July 30, 2020 3 min read 1 Comment
The physical and psychological benefits of sport are long documented — and even without any research you just can step outside for a walk or a run and understand why it feels so good first-hand (hello endorphins!). Yet by age 14, girls drop out of sport at twice the rate of boys the same age (Women’s Sport Foundation, 2008). That means that many girls are missing out on the leadership and bonding, nevermind physical benefits, of participating in sport.
Fast and Female are here to change that.
“It is really disappointing in 2020 that that's still the statistic and that's why we need organizations like Fast and Female,” explained Morgan Rogers. When Morgan first attended a Fast and Female event at the Nordic Centre in Canmore in 2007, she was only nine-years-old and had no idea that the organisation would change the trajectory of her life for the better. At 23, Morgan is now a cross country ski coach pursuing a masters in sports psychology at the University of Calgary while working with Fast and Female as a Development Coordinator.
A key feature of the Fast and Female model that changed Morgan’s life and continues to affect many young girls who get involved with the organisation are the R.E.A.L. role models (Relatable Empowered Active Leaders) that come to the events. The strong women — like female firefighters or Olympians, including Fast and Female founder, Chandra, work with the girls in groups while introducing them to different physical activities like skiing, lacrosse or even wheelchair basketball. Those activities are paired with curriculum modules developed by psychologists to help nurture skills in leadership and positive thinking. You go girl!
While Morgan was always driven by physically activity, her passion for empowering girls through sport came to the forefront a couple of years ago, after she experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. “Having to deal with that — seeing that some people do still have these negative perspectives of women and also just realising that I had to manage the stress that came along with that … What I was really into was the ability to go for a run for stress relief, and talk to my friends, and all of those skills I developed through sport,” she said. “[I was] engaging in healthy ways of coping with my stress because I had learned those skills through sports.” The friends Morgan was confiding in? She also met them through playing sports, and they still play together now.
There are many barriers when it comes to women in sport, including lack of opportunity, either financially or parents being unable to bring you to practice, but when it comes to young girls, confidence, or lack thereof, is huge, Morgan emphasized. “Lots of girls are lacking confidence in their ability specific to sport — or body image related confidence, that's a really big one.”
That’s something that Chandra, who founded Fast and Female in 2005, before she would go on to become an Olympic gold medalist, has lived through personally. “One of the tougher [experiences] was a phase when the national ski team was male-dominated and just the way the guys spoke about women led me to treat myself differently,” she explained. “There simply weren't enough females present on the road with us (elite ski racers travels constantly 11 months of the year for training camps and on the international race circuit) to keep the everyday chauvinism in check.”
After spending so much time hearing conversations that objectify women and the anti-female language of "just-joking" homophobia, Chandra found herself trapped in self-limiting thoughts like “I'm not thin enough to be lovable.” The now mother of three developed bulimia for a year in her late 20s. “I was shocked at how my strong foundation of self-esteem and awareness of these body image issues (I'd already been leading Fast and Female for 7 years at that point) could actually crumble under the extreme stress and pressure of that time.” Through work with psychologists, antidepressants and reading on Buddhism, Chandra was able to get her life back.
“There definitely are still some issues around gender equity in sport,” says Morgan, informing Rocky that the latest statistics from the Rally Report say that 1 in 3 girls drop out of sport compared to 1 in 10 boys. By providing young girls with those strong female role models, creating social belonging and prioritizing health, Fast and Female’s calls to action, the charity is doing its part to help change those statistics and give girls the foundation to become the strong women they are meant to be. And Rocky is so proud to be an ongoing supporter of Fast & Female.
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