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GirlsUnite programme: breaking down barriers to activity for teenage girls

Sophie Garratt, OT, teamed up with the fabulous, Emily Defroand, Great Britain and England Hockey Player, to help teenage girls embrace physical activity and flourish in all aspect of life.

Following on from the success of the #thisgirlcan project in Waltham Forest, Sport For Confidence created GirlsUnite, a 6 week support programme to help teenage girls breakdown barriers associated with participation in physical activity. Content was driven by Occupational Therapist, Sophie Garrartt and delivered in partnership with Emily Defroand, Great Britain and England Hockey Player.

As written in a blog post entitled ‘Changing The Perception of School Sport’ uploaded on to her website and her LinkedIn profile, Emily stated: “Recent data released by Sport England shows that: 1 in 3 children have been less physically active during the Coronavirus pandemic, with 1 in 10 children doing no physical activity at all; as well as only 10% of girls aged 13-16 are meeting the recommended activity levels of 60 minutes for physical activity per day.”

“These findings are worrying. It is no secret that young girls are becoming increasingly less active and less engaged with physical activity than teenage boys of the same age. The benefits that physical activity provides – and those that young people are missing out on – are clear: improved mood; reduced stress; increased self esteem; reduced depression / anxiety; personality skills such as communication and working alongside others. The list is endless. With this in mind, physical activity must be a crucial part of the lifestyles of our younger generation, now more than ever.”

“We live in a time when social media and reality TV have promoted an inaccurate and dangerous ideological for how to live our lives. Social pressures on young people has arguably never been greater. It is evident that too many women and girls are needlessly missing out on the benefits and rewards that sport and physical activity can bring because of negative experiences encountered during their school years. What happens during teenage years is a huge contributor to a lifelong issue preventing some from participating in physical activity.”

“Over the last 6 weeks I have worked alongside Sophie Garratt, an Occupational Therapist from Sport For Confidence to create and deliver the ‘GirlsUnite’ Workshop. Our aim for the Workshop has been to use practical tools and physical activity to help young girls aged 13-16 to excel and flourish in all aspects of their lives. The workshop has provided the girls with a safe environment to share and talk about their experiences and feelings, as well as a chance to build connections and make friends with others who face similar challenges.”

“Each week Sophie created content to focus on individual themes to help young people address these pressures, including: building confidence and self esteem; understanding occupational balance; dealing with peer pressure; dealing with stress; and understanding anxiety. These were all big challenges for me when I was a teenager, and things are no different for young women growing up today.”

“It was a total pleasure to work alongside Sophie throughout the pilot. I personally learnt a lot from her expertise and it was also humbling to see how the participants have increased in confidence over the course of the last 6 weeks.

The pilot took part in ‘Lockdown’. Sophie Garratt, adds: “Actually, lockdown was the perfect time to conduct this pilot because so many teenagers have found themselves occupationally deprived and physically isolated from the support of friends and peers at this time. Providing an opportunity to connect with the outside world and explore some extremely sensitive topics in a protected, safe environment has been a welcome focus for all involved.”

Following the success of this pilot, Sport For Confidence has ambitions to further develop the programme, potentially partnering with other elite sports men and women, to help many more teenage girls break down the barriers which inhibit involvement in physical activity.

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