Women’s Sport 6 min read

Empowering The Next Generation Of Female Athletes With The University Of Newcastle

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With this year’s Women In Sport Summit fast approaching, we are thrilled to announce that Professor Philip Morgan, internationally renowned family wellbeing expert and Professor within the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, as a Guest Speaker!

Professor Morgan is also the Co-Director at the Centre for Active Living & Learning within the School of Education at the College of Human and Social Futures within the University of Newcastle, as well as Senior Program Professor for the Active Living Research Program at the Hunter Medical Research Institute.

Philip will speak within our High Performance Stream session in a compelling discussion titled ‘Empowering The Next Generation’ alongside Director of KaMana Community and Professional Surf Ironwoman Lizzie Welborn.

This discussion promises to be thought-provoking and enriching, focusing on how we can empower female athletes and female administrators within sport, and support a positive trajectory.

We sat down with Professor Morgan ahead of the Summit to ask a few questions.

 

How do we continue to empower the next generation of female athletes and leaders in sports? 

To thrive in sport, the next generation of female athletes clearly need the physical skills and confidence but perhaps more importantly, the psychological resources. Pervasive sociocultural factors in the home, school and community marginalise girls in sporting and physical activity domains. Therefore, practical evidence-based strategies are needed to support girls to be resilient, persistent and brave in order that this marginalisation doesn’t lead to missed opportunities for girls to reach their potential. Further, our research with girls has highlighted the importance of developing critical thinking skills to equip girls (as well as boys and men) to see, understand and combat all-too-common gender bias.

To increase opportunities for girls to be successful in the sporting arena we must utilise strategies that boost their understanding, engagement and affinity with the game alongside providing positive, safe and supportive playing experiences. As girls are given opportunities to succeed in sport, the very values and attitudes of good leadership can emerge.

 

How can educational institutions play a role in fostering a supportive environment for young women in sports? 

Helping young women thrive in sport is a multi-faceted problem requiring multi-faceted solutions. Schools and universities play a critical role, as for many children physical education and school sport is a foundational experience of sport. Through teacher training, universities can contribute to ensuring that gender equity is prioritised in policy, practice and behaviour, allowing all children the chance to achieve their potential. But this education must be presented in a meaningful, persuasive, and informative manner that resonates with all. It is imperative that children’s opportunities in sport and life are not defined by their biological sex. Rather educators should be equipped to provide optimum levels of support and education for children to develop the physical and psychological skills to succeed in the sporting domain and develop lifelong connections with sport.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing the next generation of female athletes, and how can they be addressed? 

Female athletes face unique barriers. One of the biggest challenges in physical education and sports coaching is that the quality of coach/teacher has a far bigger impact on girls than boys. Due to the marginalisation of girls across various environments for a range of sociocultural reasons, they are less likely to have opportunities for free sports play in the backyard and the schoolyard. Therefore, it is more likely that weekly training sessions with a coach represent 100% of girls sporting experiences/opportunity. Consequently, is it vital that we provided high quality training and evidence-based strategies to coaches around game-based approaches and positive coaching. We need to develop the sporting infrastructure in women and girls sport to ensure there are opportunities for optimal competition into and beyond the teenage years to avoid high rates of attrition amongst those who don’t find themselves on talent development pathways. To further combat drop out as a major issue, research is needed regarding high rates of injury and overload amongst talented female athletes, as well as best-practice coaching and how to optimise positive sporting experiences for all.

 

What are some of the fastest growing areas within sport that the next generation of women in sport are getting involved in? 

Quite clearly traditionally male-dominated team sports are a hugely important and emerging area for women and girls’ sport. There is burgeoning growth in sports that involve more physical contact, which girls have previously been excluded and discouraged from or judged for participating in. We need to ensure that girls have appropriate physical conditioning, coaching and technical skills to avoid injury when getting involved in these sports. The earlier in life this can start, the better. A key aspect of our programs is rough and tumble play, as girls often get less opportunities for this type of play than boys. Research shows rough and tumble has a host of incredible benefits to children, including conditioning children for contact sport.

 

What can attendees expect from your presentation at this year’s Women in Sport Summit?

I hope attendees will be inspired by the impact and success of our Daughters and Dads programs. I truly believe that the unique strategies, focus on gender equity, evidence-based approaches and innovation regarding how we empower girls and families are universal and have wide-ranging implications for the sporting sector, coaches, families and schools. I hope attendees are encouraged to help our girls remove the gender straitjacket society places on them that rewards them for looking and acting in certain ways. I hope that we can focus instead on accelerating girls’ physical skills and confidence and celebrate their unique insights and stories. Attendees will be inspired to go out and share the message that colours, toys, sports and careers are for everyone!

 

Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in an insightful session about empowering the next generation of female athletes.

Join us at the Women In Sport Summit 2024 and be part of the movement driving the future of women’s sports!

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