Young women are finding their voice when it comes to physical activity and they’re making it clear that they want to be able to move their bodies – in their own way.
Research shows that young women want to have fun with their friends in supportive environments that are free from judgment, pressure and expectations.
That’s why Sport NZ has launched #itsmymove – an initiative that encourages and empowers young women to be active, in their own way.
And as they move towards more fun and flexible options, sports and recreation providers are coming up with new and innovative ways to engage with them.
This is exactly where the conversation should be heading, says Matthew Cooper, CEO of Sport Waikato. He says that with women’s participation in sport decreasing more and more during adolescence, it’s time for a new approach.
“I think it’s because we haven’t listened to them and given them the chance to talk about what they want,” he says. “We cannot expect women to simply fit into the model of sport and physical activity that we currently have. We need to tailor the offerings to meet their needs.”
Sport Waikato responded with This is ME, an initiative that encourages and supports women and girls of all ages to be active in their own way and inspires organizations to provide a range of relevant, inclusive and fun physical activity options.
“It’s a huge mindset shift,” says Matthew. “It’s not about prescribing what young women should do. Ultimately, it’s about listening and asking for what they want, and adapting the options to that.”
* Five great ways to stay active – your way
* The importance of staying active for mental well-being
* Let’s hear it for girls
* Why young women aren’t as active and what we can do about it
That’s exactly what Backyard Smash is, an annual event in Seddon Park organized by Northern Districts Cricket and Sport Waikato. By removing traditional barriers such as long days in the field, a strict uniform code and fast-paced bowling, the event is all about trying your hand in a welcoming and inclusive environment, with an emphasis on fun.
“It’s an example of looking at a traditional sport and really unpacking it,” says Matthew.
Golf is another traditional sport that is taking a new approach to understanding its appeal to women.
Women make up just 21% of total club membership and 17% of junior club membership, and Golf New Zealand’s Head of Participation and Inclusion, Emily Davidson, says the three things women consider as barriers for them are time, cost and having someone to play with.
Golf New Zealand has therefore developed two initiatives to break down these barriers for women.
She Loves Golf is an initiative that provides year-round options for learning and playing, from beginners through to feeling fully confident on the golf course. Future Girls is a girls-only initiative that focuses on the experiences of young women under the age of 19.
Emily says golf has the potential to tick many boxes when it comes to being a sport that appeals to young women.
“When you play golf, you take 10,000 steps, you get to hang out with your friends, and you’ve tried a sport all at the same time. It’s delicious,” she says.
“It’s also a very challenging sport. Before I played, I thought there were just people walking around on a golf course, but there’s something very challenging about hitting a good shot or to get on a driving range and hit some good shots.”
Emily says women who try it often get hooked on the game very quickly, and Golf New Zealand works with clubs across the country to make the game easier to play and more social for them. This includes everything from pay-as-you-go options with beginner or women-only tee times, equipment hire and flexibility around the number of holes played.
Flexibility is behind GirlPowered NZ, a program offered by Girl Guiding New Zealand to help girls and young women build their confidence and discover their passions by trying out a wide range of activities from camping to skateboarding and yoga.
Experience and Commitment of Executive Director Lauren McKinnon says the organization realized that not all girls wanted to participate in regular activities or become members.
“GirlPowered is a flexible way to try out different types of activities that they might not otherwise have been able to try. There’s no commitment. You come to an event and if you like it, great, we’ll be back soon with another event. They may be inspired to join a local club or continue at home. Whatever the activity, the idea is to inspire that continued fun and participation. a way that works for them.
Lauren says the focus is on trying something, laughing with friends and meeting new people.
“Organized sport is not for everyone. Some young women are trying to find their place and what works for them. These social networks that they create outside of school and organized sporting environments make a very big difference in how they see themselves and where they fit.”
To find out more about Sport NZ’s initiative to better support young women in active leisure and sport, visit www.itsmymove.org.nz