Males and females are different, both physically and emotionally. This is true at all ages and therefore the question must be asked; are we doing enough to cater for both genders when it comes to sport? The 2018 New Zealand Secondary School Sport Council (NZSSSC) Census found only 46 per cent of secondary school girls in the Bay of Plenty have meaningful involvement with a school sport programme. At all levels, the factors motivating girls to get involved in sport generally differ to those of boys of the same age. Sports reporter David Beck delves further into the issue.
Less than half of the secondary school girls in the Bay of Plenty have meaningful involvement with a school sport programme as opposed to 52 per cent of boys in the same region.
As with anything we do, participation in sport comes down to barriers versus motivation.
Society has come a long way in the last few decades. Young girls are no longer expected to stick to playing certain sports - their options are numerous and varied.
What this means is we can no longer take a one size fits all approach to administrating sport because what encourages boys to get involved may in fact be a barrier for girls.
Recognise there is a difference
Sport Bay of Plenty communication and operations manager Melanie Short said the main factors which motivated girls were the opportunities to socialise, to be with and make friends, fitness and health benefits, and having fun.
"A larger percentage of boys have a tendency towards competitive opportunities and enjoy the thrill of competing. Girls in the face of adversity or tough times tend to not be as resilient or perceive the losses, de-selection as a negative aspect of competing.
"Therefore, we see more mentions of competing with others as a motivator for participation in boys than we do in girls."
Short said it was vital for coaches and administrators to recognise that boys and girls approach sport differently.
"The key thing to do in order to ensure a positive experience for any athlete, regardless of gender, is to ask their athletes why they play the sport or what they enjoy the most about the physical activity they are doing.
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"The responses to these questions could be different between genders or even ages or from team to team, individual to individual. They then need to make conscious efforts to try and meet that need of each team or athlete – this is an approach called being 'athlete-centred'."
The key thing to do in order to ensure a positive experience for any athlete, regardless of gender, is to ask their athletes why they play the sport or what they enjoy the most about the physical activity they are doing.
Tauranga Girls' College director of sport Kaye Barnett agreed the social side of sport was a big motivator, saying in her experience girls enjoyed the opportunity to join a team, either with their friends or to meet new people.
"I think high school, especially Tauranga Girls' College, gives such a wide range of sports for girls to participate in. We do follow the trend [of the NZSSSC Census] but we find those who do participate often participate in a lot of different sports.
"We are concerned still about meeting the needs of those who are not participating in organised sport. Those stats are on organised, regular sport, not your lunchtime sport or recreational type stuff."
Barnett said the school had student-led initiatives such as 'Netball Week' which not only encouraged students to give sport a go but also provided those organising the events an opportunity to develop their leadership skills.
"Sport and certainly where you have to interact with others teaches the girls lots and lots of different skills. That's why the school puts money and resources into providing opportunities for our students because it's a great way to develop those interpersonal skills and benefits their health as well."
Nurturing positive experiences from a young age
Lake City children's athletics convener Kelly Albrecht, a mother of five herself, said even at the junior level there was a clear difference in motivation between boys and girls.
"I feel like the girls are just as competitive as the boys but their motivation comes from within rather than each other. Rather than trying to beat the person next to them, they're more competitive within - they say 'I want to do better for myself and be better than I was.
"A girl tends to push herself based on her own abilities and what she wants to achieve, whereas a boy will push themselves based on their best friend's performance and wanting to beat them."
Albrecht said girls' desire to improve and perform better often made them easier to coach than boys.
"Often with boys it's all about the macho, wanting to be the best and look the best. The girls want to learn more, they want to be coached more, they want to find out how things work and why things work that way so they can do better at it."
Creating an environment which supports all
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's women's rugby development officer Kendra Reynolds also plays rugby herself for Rangiuru and the Bay of Plenty Volcanix.
In her role she is always looking at ways of getting more women playing rugby and said it was important to remember motivation varies not just between genders but between different women as well.
"[At the senior level] it's different for different people. The athletes crossing over from pretty high performance environments in other codes ... we find they are seeing the pathway to the black jersey as quite enticing, that's one way.
"The other way is ladies who just want to have fun with their friends. I don't necessarily know if our current model really supports that but we've got some ideas for next year about how we can really focus on the fun and development aspect."
She said holding girls only events was helping increase participation at a junior level.
"I had a neat story from one of the mums of one of our junior girls. She plays with the boys in the weekend and has forever been put out on the wing. She's been coming to our girls only programme and been getting stuck in, in the middle of the paddock.
"She actually walked up to her club coach and said 'coach, can you please put me in at halfback?' She'd never had that confidence before to get off the wing, so that was really cool.
"In terms of what we're trying to implement to get more girls playing, we try to keep things fun - more of a rock up and play style than too much of a focus on winning."
What is being done already?
Sport Bay of Plenty have a number of initiatives in place to help bridge the gap and get more girls active.
Short said the organisation had been holding focus groups with teenage girls during the last 18 months to get a true perspective of what encouraged them to participate.
"We want these groups to lead us into ideas that might increase motivation for teenage girls participation in play, active recreation and or formal or informal sport.
"In the school sport area we have several girls only events such as the WBOP girls cricket day, EBOP girls future ferns rugby day, and WBOP girls playing sport day. These are growing in participation because the emphasis is on inclusion, enhancing and learning skills, and fun - as opposed to winning a tournament.
"By having the absence of boys, girls can feel more comfortable to give maximum effort and have a go without the pressure of being watched or judged by the boys."
Tips for providing girls with a positive experience in sport
- Praise effort and courage.
- Connect with players and teams. Understand the motivations of why they play and continue to supply that. Ask frequently as these can change over time, then adapt with them.
- Empower them to help shape the environment, let them make some of the decisions.
- Lots of play and game time. This is usually the most fun thing for all children so limit instruction and standing around.
- Change it up, don't do the same things over and over – variety will keep things interesting.
- Seasonal planning - what are the other commitments? Find out before setting training times.
- Provide women and girls only sessions – safe and secure.
- Keep costs low. Look for ways to have fees or uniform costs minimised, or provide payment options.
- Highlight and recognise girls success in sport equally as boys.