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Canterbury organisations continue to strive for women's sporting participation

Tomas Rice
Clara Miles playing basketball  Tomas Rice

After a three-year Government strategy, local sporting outfits are carrying on the work that’s been done.

The ‘Strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation’ was launched by the Government in 2018.

It committed 10 million dollars over three years to increase leadership, participation and visibility for women in sport.

Now that the strategy has ended, organisations say they are continuously promoting these values to ensure the ball isn’t dropped.

Sport Canterbury is developing a women and girls' strategy that involves three streams, with one focusing on participation.

Sport Canterbury’s Systems and Priority Populations Manager Nikki Wortelboer says they are driving into their data to understand where the gaps are, what are the opportunities, and who they need to empower and enable.

Although many of the goals were reached within the government strategy, participation remains stagnant in certain areas.

According to the School Sport NZ Representation Census, girls' sporting participation at secondary schools in Canterbury has decreased since the strategy began, from 51% in 2018 to 50% in 2021.

Sport Canterbury’s Insights, Monitoring and Evaluation Lead Rachel Harris said the strategy was obviously made pre-Covid.

"Then Covid hit so there's been a lot of knock-on due to that.

“Involvement in sport at school declined in 2020 due to the lockdowns, and that’s obviously where many kids get their participation opportunities from.

“The participation numbers just haven't recovered to pre-pandemic levels.”

Wortelboer says some of the main barriers behind the stagnant numbers are around confidence, body assurance and uniforms.

“Often the nature of the activity does not meet a number of fundamental needs that the girls want.”

She said the government’s strategy has ‘set the foundation’.

Harris agreed it was a good start and helped put an emphasis on the gaps that are there and why more focus needs to be on girls.

Within Sport Canterbury itself, Nikki said there is double the amount of female leaders to male leaders in a staff leadership role.

Cashmere Technical, the largest football club in the South Island, believe they are actively working at female involvement.

Girls Grade Manager and Women’s Representative on the board, Trudy Hart, said the club had seen an increase in the number of female coaches this season in particular.

“This is a result of encouragement and the role modelling of earlier coaches.”

Hart said many of their team managers were also female.

General Manager of Cashmere Technical, Lisa Young, says the club’s board is 50/50 men and women.

In their youth teams, Cash Tech have added an additional three teams in the past five years, with an additional two senior teams.

Trudy said they were encouraging a real connection between the senior players and the youth junior teams with an Adopt a Team Initiative.

“This gives the younger players role models to aspire to and hopefully keep them playing sport and in our instance football.”

The 2022 winter sporting season kicked off a couple weeks ago.