Encouraging girls to get active

Mount Lilydale Mercy College student Lauren took part in the initial consultation process and enjoyed being listened to in an open discussion about sport. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON. 358287_10

By Mikayla van Loon

Recognising the reduction in how many girls participate in sport once they reach their teen years, Inspiro Community Health is launching a school holiday program to help see those numbers grow.

Girls Get Active aims to encourage young girls between the ages of 12 and 15 or 16 to try something new, whether it be skating, kayaking, dancing, volleyball or circus.

As part of a wider program called Step and Connect, funded by Yarra Ranges Council, Health Promotion Officer Megan McInerney said the focus has been on getting people out and active in their neighbourhoods.

With this third arm of the project highlighting the need for young girls to have a variety of options, Ms McInerney said it has been developed in consultation with young people themselves.

“Lilydale High School did a community consultation survey for us so the girls looked at what they liked about activity, what were the barriers to activity and what motivated them to be more active,” she said.

“Certainly fun and friendship were the two big ones in what motivates them the most and looking at what some of those barriers were, so opportunity is a big one.”

The survey also found financial barriers and the fear of judgement around body image to be high on the list as to why girls fall away from doing sport or physical activity.

“We know that that age group drops out of sport at significant rates really. So the aim of this project is just to encourage girls to see what else is available.

“To see what opportunities are available in their neighbourhood or in your area. Get them to try something different, learn some new skills and have fun with their friends.”

The pop up activities came from the consultation process with the school students and highlighted the need for variety, aside from the traditional or common sports available.

“We went through what was the most popular and selected those and also what was available in Lilydale because we’ve got our beautiful lake, which is an amazing resource and asset for the community to come and just enjoy being active outside,” Ms McInerney said.

With 11 pop up sessions throughout the two week break, with roughly 30 spots per session, Ms McInerney said it’s a first in best dressed situation but hopefully lots of opportunities to try something new.

“We’d love to see as many girls that we can have come along, but it’s certainly open to any girls that are living or going to school in the Yarra Ranges Council area.”

Parental consent forms will need to be signed for girls to participate but Ms McInerney said once signed, they can participate in as many activities as they like as long as numbers allow.

With all the activities being hosted in Lilydale, Ms McInerney said Inspiro tried to make it as accessible as possible, being close to public transport.

“We’re just trying to eliminate as many barriers as we can because often that’s another one, that parents can’t drop the kids off to sport or they’re busy and they’ve got a short amount of time.

“School holidays are probably the same, where parents are working, so we want to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as we can.”

To learn more about the program and sign up to the free activities, go to www.inspiro.org.au/news/step-and-connect-girls-get-active-pop-ups-series/