Over recent years, schemes such as Girls Active and This Girl Can have proven huge successes in inspiring women and girls to play sport, as well as delivering sporting opportunities. A new programme, Stepping Up For Change, has been launched which aims to bring sport to even more young girls.

Developed by the Youth Sport Trust, delivered in partnership with This Girl Can and supported by Women in Sport, the Stepping Up For Change programme takes a long-term approach to engaging girls in sport. Funded by Sport England, it will encourage 14-18 year olds to guide and mentor primary school aged girls to love sport, PE and physical activity.

It is vital girls in their teens are engaged in positive activities with positive role models, particularly sport if possible. Research conducted by Girls Active in 2017 showed that fewer girls place importance on being active as they get older, with only 59% of 11-14-year-olds stating that physical activity is currently ‘an important part of my life’. This becomes even more pronounced when looking at the results for older girls aged 14-16 years (42%).

By the age of seven, girls are already less active than boys and this disparity widens as they move from childhood into adolescence – this is evidenced in our joint research with Women in Sport. We believe that by using the teenage girls already engaged with Girls Active to act as mentors to younger girls and capturing them early by taking the programme into primary schools, this is the best chance we have of teaching girls at a young age the benefits of physical activity and helping them to feel empowered. We truly believe this programme will be the answer to changing the record for girls’ participation and improving their overall wellbeing for good. Wendy Taylor, Development Manager at Youth Sport Trust for Girls Active

Too many girls are missing out on the physical and wellbeing benefits of being active, as well as the life skills that sport helps to develop. Good habits need to be established early so that more girls grow into healthy and happy adults.

Stepping Up For Change will see eight festivals take place across the UK, inviting a select number of Girls Active ‘GLAM’ ambassadors from best practice secondary schools. The girls will receive training from the Youth Sport Trust and inspirational athlete mentors, empowering the GLAMs to then impart this knowledge to feeder primary-aged girls at the event. Each GLAM will be paired with a primary school for the academic year to mentor and support younger girls as they progress.

Girls must be given the opportunity to not only enjoy sport but more broadly to realise their full potential. Sport can empower girls, with self-confidence, with self-esteem and with improved physical and mental well-being. Keep your eye on the Youth Sport Trust website for any further developments and initiatives.

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