By the age of 14, girls drop out of sports twice as often as boys - Donegal Youth Council set out to challenge that.

Young girls of Donegal have said that girls aren’t praised, supported or encouraged enough when it comes to sports, but the importance of girls in sport must not be underestimated, according to the Donegal Youth Council.

Over the past few months the 33 young people who make up the youth council developed a Sports Recognition for Girls Roadshow.  

It was launched officially at the Aura Leisure Centre at the end of April, and was met with great enthusiasm throughout the county as it toured in May reaching over 400 girls from 19 secondary schools.

The roadshow travelled to the Finn Valley Centre, Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, St Catherine’s Vocational School Killybegs and Scoil Mhuire Buncrana and there was similar feedback from everywhere, with the only complaint being that it “wasn’t long enough!”.  

The events gave the girls a chance to try a huge variety of sports such as volleyball, bubble football, martial arts, kickboxing, and Ibop dance, which all proved to be the most popular everywhere. They also got to try touch rugby, gaelic, fun soccer, basketball, athletics, javelin, hip hop dancing, gymnastics, king ball, and yoga.

Preliminary results from the research conducted at the roadshows are already showing interesting emerging trends from the schools.

The majority of participants enjoyed sports and responded overwhelmingly that they would like to see several of the day’s sports in their schools as part of their regular fitness education.  With volleyball, kickboxing, martial arts/self defence coming out on top.

When asked why they think girls participate less in sports than boys many respondents felt that girls aren’t praised, supported or encouraged enough when it comes to sports. Many also felt that girls simply are not good enough, and that sports are more masculine.  

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There was some positive feedback from participants who described having good support and opportunities to take part in sports but there were also many who described having no access to teams or clubs.

This is not just a local issue, but these findings are a reflection of a global issue of girls’ participation in sports.  There is a lot of great work and positive attitudes towards women in sports in Donegal, but it is clear from this research that many girls may still need extra support to overcome other barriers that are preventing them from taking part in sports.  A full report on the results of the project will be released in the coming months.

Reflecting on the success of their recent roadshow Carlyn Maguire, Donegal Youth Council Coordinator shared how “The overall aim of this initiative was to encourage young girls to get involved in sports in their schools and in their communities.  After the event I spoke to the participants and they were really happy to have a girls only event as they felt much more comfortable trying out new sports.”

“The importance of girls taking part in sport must not be underestimated. Taking part in sports is great for both physical and mental health, as well as team and confidence building. There is a sport out there for everyone, so don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you try.”

Sports recognition for girls was voted as a key priority for the 8th Donegal Youth Council at the Agenda Day back in September 2016 by boys and girls from all over the county.   

The aim of the roadshow was to promote more female participation in sports, so that they are more likely to continue playing throughout their lives. It also aims to create a more inclusive environment for girls and for female participation in sports to receive adequate recognition in comparison to their male counterparts.