RECAP: The Return of Sports – Supporting Girls

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

Age-Appropriate Tips to Develop an Athlete Identity

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There’s More Than One Reason Girls Quit Sports 

Click Here

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.

  1. Lack of time: Adolescent girls may have housework responsibilities or take part-time jobs to help with family finances.
  2. Peer pressure: Girls experience peer pressure from friends who don’t participate in sports and want to socialize in others ways.
  3. 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

How to Foster Athlete Identity in Girls

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Tips for Coaching Girls 

Click Here 

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.

Thank you to all participants for sharing your expertise on how to best support girls as they return to sports!


To learn more about MOJO and to download the MOJO app, click here.

To learn more about Coaching Corps, and register for the Coaching with Empathy training, click here.

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Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Benita Vargas-Brown, Volleyball Coach at Hampstead Hill Academy

Benita Vargas-Brown grew up in one of the poorest parts of Baltimore. She always wanted to make a difference in the city, which is why she became a social worker. That same passion eventually led her to coach and mentor kids in sports. Learn more about Benita’s journey in her own words.
How did you become a Coaching Corps coach?
I didn’t go looking for coaching, it found me. I was really stressed with my job and my final semester in undergrad, so my husband said, “You’re really not helping yourself. Why don’t you leave your job, take the semester off, and figure out what you want to do next?” So, I went to a volunteering fair, and that’s when I got to know Coaching Corps. It was destiny: They were looking for a volleyball coach, and I am qualified to coach volleyball. They said they needed a coach for Hampstead Hill Academy, which is literally just a walk away from our home. So, it was really perfect.
Can you tell us more about the challenges that the kids you coach face at school and at home?
When people hear Baltimore, crime and violence are among the usual challenges that come to mind, so it was extra important to keep the kids off the streets. I’ve had to drive some of the girls home so they don’t have to take the bus when it’s dark.
There have also been some differences among the girls. The school is located at Patterson Park, where on one side you have the million-dollar houses, and on the other you have boarded-up houses. So you wind up having kids coming from privileged and underprivileged situations. This created some interesting dynamics within the team that led to some difficult conversations, but we got through it eventually. That’s one of the benefits of team sports. We got this whole learning experience that wound up really positive at the end.
You mentioned something about “interesting team dynamics.” Can you share more about that?
This is actually one of the things I’m proudest [of] about my team. The girls take it upon themselves to address differences within the group. At one point, it became very clear during our practice that something wasn’t right. We were on this championship drive but there was obvious tension within the team. The girls came to me and gathered as a group to talk things through. The fact that they came up with that strategy on their own is really amazing. For me, it meant that we’re doing something right. After that talk, we got back together as a team. I’m so glad we did it because I know for a fact we wouldn’t have won the championship without sorting things out. Everybody makes mistakes. At the end of the day, what’s important is to be there and have each other’s backs.
What changes or improvements did you see in the girls as a result of being on the team?
The most obvious one would be the sense of maturity. To be in a position where you have a responsibility over something, to be able to practice and play, there are expectations. If you didn’t come to practice on Wednesday, you’re not going to play on Thursday: that’s the consequence for skipping practice.  Eventually it wasn’t the consequence that really drove them. It was their commitment.
All my [Coaching Corps] girls who tried out for high school sports made their teams. There are two highly-rated schools in Baltimore, Baltimore Polytechnic institute and Baltimore City College. To get into those schools is every parent’s and kid’s dream. They have great education and high graduation rates, and they don’t tolerate gang-related violence, which creates a safer environment for the kids. Fifteen of the girls from the team got in and played for Poly while 13 went to City. That makes me really happy.
Wow! If there’s one way to describe success and promoting equity, that would be it. With all these experiences, what advice would you give aspiring coaches and mentors for kids?
Show up. You have to be there. You have to be consistent. You can’t cancel on these kids. Over the course of my time, if I know something’s going to come up in my schedule, I plan for an assistant coach to take over. Kids know if you care. You can figure out everything else, there are Youtube videos for that. You just have to show up because these kids expect you to be there for them.
Afterschool Partners


Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida

City of Orlando Athletics

Afterschool Program Partners


JT Dorsey Foundation

Afterschool Program Partners

San Diego

Gompers Preparatory Academy

High Tech High

La Maestra Foundation – Center for Youth Advancement at Generations

The Monarch School

Pro Kids | The First Tee of San Diego

Soccer Kids America

YMCA of San Diego County

Afterschool Program Partners

Los Angeles

A Place Called Home


After School All Stars: Los Angeles

Boys & Girls Club of Venice

Boys & Girls Clubs of Carson

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles

Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica

Boys and Girls Clubs of the LA Harbor

Brotherhood Crusade

City of Huntington Park Department of Parks

East Los Angeles Rising Youth Club

Equitas Academy

Girls on the Run of Los Angeles

Girls Play Los Angeles

ICES Education


L.A.C.E.R. Afterschool Programs

Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine

Los Angeles Rec and Parks

Major League Baseball Youth Academy

Norwalk La Mirada Unified

P.F. Bresee Foundation

Sloane Stephens Foundation

Street Soccer USA: Los Angeles

Team Prime Time

Variety Boys & Girls Club

Watts Rams

YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles

Afterschool Program Partners


Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta: Samuel L. Jones Boys & Girls Club
Afterschool Program Partners


All Dorchester Sports and Leadership

Boston Centers for Youth & Families


Cambridge Community Center

East End House

Oak Square YMCA

Sole Train: Boston Runs Together