Experts address issues around keeping girls in sport

Photo contributed Vicki Harber is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta from the Faculty of Physical Education Recreation and one of several panelists who has been invited to speak at Coach House in the Athlete’s Village at the Games.

Vicki Harber is hoping to make an impact outside the lines at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Harber, who has a PhD, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta from the Faculty of Physical Education & Recreation and one of several panelists who has been invited to speak at Coach House in the Athlete’s Village at the Games.

Along with former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, the duo discussed keeping girls in sport and recognizing women who coach in their Monday night fireside chat.

Harber, who is helping shape athlete development programs for young females across Canada was also here last week as part of the panel put on by the Coaching Association of Canada during Week one. She said the focus inevitably shifted to what the research is saying about how to keep girls involved in sport between the ages of 12 to 16.

Research on the topic is plentiful, she noted sometimes it can be as simple as finding a mentor, whether it is an adult or even an older student.

Another major factor in the dropout rate, or even getting girls involved in the first place is the notion sport is only for high-level competition. Harber said the community building aspect of sport is sometimes overlooked in our ultra-competitive society. When in reality, it could be a place for us to focus our attention if we want to keep young athletes involved longer.

“I think sport has lost its way a little bit, particularly community sport. Around making it more than just the high-performance pathway,” Harber said.

“We get extremely fixated on excellence at way too young an age. Girls in particular, because of some of their social circumstances – if they don’t feel like they’re a star performer, why the heck would they put themselves in that situation to begin with.”

That all is affected by coaching, which Harber noted is an important piece of the conversation as well. Not just high-level, elite coaches who push athletes to the podium, but ones who stress team and community building, hard work and dedication at all levels. That will help make better coaches down the road, but also younger mentors in sport for their peers.

“If they’ve had quality experiences and a coach that can help them feel a sense of belonging and this value piece. Not every athlete is going to be able to wear red and white or provincial colours. How can a coach create a culture that everyone can contribute?” Harber asked.

“We’ve heard stories along the way about athletes who haven’t made it into those higher levels of performance, but because of a wise coach will say, ‘I think you’ve got a really good eye for the game or you’ve got strong communication style, have you ever thought of coaching?’ ”

In the end, the conversations around sport, good and bad, are helping organizations, coaches and athletes alike. Advancing the conversation forward in order to push the boundaries about making sports a better place for everyone, is as important as the lessons learned along the way.

“The more we have conversations about it, I think the more normalized the whole thing becomes. We’re in some lightning rod times with various issues around sport and treatment of girls and young athletes,” she said.

“There’s no shortage of areas in which we can create dialogue over and as long as they are approached with some open minds, we can’t help but make things better.”



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment minister reconsidering decision to stay out of Alberta coal-mine review

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is reconsidering a decision in December… Continue reading

Experts say Twitter breach troubling, undermines trust

HONG KONG — A breach in Twitter’s security that allowed hackers to… Continue reading

Walmart latest retailer to require customers to wear masks

NEW YORK — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at… Continue reading

Commons finance committee to begin probing WE Charity’s volunteering contract

OTTAWA — The first of multiple parliamentary investigations of the federal government’s… Continue reading

Active number of COVID cases rises to 61 in central zone

Cases increased by 13 over the past 24 hours

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Opinion: Worst of COVID has passed, but it’s not business as usual

We are entering the euphoria stage of the pandemic economy — surging… Continue reading

Opinion: Teachers have advice on how to safety reopen schools

With Canada Day well behind us, summer is officially underway. But even… Continue reading

Winger Liam Kay, the Wolfpack’s first-ever player signing, leaves for Wakefield

Winger Liam Kay, the Toronto Wolfpack’s leading try-scorer and first-ever signing, has… Continue reading

Canada’s Jordan Mein returns to action with Bellator later this month

LOS ANGELES — Canadian welterweight Jordan (Young Gun) Mein will make his… Continue reading

Megan Thee Stallion says she was shot, expects to recover

LOS ANGELES — Rapper Megan Thee Stallion said Wednesday that she was… Continue reading

Colville painting shatters sales record at auctions with strong bidding results

TORONTO — A painting by Alex Colville shattered a price record for… Continue reading

Bank of Canada holds rate, forecasts decline in GDP of 7.8% this year

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada will keep its key interest rate… Continue reading

Alberta escalates pay fight with doctors, asks regulatory college to intervene

EDMONTON — Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro is escalating his pay dispute… Continue reading

Most Read