Ten tips for engaging women and girls in sport

Women's Water Polo
Create a more inclusive sporting environment for women and girls.

14 May 2010

Women and girls often face obstacles to participating in sport and recreation. Fortunately, there are some simple actions that clubs and sporting organisations can take to be more inclusive and, as these actions help to increase participation, they also benefit sporting organisations.

Participation rates for Australian women and girls in sport are lower than those of men and boys in the 15 to 24 age range: males (57.9%), females (48.7%), as reported in the Participation in Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey 2008. Young girls are particularly at risk of dropping out of sport during those years.

The number one way we can help create a more inclusive sporting environment for women and girls is by considering their needs and being sensitive to the obstacles they face, which could be as simple as ensuring there are clean, workable change rooms and a place to socialise, or may relate to such issues as concerns about self-image, gender inequality and lack of opportunities.

Once we consider and understand women and girls needs, there are some things we can do to ensure we are adequately cater for them within the sporting environment, so they have equal opportunity to participate:

  • Be flexible: most women live busy lifestyles involving work commitments and family commitments — providing a flexible environment encourages them to stay committed to sport.
  • Provide opportunities for women to take on coaching, officiating and leadership roles — this leads to increased involvement and participation. Visit the coaches section of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) website to access online coaching courses.
  • Promote the ASC’s Sports Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women program, which provides development and training opportunities for women to pursue their leadership potential as coaches, officials and administrators.
  • Facilitate equal opportunities for all members in your club, particularly at administrative and participatory levels — research has shown that the insights women provide to the operations of clubs are significant and positively influence the culture and ultimate success of the club or organisation.
  • Be aware of cultural barriers to participating in sport and recreation that migrants and refugees may experience. Girls and women often face greater barriers than boys and men as a result of cultural, social and religious expectations about their conduct. Information and advice about including women and girls from culturally diverse backgrounds in sport and recreation are available in the ASC’s All Cultures online resource.
  • Provide senior female mentors to guide and advise younger female participants. This will help create an environment that is comfortable for the younger generation of players. The ASC website hosts helpful videos on mentor training.
  • Stay up-to-date on issues relating to women and sport. Fact sheets and resources on issues as diverse as sporting attire, women’s sport in the media, body image and menopause are available in the ASC’s women in sport site.
  • Provide your club with accredited coaches who are conscious of the generally accepted view that males and females require a different approach to coaching due to differences in psychological make-up.
  • Encourage healthy eating and a balanced diet. You can read nutrition publications and fact sheets [http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition] on the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) website.
  • Promote a healthy self-image and encourage women and girls’ self-confidence and sense of place in the world. Providing a sporting uniform that is up to date with current trends in sport and provides coverage and comfort can boost the confidence of young girls, many of whom may be self-conscious about their looks.

To access more information and suggestions on making sport and recreation more inclusive for women and girls visit the women in sport section of the ASC website.

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Did you know?

Australia has competed in every Summer Paralympics since the first games in 1960.

Quick numbers

141 thousand people have so far completed the ASC online coaching course.
10 current or former AIS athletes won medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
56 current or former AIS athletes won medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
35 thousand kilometres were swum by Petria Thomas while at the AIS.
26 thousand people have so far completed the ASC online officiating course.
0.5 million people visit the AIS each year.