Olympic Athletes, Sports Mentors Gear up to Inspire Girls at Penticton Campus
The need for speed should not be defined by gender.
Approximately 100 girls between eight and 13 years will be descending on the Penticton campus of Okanagan College on March 10 to take part in Fast and Female, a free event celebrating female participation in sport and exercise.
“Our goal is for these girls to see that participating in sport and physical activity helps lead to greater confidence and life-long joy,” says Laura Harp, President of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association (PACA) that is sponsoring the event.
Fast and Female began in 2005 by Chandra Crawford, a ski racer from Canmore, Alta., who was inspired by Emily, a girl she babysat. During a conversation between the pair, Emily indicated she wasn’t happy being a girl, because girls didn’t get to do fun things like skateboarding and, instead, have to worry about their appearance all the time.
Crawford teamed up with four-time Olympic athlete and fellow skier Kikkan Randall, to form Fast and Female, which holds activities across Canada and the United States designed to connect girls with female mentors in sport, and have fun. More than 50 events are held in North America each year with ambassadors from 25 different sports, and to date, the non-profit has reached more than 3,000 girls up to 18 years old.
“We are so excited to bring a Fast and Female Champ Chat to Penticton. As a 12-year veteran of Fast and Female, I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact we can have on the girls in our community by introducing them to different sports activities and, most importantly, connecting them with their female athlete heroes,” Randall says. “We know that every girl will benefit from her participation in sports and we want to empower every girl to stay involved in sports for life. I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of the great facilities and expertise at Okanagan College to host this first Penticton event.”
Okanagan College Human Kinetics professor Louise Blais says a visit by Randall to her sports psychology class last fall sparked the idea of bringing the College’s human kinetics curriculum to the community, by connecting female students with the Olympian, local leaders and sports mentors.
“What we teach in human kinetics is about physical activity and health, and a lot of our courses recognize gender differences in these activities,” Blais explains, adding that studies have shown participation numbers of teenage girls in sports decline at a rate six times that of boys at the same age. “Coaches, teachers and other athletes have the opportunity to have an effect on those participation numbers. As they coach females, our goal is that our students will learn the value of life-long exercise for themselves but also other females in their lives."
Invites have gone out to school district staff to encourage registrations, and girls who are in leadership roles or those who perhaps are at-risk of leaving sport are being encouraged to take part.
The day will feature students divided into five groups, which will circulate through a variety of stations designed to showcase the fun of sports: dance, yoga, strength, roller skis and discussions with sports experts, local leaders and high-performance athletes like Randall and Ashley Wiles, three-time Ironman triathlete and founder of Sole Girls.
“Our mission is not to create Olympic athletes out of them, but encourage them to stay in sports and continue with physical activity,” Blais explains.
For information about Fast and Female, check out the non-profit’s website at www.fastandfemale.com.