Hayley Degaust is on a mission to keep girls on track. For the former University of Alberta track and field runner, it’s personal.
“I was a fast runner. It came naturally for me. I didn’t do anything official in terms of training. Then I hit junior high and all of a sudden I had to work a lot harder to have the same results I once had and then people started talking about: ‘You’re gaining weight. Is that okay?'” Degaust said.
“Through my running career I was able to train quite a bit to face those issues and to still be successful but I had to work quite a bit harder than I once did.”
Around that time, her girlfriends quit running because their passion waned or they didn’t want to commit the time. It’s a common occurrence for female athletes in adolescence. According to the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, girls’ participation rate in sports drops by 22 per cent as they reach the teen years.
READ MORE: Girls struggle to play sports longer
A University of Toronto study found self-consciousness related to body image was one of the main reasons teens quit sports as their bodies were changing.
“This also affords them the ability to have conversations about how their body is growing and developing and how… they might not be running as fast as they used to but that’s okay and it’s still great to participate.”
Ever Active Schools provincial projects coordinator Katie Mahon says they’re starting as young as kindergarten to encourage girls’ participation.
“We know that girls as young as seven are reporting far lesser confidence in participating in sport and physical activity compared to boys,” Mahons said.
“We’re hoping that this program creates a space, an environment, where girls feel safe to explore physical activity in sport in order to then develop fundamental movement skills, to become physically literate, to develop those skills that then translate into a confidence in participating.”
For an in-depth discussion about why girls drop out of sports, listen to the “Family Matters with Laurel Gregory” podcast Oct. 27 on iTunes or Google Play.