we don’t give girls a voice we risk putting them off physical activity for life.