About Strong Girls
Strong Girls is a sport and outdoor adventure program that empowers and promotes physical and emotional well-being in teenage girls. This Program offers sport to girls in an entirely new way, breaking the norms and stereotypes which have dominated school and club sports for so long. Simply put, Strong Girls supports girls in growing from their experience of sport, doing so in diverse ways with lifelong benefits.
By implementing this innovative Program girls are supported in developing the skills and agency to go after their goals, and be active in their society. Not only does this Program encourage girls to be more active: the skills that they learn through sport and physical activity translate into all other areas of their lives.
Girls complete a Strong Girls course not only with new physical skills and a greater interest in being active and taking part in sport, but they also gain new emotional and relational skills. They gain new competencies in setting goals, reflecting on their opinions, overcoming fears, communicating, maintaining boundaries and other lifelong skills. In addition to all the benefits that regular sport and physical activity can support, Strong Girls walk away from this Program with a better sense of who they are, and of how to use their innate strengths in all areas of life.
Every girl is born with unlimited potential. With increased educational opportunities and recognition that their voices count, girls and young women have more opportunity than ever to be innovators and change leaders, contributing to building a safe and sustainable world. Yet girls and young women still face many obstacles to realising their potential. For many girls today, their drive and motivation can be accompanied by relentless self-criticism and an acute fear of failure or of not being enough.
Though girls and young women have never been more “successful” in school, research shows that many are really struggling in life. Girls growing up in today's society lack many of the skills needed to truly navigate in their own lives, make choices for themselves, and build healthy relationships with others. Many are anxious and overwhelmed, feeling that no matter how hard they try, they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, popular enough, or for some perhaps, sporty enough.
Exercise in particular has been shown to have great benefit both for managing stress, anxiety and less severe depression. In addition, stronger and more supportive relationships, greater self-awareness and the ability to ask friends and family for help are also valuable skills to counter some of the socially contributing factors in cases of poor emotional health. Yet currently there is very little focus on preventative measures when it comes to mental and emotional health among teenage girls.
With trends as they are we believe it needs to become a top priority for schools, those who work with girls and parents to equip girls with the tools and skills that they need to take care of their own mental health, before and as they move into their teenage years. Such an approach allows them to navigate the challenges that they meet along the way, and can serve to prevent problems from becoming more severe.
By supporting girls in developing greater self awareness and emotional intelligence and providing simple tools for managing stress and anxiety, it is possible to start to work more preventatively with the mental health of girls and young women. If girls can find physical activities that they find fun and rewarding, without the pressure to achieve or be driven by the motivation to look a certain way, then they are further strengthened in staying happy and healthy as they face the inevitable challenges of growing up.
Girls often need extra support to engage with sport, and maintain sport and physical activity as part of their daily lives. This is not because they are inherently less enthusiastic or interested, but because societys sports culture does not cater very well to their specific needs in school sport, in after school or weekend activities in sports clubs, in the media, or in mainstream sports events. Even in Sweden where Strong Girls was created, sport is still very traditional, dominated by masculine norms, values and preferences.
Certain styles of coaching and teaching, together with a focus on competition and performance put many girls off taking part in sport. Girls are often more attracted by the social context of activities and the chance to have fun and try new things with their friends. When this focus on fun and shared experience is ignored, many girls only experience the pressure to achieve and perform, and their enjoyment declines. As a result, many girls drop out of sport between the ages of 12 to 16, particularly from team sports.
Girls are typically offered only a very limited selection of sports or physical activities by their school or within sports clubs and after school activities. Without the chance to try a more diverse selection of sports, and different ways of being physical and active, many girls don't find something they really enjoy, and conclude that sport is just not for them. The consequence is that many teenage girls miss out, not just on sport itself, but more importantly on the opportunities it offers to develop other life skills such as leadership and goal setting.
We believe that there is a need to think much more intentionally about what physical and emotional experiences we are creating for girls during their sports lessons, as well as what we want them to learn about themselves, others and society. We believe that all girls can enjoy and grow from their experiences of sport, the challenge is not their lack of interest but an outdated sports culture and narrow view on how sport should be taught. Strong Girls is not focused on performance, or being “good” at physical activities, although it certainly helps build new physical skills, and with those, more confidence and enthusiasm for sport in general.
Our framework addresses two needs for girls. Firstly, the need for a more positive sport experience in or after school. Secondly the need to learn important tools and skills to support them in dealing with life, school and relationships. The learning framework within the Strong Girls Program focuses on having fun while tackling new experiences and learning through reflection on these experiences. The opportunity to develop skills, such as those in focus in this Program, gives girls the chance to become brave and powerful young women who understand their own strengths and abilities and make their own decisions.
We believe that all girls can enjoy using their bodies, moving, exercising, sharing with their friends, testing their limits, but most importantly having fun and gaining new experiences. We are convinced that any sport can be made fun for girls. The only reason many girls still don’t enjoy sport is because of how we offer it to them and the messages they have received about what sport is, and who they are as girls. It is time that this changed!
Strong Girls covers ten course Objectives. They are taught through the application of our unique Strong Girls framework to a variety of different sports and activities, each selected for the new challenges and experiences they offer.
Our Program gives girls the chance to:
Learn to set their own Goals and to create the conditions for reaching those goals
Learn to challenge Negative thinking and achieve more positive self-talk
Formulate and Express their own ideas, opinions and values
Recognise, explore and build on their existing Strengths
Develop Compassion, team spirit and the ability to coach and support others
Explore Body signals related to positive and negative feelings, and develop tools to handle difficult emotions
Learn how to Problem solve, to deal with conflict and to acknowledge the perspectives of others
Find the Balance between achievement and having fun in sport and life
Reflect on the norms, values and ideals in society and how that relates to their own agency in Society
Learn new Physical skills, and experience new sports and activities