In October 2018, with funding provided through the Victorian Government’s Office for Women in Sport & Recreation, Change Our Game Community Activation Grant program, GippSport facilitated a Gippy Girls in Sport Forum.

We invited 41 young women, aged between 14-18, with aspirations to be change makers and future leaders in community sport to share their experiences, work with us and co-design what a supportive and inclusive community sport environment would be for them and their peers.

GippSport is working to build an inclusive sport and recreation sector that supports women and girls to play and be involved in the sports they love in a safe, supportive and empowering environment. The Gippsland community sport sector was experiencing a shift in participation trends –youth women’s competitions were being established AFL, cricket and soccer, three big mainstream sports with a strong traditional male participation base. Alongside this, a significant volume of infrastructure development was starting in our region under the Victorian Government’s Female Friendly Facility’s Fund and at this point, no one had actually asked a group of young women – what is it that you need and are interested in?

The day, facilitated by Dr Erica Randle (Research Fellow, La Trobe University, Centre of Sport & Social Impact), was modelled on Sport Australia’s Youth Participation research project. The exploration centred on the following areas:

What motivates girls to participate in sport and/ or physical activity?

What stops girls from participating in sport/ or physical activity? 

What supports girls to participate in sport and/or physical activity? 

The passion, innovation & contribution from the participants was overwhelming. What came through loud & clear was that for this youth age group, sports clubs become a place where their skills are under scrutiny more so than they were in under 10’s. This is also an age where some players get better, and some don’t, the differences become more noticeable, and what players notice is that they are being ‘graded’ and those with more skill are favoured, and those without skill are ostracised. What these young women want is a supportive environment where they are heard, understood and supported to participate and improve without the pressure of winning. This includes less interaction from parents!

The Gippy Girls then undertook the task of designing, how Gippsland community sport should look to engage & retain girls. This focused on two main areas:

Retention & engagement in junior clubs

Supporting transition from junior to senior clubs

The takeaways from this have informed the ‘Gippsland Game Plan’ a set of guiding principles that GippSport has used in our Sport & Recreation Victoria Together More Active program delivery, as well as underpinning principles in our sport strategic & participation planning work we deliver across the region. These principles are the core elements that will support, retain & engage Gippy Girls in clubs, leagues and associations across Gippsland.

Girls in Sport Forum Report

GippSport has prepared this document to share the key understandings from the forum. GippSport will use the outcomes to inform sporting clubs on recommendations that can be implemented at a community level to make sports clubs more welcoming and accommodating to girls aged between 13 and 15.