By the age of 14, girls are twice as likely as boys to drop their sports team or give up an individual sport, effectively hanging up their athletic ambitions.
Olympic cyclist Gillian Carleton, 22, told a crowd of roughly 80 girls, teens and young women gathered Saturday at the University of B.C. that she barely dodged becoming such a statistic herself.
She didn’t have the confidence to stick it out, she said.
But if Carleton had turned away from training, she wouldn’t have the Olympic bronze medal she won at the 2012 London Games in women’s team pursuit.
Speaking at the first Vancouver fundraiser for Fast and Female, an international campaign to encourage girls and young women to play competitive sports, Carleton joined eight other elite athletes including three-time Olympian Nikola Girke, Olympic cyclist Denise Ramsden and Olympic silver-medallist rower Krista Guloien.
According to the U.S. Women’s Foundation, girls who participate in sports have a healthier body image, strong self-esteem and are at less at risk to develop breast cancer.
But girls are less likely than boys the same age to stick with sports for six primary reason, American research shows.
Girls stop playing sports because of a lack of places to play and teams on which to play, prohibitive costs and fewer opportunities specific to girls. Lack of transportation is also a barrier and so is social stigma, the prejudice of a perceived sexual orientation or discriminatory gender limitations.
Girls also drop out of sports because the quality of available play decreases as they age, right when they may be seeking more competitive venues, leagues and opposition.
Finally, the Women’s Foundation points to a lack of role models as one significant reason girls stop playing sports.
Event organizers intend to bring Fast and Female back to Vancouver next year.