Anyone who has stuck with an athletic pursuit knows the value it brings to life on the field of play and off—even if it’s not played at an “elite” level.
Playing a sport provides obvious physical benefits like improved fitness, flexibility, and strength. We often don’t consider the mental benefits—the feeling of belonging—that we are part of something bigger—but they’re equally important to well-being. Taking part in a sport allows us to learn and grow in ways that we may not even realize.
Keeping girls in sport
At the grassroots level, the number of kids participating in sports are almost even between girls and boys, but as time progresses, girls drop out at a quicker rate, with a drastic uptick during the teenage years.
The statistics are shocking: Only 18 per cent of women 16 to 63 are involved in sport, 62 per cent of Canadian girls don’t participate in any sport, only two per cent of Canadian girls 12 to 17 get enough physical activity to support physical health, and only 28 per cent of Instructor Certified coaches are female.
In fact, one in three girls drops out compared to one in ten boys. How do we change this?
Female representation, mentorship, and resilience
There are many reasons why girls drop out of sports, including lack of time, availability of programs, awareness of sport and opportunities to participate, changing priorities, low confidence, negative body image, perceived lack of skill, and feeling unwelcome. Finding ways to overcome these barriers is why Nikki Carnovale and Rachel Gould decided to start Inspire Through Sport.
As elite-level junior tennis players, they have a perspective on being female in sport that can only come from experiencing it. Both of these women have impressive C.V.s as players, academics, and coaches–and they saw a gap that they knew they could fill.
For many girls, it’s about feeling comfortable; having a sense of belonging, seeing others like them who are playing and coaching, and understanding what sport can provide for them in the future—and that’s exactly what Inspire Through Sport aims to provide through tennis.
Participants learn skills that will enhance life on and off the court, such as goal setting, understanding values, discipline, time-management, self-advocacy, and so much more—all in a safe, friendly, non-competitive environment.
The girls who take part in the Inspire Mentorship Program receive more than instruction—they’re given the opportunity to apply all of these skills through a hands-on experience. Inspire Through Sport is a proud partner of Tennis Canada and Tennis BC. Through this program, Inspire Through Sport delivers the Tennis Canada Instructor Course certification, giving participants the opportunity to kick off their first jobs in tennis.
Through the Inspire Through Sport program, the girls build a network of friends and professionals. They gain skills that will give them an edge in life—you might even call it a head start! Statistics show that girls who participate in sports are more likely to be successful in other aspects of life like academic and career pursuits, and they take on more leadership roles within their communities.
Nikki and Rachel know that a love of the game is not enough to keep girls playing—for many girls, it’s the friendships that are forged that make the difference in choosing to stay in sports. For others, it can be about finding a new path should they choose not to pursue elite-level play. Nikki notes that, “This is a skill-set that can’t be found anywhere else and it’s one that translates to so many parts of life—throughout our lives.”
The pilot-program in BC was a huge success with support from Tennis BC and their Community Support Coordinator, Jeannie Rohr. There are 15 girls in the pilot program that runs for the rest of the year. Out of this first program, many of the girls received their Tennis Canada Instructor certification, landed jobs and had unique volunteer experiences. One participant was inspired and began a not-for-profit organization!
Participants in the program have gained a network of mentors and opportunities, gained confidence, increased their knowledge, and made friends with peers through tennis.
To find out more, visit their website at www.inspirethroughsport.com and check out the promotional video below:
If you are interested in registering, or know someone who might be, click the link here to sign up directly through the TPA (Tennis Professional Association) website.