Sure Shots
Great coaching key to keeping girls playing sports

Great coaching key to keeping girls playing sports


Making sports fun is something great coaches do – and it could be the key to keeping girls active.

New research from girls ages 7-13 who play sports reveals that when girls like their coaches, they are more likely to keep playing as they get older, to see the importance of being active, and to love their sport. These findings, among others, were released via the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) report, Coaching Through a Gender Lens: Maximizing Girls’ Play and Potential.

In partnership with Nike’s Social & Community Impact division, Coaching Through a Gender Lens is the first-of-its-kind report to examine the intersection of girls’ sports development needs with their “current day” experiences. It captures data through the voices of girls, their parents, and experts in girls’ development and sports – with the goal of identifying coaching practices to support girls’ initiation and continued participation in sports.

The persistent gender gap and disproportionate sports dropout rates for girls – which increase as they transition to early adolescence – show a clear need for coaching practices that address girls’ challenges and nurture their love of sport. Coaches are vital in getting and keeping girls involved.

“We know that through sports, girls grow and thrive in limitless ways, and the coaches who teach, encourage and inspire them play a vital role in keeping girls active,” said WSF CEO Dr. Deborah Antoine. “Our Foundation’s enduring commitment is to ensure that all girls and all women have access to sports and physical activity, together with the benefits they provide. We were purposeful in designing this research to examine the girl-parent-coaching dynamic through a gender lens, to discover best practices for maximizing girls’ personal and sport potential.”

The multi-dimensional study included interviews with experts in girls’ development and sports, a national survey of 1,129 girls between the ages of 7-13 who currently participate in sports and their parents, and a survey of exemplary programs from WSF community partners.

According to the report findings, 93% of the girls surveyed loved or liked their sport, which was key to their continued desire to play in high school and beyond. Most girls (85% or more) reported that their coaches created a positive environment that encourages safety, fun, and healthy competition. Further, the girls’ feedback highlighted the importance of supportive coaching practices that reward effort for trying a new skill over winning, encourage learning from mistakes while staying positive, and promote integrity and honesty.

Both experts and program leaders confirm that gender-informed approaches can counter-balance cultural messages that often signal to girls “sports are for boys.” Additionally, female coaches are powerful role models, demonstrating to girls that they belong and deserve to be included in sports, boosting girls’ confidence and inspiring their continued participation. That said, programs find it challenging to recruit female coaches, indicative of the larger trend seen in all levels of sports.

“This research reinforces the power of all coaches to increase girls’ confidence and participation in sports. In addition, female coaches serve as catalysts to inspire more girls to get active because if she can see it, she can be it,” said Caitlin Morris, General Manager, Nike Social & Community Impact. “Nike works with local partners around the world to break down one of the barriers girls face – the lack of trained female coaches – to inspire the next generation of athletes.”

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