Three-time Olympic ice skating champion Tessa Virtue has taken on a new leadership role in hopes of encouraging young girls to enrol and stay in sports. FitSpirit is national program founded by Claudine Labelle – a former cyclist whose Olympic dreams were halted after a car accident – with official ambassador Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. FitSpirit involves a mentoring program for young female athletes to access, in hopes of ameliorating some of the challenges young female athletes face regarding sport participation. Western Mustang’s softball captain, Claire Linton, is also involved in the program, asserting that the pressure young girls feel to avoid sports which are not socially considered feminine enough as “heartbreaking”. Sustaining sport participation throughout the life course of young girls is a complex problem.
Research has shown some interesting differences among male and female sport participation cessation. Young women were more likely than young men to believe that adulthood is incompatible with sport participation. Gendered norms around “growing up” meant that women were more likely to assign sport participation as being a lower priority in their lives. It was also found that young men were more likely to give higher priority to sport participation during the transition to adulthood, even when it failed to have a direct link to the participant’s future career.
Coakley and White’s findings support the need for programs such as FitSpirit, to sustain sports participation among girls.