A recent Canadian Women and Sports study said 1 in 4 girls are not interested returning to playing sports post-COVID.
"The number is pretty staggering," said Dr. Melissa Horne, a local expert on diversity, equity and inclusion. "From an equity perspective, the past Olympic games had a lot of issues around women choosing between their family and their sport."
Horne expressed that several components are impacting women and young girls' access to sports. One being social media. Young girls begin to have body image concerns. There is also hyper-sexualizing of some of the women's sports.
As the young girls see women protesting at main sporting events like the Olympics, the representation will happen. These young women will want to come back to playing sports. However, there is still this social stigma and negative social media depictions of women in sports.
"Culturally, we are becoming more accepting of LGTBQ+ persons, but there are still the stereotypes of girls who play sports identify as LGTBQ+." said Horne.
There has been an increase in positive role models, and opportunities for women in leadership are happening. However, "there is still a lot that needs to be addressed from the ground up if we are going to see girls participating more in sports, especially after the pandemic." said Horne.
It's important to focus on creating safe environment for young women. Horne said it starts with coaches because they have the biggest impact on young women.
"Coaches are now taking diversity, equity, and inclusion training. It's also around respecting young kids' pronoun preference, being sensitive to the fact that you have may have a LGTBQ+ on your team. Having a code of conducts that promotes inclusive language."
She adds, when women have the visibility to perform, "representation matters, media coverage matters, and the type of media coverage matters." When young girls and boys see women on their television screen, "that is when get excited and sign up for the sport. That is when they want to play."
She adds the first step is engaging the children. Then it is about ensuring these young children continue to see positive role models that look like them in the sport throughout their careers so they can continue to move forward.
The study shared they are still finding a solution in addressing the concerns of these young women who no longer want to play sports. Horne suggests providing outreach programs to these young adolescents and understanding why they are hesitant to play sports again.
'We won't know until we go out and talk to those young girls. What is their hesitancy, and how can we address those needs at a community level."