Last week, the Canadian Women & Sport and E-Alliance released a study that found one in four girls who took part in a sport prior to COVID-19 will not be returning. That means as many as 350,000 young women across the country will no longer be getting the fun and benefit of participating in sports, and that’s something the Federal government wants to stop from happening. Naturally, this story has a Guelph angle.
In an announcement Thursday morning, Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport) Adam van Koeverden announced $196,270 for a new program from Guelph Soccer. The “She’s Got Game – She Can Coach” project will aim to promote women and girls in sport by creating more opportunities for women to take up leadership roles in soccer, and develop more role models that will then encourage more girls to get in the game.
The money is courtesy of the Federal government’s Sport Support Program – Innovation Initiative, which was launched in February 2019.
“Sport participation for girls and women aged 15 and older has been declining steadily in Canada for the past 30 years, from more than 50 per cent in 1992 to 35 per cent in 2010, and down to only 18 per cent in 2020,” said van Koeverden, who himself has won four medals across three Summer Olympic games for kayaking.
“By late adolescence, the dropout rate for girls in sport is one-in-three, compared to only one-in-10 for boys. Girls and women report more barriers to sport throughout their lives than men do, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made this worse,” van Koeverden added.
A.C. Lang, the assistant coach of the Guelph Union Club, recalled how she played for 20 years without ever having a female coach, and how the further she advanced in soccer growing up, the less she would see other girls taking part. Lang said that by the time she was 16, the only all-girl team she could take part in was based in Toronto.
“For me personally, I did not consider coaching at all throughout any of my teen years, someone had to actively bring it up to me, to suggest that I would be a good coach, and that’s when I started considering it,” Lang said. “I think that really comes down to the fact that I did not see any female role models in my environment that were coaches, I didn’t even see many female athletes on TV. Athletics is unfortunately still lagging behind society, and that’s something that needs to be changed.”
“There are so many parallels between soccer and and other things,” added Longfield. “Women in politics are in a very similar situation in that you actively have to engage women to enter politics where as men will sign up just because they think they can do it. Women need to know they’re valued on all levels of society, and this is going to help with the larger issues off the soccer pitch.”
A portion of the money from the Government of Canada will go to covering the coasts of the certification process for new female coaches, including efforts to recruit, train, and engage with young women and get them into coaching. Another portion of the money will go to data collection and creating a framework to examine that data in order to measure their progress.
“Our purpose here is to really diversifying the leadership of our organization and making sure that our coaches and adults in leadership roles are actually representative of the community that we serve,” said Sara Orrell, the executive director of Guelph Soccer. “We looked at some of our statistics in terms of what percentage of coaches are women versus men and we were looking at something like 75 per cent men and 25 per cent women. If our player ratio is 60 per cent boys and 40 per cent girls then we already know that we aren’t representing those that we’re serving.”