On Tuesday, May 25, Coaching Corps partnered with MOJO —an organization that empowers young athletes with the mission to make sports fun for everyone—on a panel discussion for coaches to help get girls back in sports. Amidst the pandemic, girls, especially those who are BIPOC, are facing barriers to re-engagement, such as limited access to sports, shortages of caring, female coaches, and tools to encourage their participation. This webinar featured experts from Coaching Corps, MOJO, and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation to support girls getting back in the game this fall and ensuring that there are strong role models to meet them on the field.
Jordan Ligons, Content and Community Editor at MOJO kicked off the conversation with the panelists:
- Jenny Etnier, PhD, Athletic Advisory Board, MOJO Associate chair of Kinesiology, UNC Greensboro
- Robert Marcus, Director, Government and Community Engagement at Coaching Corps
- Tiffany Rubin, Director, Youth Programs at Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation
Coach Resources for Supporting Girls
Jordan kicked off the discussion with the benefits girls reap from playing sports: experience greater safety, have fewer unplanned pregnancies, less likely to use drugs and do better in school.
Jenny Etnier talked about the three main barriers to girls playing sports and ways to keep girls engaged as they get older.
- Lack of time: Adolescent girls may have housework responsibilities or take part-time jobs to help with family finances.
- Peer pressure: Girls experience peer pressure from friends who don’t participate in sports and want to socialize in others ways.
- Safety: Especially for BIPOC kids who live in areas where it’s not safe in their neighborhoods, safety can be an issue.
Talking about why girls drop out of sports, Jenny said the main reason is that they’re no longer having fun. Modern sports include heavy evaluation and pressure. Making sure sports are fun will help them prioritize sports. Girls also need to have a sense of success at practice – to feel valued, respected and rewarded for their efforts.
“It’s okay to say as a coach that I’m a white person and my view won’t be the same as the Black and brown kids on the team. It doesn’t mean I can’t support you, be here for you, listen to you…we must create a safe space for kids.”
– Jenny Etnier, PhD
Tiffany Rubin talked about the losses of COVID-forced location closures. Not only did kids lose access to sports, but also the social and key development interactions they gain through sports. She highlighted the discrepancies in sports participation in low-income communities: 93% of kids in households with incomes of $150,000 or more play sports while only 68% whose household income is $35,000 do. The statistics show there’s a lot more work to do. This upcoming season, the Dodgers expect to reach 9,000 kids in 75 locations in underserved communities via their Dodger RBI program. They’re partnering with Parks and Recreation to take the competitiveness out of the game, and to expose kids early to their neighborhood recreational spaces. The Dodgers provide uniforms, equipment, health and education resources at no cost. Increasing girls’ participation is a key goal for the Dodgers so they’re strategic about promoting their program to girls-focused schools and organizations to recruit them to the field.
“Research has shown as coaches we naturally give boys very specific feedback but often give general feedback to girls. However, girls want and need specific constructive feedback to improve their skills on and off the field.”
– Robert Marcus, Coaching Corps
Coach Resources for Supporting Girls
Panelists offered solutions to increase girls’ participation in sports.
Rob Marcus talked about the need for more female coaches – they have the lived experience that male coaches don’t. Having a female coach gives girls someone to look up to, emulate and aspire to be. Many girls grow up never having had a female coach, whereas 100% of boys have had a male coach. We must create an equitable space for women to get involved. Rob talked about the devastating period of racial injustice Black and brown communities have felt this past year. Making sure coaches model empathy – listen, understand girls’ perspectives, ask about their lives – is key to supporting them. Make sure coaches create a safe and inclusive environment. Have open and honest conversations with kids about the traumas they bring to the field. Treat them like their identity matters – make them feel seen and heard, and like their voices matter.
Similar to Rob’s comments, Tiffany Rubin named coaches as the frontline of defense. We have to be intentional about coach recruitment. Recruiting coaches who look like the girls and are from their communities shows them relatable role models. Understand that girls are socialized differently than boys. It’s not about changing how to coach their skills, but making space for them to connect with their teammates, and supporting the efforts they make during play. Make sure equipment and uniforms fit the girls so they’re comfortable and feel like an important member of their team who is supported.