A new study, by Nadia Bevan, lead researcher of female sport, provides a series of recommendations that sport clubs can use to attract and retain girls as they enter adolescence.
The study, published in the journal Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise, and Health, is based on focus-group interviews conducted by Bevan with 22 girls playing Australian Football and their parents.
In order to identify ways to support girls to remain engaged in sport, the study examined why girls drop-out, as many do when they enter adolescence, and why others remain engaged.
Consistent with the findings of a landmark review of research by Sport England, the study found a range of participation barriers related to the cultural and behaviour around playing a 'men's sport,' and social pressures to play 'gender appropriate' sports.
The study found the process of attracting and retaining girls was different than the process clubs use to attract/retain boys. Clubs need to adjust and tailor their approaches to attract and retain female athletes. A 'one-sized-fits-all' approach is unlikely to be successful.
The study describes three stages that club leaders should consider when trying to grow and maintain their female sides (shown below). A key finding was that retention and attraction of new players are closely connected. Asking current players to 'share' their stories with others, including friends, or on club-owned social media accounts, was an effective way to attract new players. Importantly, the sharing of stories was also a good way to retain players through instilling pride and ownership around growing the club.
You can read more about the study here.