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Four ways to help your organization engage girls in sports.

We all implicitly understand the value of sports participation — physical health, emotional well-being, life skills and values development. The problem is girls are not enrolling. According to research published by the Aspen Institute in 2020, only one in three girls between the ages of six and 12 are participating in sports. We need to engage our communities and improve enrollment from the early years so girls can reach their full potential through the benefits of sports participation.

Here are four ways to help your organization engage girls in sports:

1. Engage Your Girls

One of the most important aspects of sports participation that will keep girls enrolled is the community it provides. The programming should be fun, engaging and supportive while teaching both the skills and values of sport. Improving the experience for the girls in your community begins with how you prepare your coaches for their role in program delivery.

2. Engage Your Coaches

Offer your coaches the tools for success. Most of your coaches are volunteers. Make their job about the time with their athletes through off-loading their preparation requirements. This is paramount to your program’s success. Providing materials on general coaching methods and sport-specific content that is easy to access and implement will make their commitment more manageable and enjoyable. A better prepared and engaged coach leads to more empowered and committed participants.

3. Engage Your Parents

Girls can only enroll in programming with the support of their parent or guardian. We have found there is a lack of understanding surrounding the benefits of sports participation for young children, especially girls. Develop a communication strategy that educates your community about the various benefits of sports participation and why it’s important to begin while children are young. Make sure there are clear instructions on how to enroll, and present any organizational support that is available to make participation more accessible.

4. Engage Community Members

After creating your educational materials on the importance of sports participation for girls, reach out to influential community members who you believe can help with spreading your message. These can be individuals or organizations in the community who are better able to connect with the families you are looking to reach. Think outside the box — this could be anyone from a key member who you feel has a strong connection to a specific group in your service area, or a group of pediatricians who serve your community. The more people you have engaged in the conversation, the better the message will spread. 

We are one large community working together to improve the lives of girls across the country. You and your organization can help to educate your community, parents and coaches on why it is important to engage girls in sports. Once girls are enrolled it’s our responsibility to provide them with an experience that keeps them coming back so they continue to receive all the benefits sports can provide.

Gia Fruscione

Gia Fruscione is the executive director of Let Her Play, a nonprofit organization focused on getting girls engaged in sports and teaching the values of sports participation.

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