Use double quotes to find documents that include the exact phrase: "aerodynamic AND testing"

New research from the University of Victoria in Australia found that two thirds of girls who drop out of sport said their main reason for stopping was lack of enjoyment. Researchers provide 3 recommendations for organizations to keep girls loving sport, including developing strategies that focus on fun and skill improvement for all players, regardless of talent level.

The Government of Canada has committed to reaching gender equity in sport (at all levels) by 2035. Right now, we have a long way to go. Over 90% of Canadian sport media coverage is focused solely on men’s sport (Pegoraro and Moore, 2022). Women and girls have lower sport participation rates and higher dropout rates than boys and men, a reality that was further exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. Women are underrepresented in sport administration, coaching, match officiating and other positions of power within the Canadian sport system. 

At the same time, Canadian women athletes are performing better than ever, and are also more activist than ever, pushing for gender equity with regard to equal pay and treatment and shedding light on abuse within sport. More women than ever are returning to high performance sport after giving birth. The menstrual cycle and reproductive health are receiving more research attention as a factor in women’s training and performance. 

In honour of International Women’s Day, SIRC has gathered our recent blogs focused on women in Canadian sport. They fall generally within the categories of gender equity, athlete wellness, and reproductive health in sport.

Gender equity

Athlete wellness

Motherhood and reproductive health in sport

Check out our Mom’s Got Game resource hub for more stories!

Engaging women and girls in sport

Finally, check out our engaging women and girls in sport webinar series, created in collaboration with Canadian Women & Sport, covering topics including return to play post-pandemic, data collection with an eye towards gender equity, engaging Black community coaches, and supporting mental health in sport.

This blog post provides a recap of the fourth webinar in the 4-part mini-series Engaging Girls and Women in Sport. SIRC and Canadian Women & Sport co-hosted the mini-series, which you can access or learn more about by visiting our SIRC Experts Webinar page.

Every year, 1 in 5  people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2021). This blog post draws on research and lived experiences to explore topics in women’s and girls’ mental health in a sport context, set against the backdrop of rising mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we summarize the conversation of a webinar panel highlighting athlete, coach and clinician perspectives on best practices for creating sport environments that support mental health and foster holistic wellness for girls and women. 

Webinar panelists included: 

Key mental health challenges for women and girls in sport 

The panelists identified 4 key themes that underlie the mental health challenges that women and girls are facing in sport today. 

1. Perfectionism

Sad lady tennis player sitting in the court after lose a match - people in sport tennis gameAlthough many people believe that perfectionism is a desirable personality trait, it‘s unhelpful, says Tracy Vaillancourt. Perfectionism encourages an athlete to set unrealistically high standards and constantly measure themselves against them. A person may feel like they‘ve failed when they‘re unable to meet these unrealistic standards. Research links perfectionism to higher incidences of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts and risks (Limburg et al., 2017).

2. Body image and diet culture

Perfectionism and body image challenges in sport often go hand-in hand. Sport and fitness cultures consistently promote unrealistic (and perfectionistic) standards of what our bodies “should” look like. Clinicians are observing a noticeable increase in disordered eating and exercise, especially after the pandemic started.

We know [these behaviours] are typically aligned with needing a feeling of control over one’s life and in the face of all the disruptions we’ve had with the pandemic, that really exacerbated [it] for folks that were on a healing journey and got them right back into the same patterns they were in, in the past.

Shaunna Taylor

3. Social media

Two school-aged girls on smartphones while walking and wearing backpacks.Social media presents another mental health challenge for athletes. By providing opportunities for strangers to anonymously share hurtful opinions and comments about others, social media can be toxic and cruel to girls and women in sport. It can also contribute to perfectionism and perpetuate diet culture and body image concerns. As an athlete describing her experience with social media, Julie-Anne Staehli says, “It’s something that feels almost out of your control. <…> You feel like it’s part of who you are and your identity, but it’s also [about] how people perceive you.”

Young people need to understand that everything [they] see on the Internet, on social media, is really contrived and purposeful and in a lot of ways not true, and so they’re making social comparisons to something that isn’t attainable. It’s an unfair comparison and it’s never going to favour you…

Tracy Vaillancourt 

4. Performance pressures

All athletes, from recreational to competitive, deal with challenges around perfectionism, body image or social comparison. For high performance athletes, there are added kinds of pressures to perform, sometimes with limited access to mental health resources.

In my personal journey, I didn’t have free access to mental health professionals until I was performing at a very high level and in the Olympic selection pool. And that’s a bit backwards to me. I think you need to have those resources earlier in your career to cultivate skills to get you to the Olympic level.

Hailey Smith

Person first, athlete second

By adopting a “person first, athlete-second” mentality, sport leaders, coaches, parents and guardians can help athletes navigate mental health challenges, including those brought on by social media. This approach focuses on developing the person first and creating mentally healthy environments for young athletes.

In sport, your body is your instrument. It’s an instrument, not an ornament. Yet we really celebrate the ornamental side in our sector. It’s a lot about performance but it’s also a lot about the visual. So, giving girls and women a new type of language and way to define themselves as an athlete, [using] other performance indicators, like [their] value as a human being: person first, athlete second

Shaunna Taylor

Coaches can use the following strategies to create a “person first” environment for fostering a culture that prioritizes athletes’ mental health: 

As a parent [or guardian] or coach, I think that’s a really important strategy that you can use. When your athletes are vulnerable, that’s when you [particularly] need to treat them like a person.

Hailey Smith

Supporting holistic health in sport

Coach Of Female High School Basketball Team Gives Team TalkAdopting a “person first, athlete second” mindset can help support a holistic approach to athletes’ health and wellness. By being vulnerable and sharing their own experiences with athletes, both coaches and leaders can contribute to humanizing sport.

More widely, organizations can support holistic health by incorporating multi-dimensional models of player development to go beyond physical components into coaching frameworks. An example is the 4‑corner approach in soccer that bridges physical, tactical, psychological, and social or emotional dimensions.

It’s hard to be the best when you don’t feel like you’re the best… If we ignore the social, emotional and psychological, I don’t think we’re going to be producing the best athletes we can.

Tracy Vaillancourt

Emphasizing that athletes are multi-dimensional individuals, Shaunna Taylor says an intersectional approach to athlete health is essential: “All those things are part of who we are. And, we have to find a way to layer that into the sports sector versus homogenizing everyone into a one-size-fits-all [approach], which was the militaristic beginnings of sports.” Spiritual and cultural dimensions should also be part of this approach, as demonstrated by the Indigenous holistic model.  

As Haley Smith concluded, mental health and a holistic approach to athletes’ wellbeing is a deeper investment that pays dividends over the long-term. Although practising a holistic approach can be difficult at times, maintaining this balance can not only encourage athlete well-being, but also drive athletic performance and support athlete longevity. 

My coach just used the motto, ‘You need to be healthy, happy, then running fast’… You can forget about performance if the athlete you have in front of you isn’t holistically [in] good health mentally, physically… There will be moments when you’re pushing the envelope, but overall, you need to come back to that balanced maintenance.

Julie-Anne Staehli 

About the panelists

Find out more about the webinar panelists, access a recording of the Connecting Mind and Movement webinar or learn more about the Engaging Girls and Women in Sport mini-series by visiting the SIRC Expert Webinars page.

About Canadian Women & Sport

Canadian Women & Sport is dedicated to creating an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers girls and women. The aim is to empower them as active participants and leaders, within and through sport. With a focus on systemic change, we partner with sport organizations, governments and leaders to challenge the status quo and build better sport through gender equity.

Women are motivated to take part in golf for many reasons, but the traditional structure, rules, and social etiquette of the game can create barriers to their participation. In the SIRC blog, Lindsay Knowlton, founder of Iron Lady Golf, shares strategies and tips to help golf clubs and organizations create inclusive, welcoming environments for women.

When analyzing the number of “likes” on the Instagram pages of popular women athletes, images that depicted athletic brilliance had the highest like counts. The ability to highlight athletic ability through social media is useful for promoting gender equity in sport and sport media coverage, providing opportunities to combat gender stereotypes surrounding athletes.

On October 7, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) kicked off its 2021-2022 season. After having a season cut short and another cancelled altogether, this season looks different for the OHL. And it isn’t because of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

In June, Taya Currie became the first female athlete drafted to the OHL. Selected in the 14th round by the Sarnia Sting, the 16-year-old goaltender from Parkhill, Ontario, joins the Sting’s 2021-2022 roster. Currie will compete as the only girl in the league.

Undoubtably, Currie’s selection by the Sting is a massive advancement for the league, the sport of ice hockey, and girls and women in sport generally. Although a first for the OHL, girls and women competing exclusively with boys and men isn’t new to hockey. Currie is following the likes of Manon Rhéaume, the first and only woman to play in the NHL, and Shannon Szabados, the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League.

Girl playing flag football At the youth level, girls competing in boys’ leagues happens often and across numerous sports. In fact, for the past 7 years (and for much of her hockey career), Currie had been playing with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, a triple-A boys’ hockey team. Whether it be hockey, soccer, baseball, football or basketball, many youths compete as the only girl on their sports team.

The term ”lone girl” has been used to describe this exact scenario in analyses of children’s sport fiction books (Heinecken, 2015). Girls in sport are often perceived as outsiders because they’re participating in an environment historically dominated by boys (Bevan et al., 2020). Being a lone girl further amplifies this outsider status.

For my master’s thesis, I explored the experiences of lone girls in team sports. I interviewed 14 individuals who had participated in sport as a lone girl and asked them about their experiences. In this blog, I share my findings and propose ways that coaches and organizations can enhance the sport environment for lone girls.

What we know about the lone girl

If you type “lone girls in sport” into Google, you’ll find several newspaper articles and social media posts about girls creating #HERstory competing alongside boys. But on the academic front, there are few studies focused on girls who play in boys’ leagues, and none exploring the lone girl.

girl playing on a boys soccer team

The limited research that has explored girls’ experiences playing on boys’ teams has shown the lone girl often results from limited access to a girls’ team or league (Velija & Malcolm, 2009). In my research, I also found that stereotypes surrounding girls sport and the lack of a clear pathway to professional sport can deter girls from competing in girls’ leagues. For example, girls reported joining a boys’ team because their parents thought the girls’ team wasn’t competitive enough. Or, because the girls themselves believed they would have more opportunities for skill development and access to better resources by playing on boys’ teams.

 Regardless of their motives for competing, lone girls expressed unique challenges to their sport participation. These challenges spanned physical and social spaces, leaving many girls to feel both left out and singled out because of their gender. Lone girls also described feeling pressure to perform, despite facing limited opportunities for advancement in sport.

Left out: The physical space

“Having to change in a different space… it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m on my own.’ I have to walk into the gym alone, from a different door than everyone else, across the court to our bench. It gives everyone an opportunity to notice you. That definitely built up pressure and expectation.”

Phyllis, Basketball

Features of the physical setting created barriers for lone girls to experience quality relations with teammates. For example, having to change in a separate dressing room was isolating and limited opportunities to connect. Girls described missing out on pre- and post-game talks and often processed wins and losses alone. Sometimes, the team would enter the playing field without them, leaving them to enter alone and drawing increased attention to their otherness.

 What coaches can do:

Singled out: The social space

“It was hard to create friendships. There’s this feeling of being completely alone. It felt like no one had the same experience as me. We could go through the same game and I could come out with a completely different experience than one of my guy teammates.”

Denise, Baseball

Girls struggled to develop connections with their teammates because of physical barriers, but also social barriers. Girls expressed having to tolerate gendered “locker room” talk and behaviours. They also frequently experienced interactions like opposing players letting them have the ball or puck, asking for their phone number, players’ parents discussing their desire for her to be cut from the team, and spectator surprise ( “You’re good for a girl!”). Such interactions contributed to a social environment that made them feel uncomfortable and that their abilities and gender couldn’t be mutually exclusive.

 What coaches can do:

Pressure to perform

“Just having the ponytail come out of your helmet, the players, the people watching, people are going to notice and keep an eye on you to see if you’re holding your own, ‘Can the girl keep up, or does she fit the stereotype of not being as good as the boys?’”

Mary-Lou, Football

Girls often felt pressure to perform when they competed. They described feeling like they were representing more than themselves, but all girl athletes. Therefore, they felt they had to put in extra work to not reinforce stereotypes. Engaging in more structured practice (Côté et al., 2007) to prove themselves often led to burnout, injury, and decreased enjoyment in their sport. Despite this, they were denied opportunities to advance in their sport or earn leadership roles because of their gender. They also described missing out on university scholarship opportunities because being in a boys’ league hid them from scouts.

 What coaches can do:

Making #HERstory the norm

While these tips may help to improve sport outcomes for lone girls, it’s easy to see that many of the challenges reported by lone girls stem from old-fashioned stereotypes and expectations of girls and women.

Young girl holding basketballModifying the environment to improve lone girls’ experiences is certainly a start, but clearly bigger change is needed. That is, people of every gender should be given the same opportunities and resources to be able to participate, enjoy and succeed in sport.

Ultimately, we want girls to make #HERstory not because they’ve overcome barriers, but because the barriers have been removed entirely.

“Senior decision-makers in community sport organizations need to create opportunities for program leaders to share their experiences and knowledge. Staff know the barriers and challenges experienced by participants, but those barriers and challenges can persist if insights aren’t filtered up the organizational hierarchy.” – Amina Haggar, a University of Ottawa graduate student, shares insights from her research on the sport experiences of second-generation African Canadian girls.

In a first of its kind report on the status of elite women’s soccer, FIFA has found that the success of a national team is correlated with the proportion of domestic clubs that offer youth programs for girls. For leagues in which 80% of clubs have girls’ programs, the average national team ranking is 13th—compared to an average ranking of 28th for all other countries.

I started playing golf for the hot dogs. As a 14-year-old girl, I wanted to make friends with the other kids at my golf club. My major motivation after 9 holes was celebrating with friends over a hot dog and a chocolate milkshake.

Photo of Lindsay Knowlton, founder of Iron Lady Golf.
Lindsay Knowlton, founder of Iron Lady Golf and member of the PGA of Canada

Flash forward 25 years, and golf is my passion. I’ve played and competed around the world. I’ve also taught more than 10 000 women how to play golf.

Like me, these women are almost always interested in more than learning how to play golf. They learn to be included in their work events or to spend more time with their partners and families. They learn to find new friendships and travel companions, to exercise, spend time in nature or get some fresh air.

Now more than ever, golf is about much more than just the game. Community is the glue that makes golf stick. In this blog, I offer strategies and tips, based on research and my own experiences, to help golf clubs and organizations create inclusive, welcoming environments that help women say “yes” to golf.

More than just a game

Women standing together and smiling on golf course. Members of Iron Lady Golf. My personal experiences have closely mirrored research about the drivers and benefits of women’s golf participation. Research findings largely revolve around the health benefits of exercise through golf and the social aspects of the game. For example, in a recent study, 76% of women cited “exercise and health” and 68% of women reported “socializing with family and friends” as their primary reason for playing golf (The R&A, 2018). Compared to men, women are less likely to be motivated by business networking, tradition or building mastery (McGinnis & Gentry, 2006).

Unfortunately, golf courses aren’t always perceived as welcoming places for women. The game’s structure, rules and social etiquette are often rooted in a male-dominated environment. All that can lead to anxiety and a lack of confidence among women, especially if they’re new to golf (McGinnis & Gentry, 2006). Additional barriers for women, especially those with busy family schedules, include the time commitment and cost of lessons, practice and memberships (Syngenta UK Ltd., 2014).

In my experience, golf communities that work well for women, especially for beginners, are communities where rulebooks and scorecards take a back seat to fun. They’re safe and inclusive environments that allow women to spend time outside with friends and improve their game at the same time. They create a feeling of belonging, places where laughter and discussions about life, work and what to order at the clubhouse are most often heard across the fairway. Following the time on the course, the debrief afterwards is just as important. That is, celebrating with a meal, discussing the day, and maybe even talking about that golf trip the group will take together some day.

Creating welcoming golf spaces

Ensuring that golf courses are welcoming places, where participants feel included, is the most important start for golf clubs and organizations (Sports & Leisure Research Group, 2010; The R&A, 2018). I recommend starting that before potential golfers set foot on the course. That can mean an informational email, phone call, or even better a video meeting to welcome the women. During that welcome, let the women know what they can expect, and how and where to show up to the course.

On the course, I suggest programs start with a meet-and-greet with other golfers and a tour of the golf course and facility. Beyond offering various options for membership and informational packages with advice for new members, research shows that clearly marked directional signage and an opportunity to learn the course layout makes golf more accessible to women (Sports & Leisure Research Group, 2010; The R&A, 2018). Even including a brief session on etiquette and how to find their way around the club can help. Next, move on to skill development to increase their confidence with the game, for example, through structured lessons (The R&A, 2018).

Once they’re comfortable, encourage golfers to head out on the course together, during quieter times of the day. That way they’ll feel less rushed and can enjoy 9 holes. For women, especially those with busy family or work schedules, it’s important to have flexible opportunities, such as family-friendly events or playing fewer than 18 holes (The R&A, 2018, 2019). Lastly, include social components around each program and event to help build fun and community. For example, something like a sip-and-chip event where people can practice golf skills while also connecting with others and enjoying a meal or beverage. That’s the glue to make golf stick.

Growing the game

Group of women golfers smiling and taking a selfie. Members of Iron Lady Golf. Increasing and retaining the number of active women golfers has potential to significantly grow the golf industry. For new golfers and seasoned players alike, golf offers ways to prioritize health and wellness while connecting with others. To help women “say yes” to golf, creating a sense of community is key. Welcome a new community of women to golf, and witness the game grow.

Reflecting on how to create a “fun” atmosphere for girls and young women, a participant in an evaluation of the Keeping Girls in Sport online training commented, “Coaches take this as ‘we have to play games all the time and never push the girls outside of their comfort zone.’ Once girls love a sport, being challenged and competing IS fun to them.” Learn more about the insights from the evaluation project between JumpStart Charities and the University of Alberta.