Girls Got Game
I don't know about you but for the past two weeks I have been absolutely glued to the Olympics. I have always loved watching the Olympics (and maybe still have a scrapbook I made during the 1998 Nagano Olympics) but now having worked in the sport world, I feel I have such a better understanding of the hard work and dedication it takes the athletes, coaches and support staff to get to such a high level of performance. Having personal connections to some of the Canadian athletes and staff has made it even more exciting to watch!
As we gear up for a big game tonight (you know which one I'm talking about!), I can't help but think about some of the important lessons sport has provided me; self-esteem, teamwork, leadership, organization not to mention all of the health benefits! I have had the privilege to work with several national sport organizations and I always find that the individuals are not only phenomenal athletes but more so phenomenal people.
Through Hockey Canada's Women's High Performance Team, I have been introduced to The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS). The CAAWS organization "educates, promotes and collaborates to support a sport and physical activity system in which girls and women are actively engaged." Looking at the results of the Olympics today you would think that women are dominating the sport scene but, it's been an uphill battle to the top of the podium in PyeongChang. Whether it be opportunity, funding or media coverage there is a huge gender bias in the sport world. Here are just a few statistics surrounding girls and women in sport:
- 41% of girls age 3-17 don't participate in sport
- One out of every two girls give up sport when they hit puberty and these numbers worsen dramatically between ages 12-17.
- Nine out of 10 girls fail to meet Canadian exercise guidelines by the time they graduate high school
- 84% of adult women do not participate in sport
- By 10 years of age, if a girl has yet to participate in sports, there is only a 10% chance that she will be physically active as an adult
- Only 38% of senior staff in national and/or multi-sport organizations are women
- In 2014, only 4% of sports programming on Canada’s national sports networks featured women’s sport (yes, that was an Olympic year!)
I'm not going to pretend I have an answer to this but certainly these statistics should be concerning to us all. Sure, progress has been made but we clearly have a long way to go. 2018 has already proven to be a watershed moment for women and hopefully that can continue in the sport world. Even just being aware of these statistics has helped me ensure I continue to support and encourage the young female athletes I work with.
One of the small things that I did this year was sponsor a local young female hockey and soccer superstar, Ella! Ella Willoughby is my kind of girl- she is one of only two girls who play for the London Nationals, a Minor Peewee Hockey Team here in London. When not playing hockey, Ella is active with both indoor and outdoor soccer and my job is to keep her going! Below is a little Q&A we did back in the fall.
What is it about hockey and soccer that you love so much?
I like to compete. My teammates are a bit like me so it’s fun to hang out with them. I stay very fit from my activities. Finally, I like to set goals and then achieve them.
Who is your favourite female athlete and why?
Shannon Szabados who is currently a goalie for Team Canada. She played hockey with the boys (like me) in the NHL and in men’s professional hockey. She was the first woman to record a shutout in men’s professional hockey league
How do you feel about playing on a “boys” hockey team? What do you like? Is there anything you don’t like?
I have been playing with boys my whole life. They are my hockey friends that I have grown up with. I have no idea what it would be like to play on a girl's team. I like the challenge of the hard shots from the boys. One thing I don’t like is that I feel disconnected from the fun and team bonding in the change room because I change in my own room.
What is your favourite sport memory?
My favourite memory is a funny one. My team was at a tournament and we got stuck in the change room because the lock on the door broke. The whole team had to hide in the showers while one of the dads broke down the door with a sledgehammer. It took him about ten minutes to get us out. Everyone cheered when he finally got us out.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
I want to be a veterinarian because I love helping and working with animals. We have fostered kittens and I currently volunteer at a cat shelter.
I know that Ella as well as many other young women will be so inspired after watching the Olympics in PyeongChang and hope that we can all do our part in continuing to encourage participation and celebration of women in sport. Please check out the important work that CAAWS and organizations like FitSpirit are doing in Canada and be sure to find your own way to encourage the girls and women in your life to keep active and push their boundaries! Tune in tonight as the Canadian women take on the USA in the gold medal hockey final (11:10pm EST) and still to go over the next few days is women's figure skating, biathlon, big air snowboarding, ski cross and short track speed skating events- make sure to check them out!