One in four Canadian girls don’t plan to return to sports after COVID-19 pandemic: report

One in four Canadian girls don’t plan to return to sports after COVID-19 pandemic: report

TORONTO —
As recreational facilities reopen across Canada, a new report says that many girls may not be returning to the sports they played before the pandemic.

The report released Tuesday by Canadian Women & Sport, and done in collaboration with E-Alliance and Canadian Jumpstart Charities, looks at sport participation among girls between the ages of six and 18, and the impact that the pandemic has had on them.

Data gathered between March and May 2021 shows that girls’ interest in returning to sports after the pandemic was low – particularly among those who did not participate in sports as frequently. One in four girls in Canada who participated in sports at least once a week before the pandemic are now hesitant about returning to it, a survey of 5,000 families has found.

“If realized, this equates to potentially more than 350,000 Canadian girls not returning to sport,” the report concluded.

Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, CEO of Canadian Women & Sport, said that it’s important to understand what girls need and want in sports programs in order to encourage participation as things open up.

“In order to really engage them and serve them effectively in sport, we need to understand what they need and what their interests are, and to really meet those needs and interests through the design of the sport experience,” Sandmeyer-Graves told CTVNews.ca Wednesday. “We need to be really deliberate in re-engaging them, and that means ensuring that it reflects who they are and what they need, and really deliver on that value proposition.”

Girls who participated in the survey also reported that the decreased amount of time playing sports during the pandemic caused a negative impact on their mental and physical health, as well as their social interactions with others.

And, with the pandemic, some of the barriers that girls reported facing prior to COVID-19 have become even more challenging for them, such as the access they have to quality programs and a lack of confidence.

“By not having access to sport for over a year now, barriers have gone up,” said Sandmeyer-Graves. “Their sense of confidence in their skills, in their bodies, and their body shapes – their perception of their bodies is worse than it was.”

BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS

For girls between the ages of six and 12, about 69 per cent of those surveyed stopped their participation in organized sport activities during the pandemic, and nearly 24 per cent reported less participation. Similarly, among girls between the ages of 13 and 18, approximately 68 per cent stopped participating in sports during the pandemic and almost 26 per cent participated less.

The data shows that a total of 93 per cent of girls between the ages of six to 18 stopped participating in sports or decreased their participation in sport during the pandemic.

From a survey conducted in June 2020, the data also shows that weekly sport participation among girls and women declined as they got older.

“Girls drop out of sport in those adolescent years at over three times the rate of boys, and so that really tells you that there’s something very gendered about the way that sport is unfolding in this country,” said Sandmeyer-Graves, explaining that it’s important to constantly think of what motivates girls.

Sandmeyer-Graves said “it’s not too late” to encourage those who said they would not be returning to sports.

“Girls are still in a moment of deciding whether or not to come back to sport in part because sport is not yet fully available to them,” she said. “Let’s influence that moment of decision in really positive ways by making sure that what we’re offering really makes sense for girls… to really understand again what motivates them, what makes them tick, and what they’d like to see out of their sport experience.”



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