Sophie Walker, Clodagh Donohoe and Ava Palmer, are all track and field enthusiasts who represent Newport AC. The girls have undertaken a very important science project in school and are focusing on addressing 'Teenage Dropout in Sport'. The three girls were very curious to assess dropout in sport from primary and secondary school children and determine methods of retainment. The three girls love athletics, from jumps, to sprints and occasionally some cross country.
They value everything athletics has to offer and want to encourage more girls and boys to stay involved in sport! In their own words, they said “We are doing this project because we are teenage girls and athletes, so we relate very much to this project. The three of us would not dream of dropping out of our sport. We are also very interested in finding out why young athletes, especially girls, drop out of sport.”
Speaking about their project, the girls said “Many children participate in sports but during the teenage years the number of teenagers participating in sports drops significantly. We have researched the different reasons why young athletes don’t progress to be senior athletes and why they want to drop out of the sport that they do”.
The girls undertook a significant amount of research, surveying and interviewing more than 149 individuals. Gathering data from their local primary and secondary schools, camogie club, soccer club, and GAA, they hoped to discover the source of this misconception where sport is for children and ensure that teenagers, both boys and girls, continue to progress in their athletic achievements and learn to do sport for fitness and health and not just for competitive reasons. They also interviewed current and former athletes such as Sharlene Mawdsley, Olivia Scully Hahne, Gearoid Hegarty, John Hayes and Ursula Faye who provided advice and lessons learned from participating in sport and physical activity.
Solutions and Advice to Coaches
To combat dropout in sport and retain young athletes in our clubs/schools, Sophie, Clodagh and Ava recommended the following advice to coaches, parents and sport developers.
Solution 1 – Become an informed coach by understanding the reasons why children drop out
The girls said they would be more than happy to share and circulate their own research project to assist all in sport and would encourage coaches to familiarise themselves with current research that addresses the barriers and opportunities for young people in sport. An example of such research would be the Sport Ireland- Get Girls Active and The Children’s Sport Participation & Physical Activity Study 2018. The girls said “With that information the coach might find ways to make the sport more fun like playing games with the children. Understanding that kids can be too busy with schoolwork or ither sports, coaches could offer teenagers support and assist with managing their time better or perhaps if coaches had small groups of athletes, they could ask the teenagers what time training would suit them.”
Solution 2: Assess and address athletes experiences of training
Sophie, Ava and Clodagh highlighted that coaches need to ask the following questions post training. They are currently in the process of the design stage of an app that would assist coaches with their training.
- Was training fun or not?
- Was it hard, easy or in between?
- Was it intense or not intense?
They said an app that would track and monitor the athletes’ experiences of training could combat dropout and fatigue. Depending on the answers, the app would flag the following colours and reveal the athletes’ perceptions of training:
- Green – training is going well, you are having fun, training at a good intensity
- Yellow- training is ok, it might be a small bit too hard or intense or maybe not fun
- Red- training is not fun and it's too hard or intense
Explaining the colour system to athletes and asking them to express the above colours post training would be a recommended method of monitoring training enjoyment, intensity, and load according to the girls.
Through their research, the below table highlights some of the reasons children and teenagers drop out of sport.
Their research highlighted the following reasons that children and teenagers participate in sport:Their research highlighted the following reasons that children and teenagers participate in sport:
- Having friends in sport
- Wanting to be fit and healthy
- Achieving a high level in sport
- Having fun and enjoying the sport
Reasons that children and teenagers drop out of sport:
- There are no facilities nearby
- Coach is too strict
- Their friends drop out
- If they are worn out/ burnout from doing too much training/ too many sports
- Athletes comparing themselves to others or getting bullied
- Athletes can feel under pressure
- Other commitments such as being too busy with exams/other sports etc.
St Abban’s Athletic Club: Women in Sport Profile
St Abban’s Athletic Club is situated in an idyllic, unspoiled, and beautiful part of Ireland, nestled in between the counties of Carlow, Laois, and Kilkenny. Since the club’s foundation in 1955, the club has promoted male and female athletes equally.
However, with the increase in awareness for women in sport, we as a club want to do more. The 20x20 campaign, Her Sport, and the increased support provided by Athletics Ireland has given this more exposure than ever before, and the club now has the platform and opportunity to do more for their female athletes. At St. Abban’s, we continue to grow and evolve, and below we have detailed what we are currently doing for women in sport.
We have formed a sub-committee, and our mission statement is to encourage women of all ages to participate and have fun in our sport, and to feel connected and apart of the community that surrounds them in St. Abban’s. After attending the “Retaining Girls in Sport” workshop, we identified that the retention of girls aged 12-21 in our club is an area where we could make a visible impact.
We will be hosting post session meet ups which will be led by our senior female athletes, and this will offer the younger females a chance to create relationships with those who have navigated successfully through the juvenile ranks. We hope that these events will encourage the young women to stay in the sport, give them an opportunity to talk through any doubts or concerns they are having, and provide insights to the work ethic and dedication of senior club members. We believe that this approach to excellence in sport translates to excellence and satisfaction in our daily lives.
We have also increased the number of female coaches in the club, while highlighting to male coaches the importance of being aware of recent findings which were outlined in the “Retaining Girls in Sport” workshop. We understand the importance of ensuring that St. Abban’s has an inclusive training environment for young women, and our male coaches are committed to doing what is necessary to encourage and understand the needs of our female athletes. Additionally, we plan to deliver a talk to female athletes aged 12-16 in September, and this will be given by the senior females in our club. The talk will discuss issues around health and nutrition, positive body image, puberty, life-sport balance, and the value of sport in enriching our lives.
Long term, St. Abban’s will continue to run additional events and activities, which will foster and increase female participation in the sport at all levels. We want girls to understand that sport is for everyone of all ages, and that it can bring them so much fun, health, and happiness over the course of their lives.
European Athletics Female Leadership Webinar Project
Athletics Ireland are delighted to announce the recent development of our new Gender Leadership Webinar Project as part of a continuous commitment to upskilling future female leaders within the sport.
This course has been developed in conjunction with European Athletics.
Athletics Ireland and Sport Ireland have put in place several educational measures to support women in the development of their leadership skills, such as the Forerunners programme, and The Girls Squad. We want to continue the progress we have made as a federation and offer flexible learning opportunities to our current and future leaders of the sport, which is why we are working in conjunction with European Athletics to solidify our commitment to all our women.
European Athletics hosted a Gender Leadership Moderator seminar to the Member Federations at the end of 2019 which has led to a growing international network of female leaders, ready to deliver Gender Leadership seminars themselves in their respective federations.
15 participating countries are taking part in the project and moderators from the member federations will deliver the material. This is being delivered by Lilly-Ann O’Hora, Women in Sport Officer and 10 participants from Ireland were invited to participate as they were identified as key stakeholders to the federation. The participants involved are current staff members from development to HP, coach developers and tutors, board members, Olympians, current athletes, and emerging practitioners that are actively engaged in our current and future programmes.
Women in Sport Officer, Lilly-Ann O’Hora said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to connect both our current and future leaders of the sport but also an opportunity to begin critical to conversations on how we can align the programmes and services of AAI to support all our members!
“Thanks to the support and guidance of European Athletics, we can truly start a European-wide leadership movement to embrace the involvement of women in athletics.
“There is immense power and opportunity when we gather like this, to learn and collaborate , all with a collective vision to encourage the growth of ourselves and our sport.”