Welsh Us Girls champions secure new sporting opportunities for women and girls

Five teams of business-savvy young people from across Wales have secured nearly £80,000 of investment to deliver new physical activity/sporting activity sessions aimed at engaging more women and girls in sport and physical activity.

The teams – who were drawn from LTOs from across Wales – were taking part in a new ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch developed by StreetGames and sponsored by the South East & Mid Wales Collaborative Construction Framework (SEWSCAP). The teams were expected to conduct peer research in their communities about what an attractive sport/physical activity offer looks like to girls and young women, and to create a business plan proposing how to create and deliver a suitable project. All of the teams’ proposals had to meet the same goal – working to increase participation in sport and physical activity amongst women and girls.

Lack of engagement in sport amongst girls and young women age 11-18 is a growing concern. More than 1 million girls who thought of themselves as sporty at primary school lose interest in physical activity as teenagers, according to a new survey by Women in Sport. According to the study, among respondents aged between 11 and 16, just 37% of girls enjoyed physical activity compared with 54% of boys. By age 17 to 18, just three in 10 girls would describe themselves as sporty, compared with six in 10 boys. The business plan for each project had to take this challenge into account, focusing on providing a pathway for women and girls to take part.

In order to secure their requested funding, each team had to put their business plan to the test against a team of ‘Dragons’ consisting of SEWSCAP’s Kevin Shackson and Penny Haywood; and Karen Keohane and Gareth Winmill from StreetGames. Tasked with defending their plans against the experts’ grilling, all of the teams demonstrated that they had a clear plan to deliver for their local communities. In total, nearly £80,000 was handed out across all 5 projects.

Bettws Boys and Girls Club (Bridgend)

As young people who have previously benefitted from StreetGames experiences, Lara, Carrie, Grace and Morgen wanted to be involved in the Us Girls peer research project to increase opportunities for girls to take part in sport and physical activity in Bettws, Bridgend.

The group conducted research in their youth club around what an attractive sporting offer could look like. Their resulting proposal comprised fortnightly sessions at a purpose built facility for girls to learn to dance and cheerlead, and received £19,365.73 of investment from SEWSCAP.

This funding will allow them to transport girls to and from the dance studio on a bi-weekly basis, as well as providing kit, Us Girls/SEWSCAP merchandise and food for all participants to encourage regular attendance. The girls will also all embark on leadership courses to empower them to deliver sessions themselves in their community.

Valleys Gymnastics Academy (Caerphilly)

Valleys Gymnastics Academy (VGA) is a community gymnastics club which regularly provides outreach projects in the local area. The peer researchers, Olivia, Mia, Carys, Charlie and Maddy are athletes, young leaders and coaches within the club who felt it was important to get involved with this project to work towards reducing the gender gap in sport.

Research conducted both at VGA and in the wider community found that girls wanted to be able to choose different activities and have access to a wider variety of sports. The team therefore sought funding to allow them to offer weekly multisport sessions led by fully qualified staff and coaches, and were awarded £10,750.

These weekly sessions are now underway, offering a range of different activities with an emphasis on delivering sports that are male dominated, for example football. The group have also engaged external organisations to deliver sessions and taster days in order to expand the range of options available for girls to take part in, and are upskilling volunteers as part of their project.

Aneurin Leisure (Blaenau Gwent)

As community coaches at Aneurin Leisure, Courtney, Alisha, Chelsea and Elise were keen to get involved with the Us Girls peer research project in Wales.

The team ran a community-wide consultation focused on what girls in the local area would like to see at sport and physical activity sessions. Based on their findings, they put forward a plan to make it easier for participants to make it to sessions by offering transport and delivering sessions in three different areas, which was awarded £15,791.50 in funding.

The team have placed real emphasis on ensuring sessions are participant led, with opportunities for young people to upskill. They are also already making links with partners to make their project sustainable by partnering with the local health board running a wellbeing project in their community.

Powys Youth Service (Powys)

Jazmin, Tia, Caitlin and Jovi are young ambassadors working with Powys Youth Service who were approached to take part in the Us Girls Peer Research project in Wales.

As a group they conducted research in their communities around what an attractive offer could look like for young women and girls in their community. They were awarded £15,000 in funding for their proposal to deliver a girls-only provision project, including food and kit offers, for a year, with the aim of making it sustainable.

Powys Youth Service have now introduced female-only boxing sessions, and given out free swimming passes to young women and girls in Newtown and Welshpool. The team are currently working on creating a training calendar for young people engaged in the project. They also aim to offer alternative provision during school holidays where young people will be able to leave their immediate community and experience other areas and opportunities.

Treharris Boys and Girls Club (Merthyr Tydfil)

As longstanding members of Treharris Boys and Girls Club, Olivia, Elisha and Cadence were encouraged to take part in the Us Girls peer research project. They all regularly attend fitness sessions at the club and are working towards their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh awards.

After conducting research in their communities, they developed an ambitious plan to transform an unused room in their community centre into a purpose-built gym/studio to provide girls-only sessions in addition to regular activities. Their proposal was awarded £16,576 in investment.

Treharris Boys’ and Girls’ Club have now renovated the disused room and turned it into a female-only physical activity room/gym, including mirrored walls for dancing and gym equipment. StreetGames introduced them to Morgan Sindall who were able to undertake the work at no additional cost, and who also donated £2000 towards some gym equipment. The group are already working to make their project sustainable, including generating income by hiring out the space when it is not in use.

The group were awarded the national Engaging Women & Girls Award at StreetGames’ #Inspiration2022 Awards for their innovative project and hard work.

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