Guest Blog: We are more together
About the author: Wendy Russell is a hockey coach for Brighton & Hove Hockey Club. In 2015 she was awarded Disability Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards for her work creating the only deaf hockey club in the country (at the time), which involved developing 40 new signs so that she could communicate with her players while coaching. This sign language has now been nationalised so other coaches and teachers can engage with both juniors and adults who have a hearing impairment.
About the blog: Wendy gives her view on Sport England's #ThisGirlCan campaign, and gives some handy tips for other coaches and activators to use to get more women and girls active.
From the start of the 'This Girl Can' campaign back in 2015, I have been inspired to repeat the main line to the girls and women that I coach and teach that "you can".
You can do anything that you want to do. This can be from trying a new sport, to achieving new skills or coaching a team. However the adverts and online resources as standalone tools will not get girls and women active. We have to work together as coaches, teachers, clubs and National Governing Bodies to achieve more.
When creating an environment for girls or women to be physically active there are a number of easy wins a club or coach can do.
- Female only session.
One of the biggest barriers is that women and girls feel and perceive that men are better than them when it comes to sport. So creating this environment means they can let go of that idea, and give it their all.
Women and girls love a natter. And love to be part of a group especially when just starting to play. So make time for this aspect either at the start, or during the season. I let my girls and women's groups use the warm up for a catch up and chat.
- Fun/high quality.
I know this might seem silly and obvious; however in a recent club survey of the girls and women I coach and interact with this is the main reason they come back week in week out.
"Our coach makes everyone feel welcome, regardless of ability and especially to newcomers."
"Plus she has a great sense of humour that makes the session not only enjoyable to go to, but fun development."
You can create a high quality session, with high outcomes and exceptions without being over critical. This is all based on how you give feedback and understand their motivations for coming along. You have to get to know them on an individual level and be interested in them and their development.
- Choice that suits them. Get up and get active when they can.
I know when the campaign first came out many people put on women or girl only sessions. However sometimes this doesn't suit everyone, due to time of the day or even year. Girls don’t like getting hot and sweaty if they have lessons afterwards, or unable to go home and have a shower before going out.
So think about when you’re holding the activity to make sure you get the most out of it. Whilst the national 'Back to Hockey' programme is done in the summer, as this is a nicer time of the year and not as cold, the problem I found was the participants would do the six weeks tranining and then have no hockey club or session to move on to. So would have to wait until the season started in September, which meant a lot lost interest.
So we do a number of options:
- Extend the program so they can keep active and have fun.
- Play games against other back to hockey groups or put these players into our social summer league with existing members of the club. So they get to know more people and feel integrated into the club.
- Promote opportunities.
This is not just about the activity itself, but includes the other benefits of taking part. As I promote team sports. They are fun and social way to get and keep fit, which impacts everything.
Many more young people today have low self-esteem and self-worth issues than ever before, and making sure that you create an environment where they feel safe and able to achieve will impact other aspects of their life.
Social media is very much part of young people's lifestyles, so tap into this when promoting your activity. However the older generation is still word of mouth, so use existing members to promote your sessions via their work place or other social groups and activities they might be part of.
My final tip is to pass on the passion and enthusiasm you have for you sport or physical activity. If you do, they will always come back.
Wendy Russell, Hockey Coach, Brighton and Hove Hockey Club