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Program Leaders in the South Bronx Share Techniques for Getting Girls Active

On Friday, December 9, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) hosted a GoGirlGo! Leadership Institute at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning in New York. Instead of the classroom being filled with young girls, the day began with a room full of over 30 program leaders eager to learn more about the Foundation’s GoGirlGo! Curriculum and how they can implement it at their local programs.

GoGirlGo! began in 2001 and so far has helped more than one million girls get active and provided more than $5.6 million in funding to girl-serving organizations. Through this educational program, WSF gets girls moving through a network of schools and community based programs. GoGirlGo! identifies and weaves together quality resources within each community and provides comprehensive support to organizations through a hands-on curriculum, grant program and networking opportunities.

The curriculum targets girls in elementary, middle and high school, a time when many girls face hurdles in school, such as self-confidence and self-esteem, but sports can help them through those difficulties. Research tells us that if a girl is not active by age 10 then there is only a 10% chance she will be active by age 25. In addition, one in three girls is sedentary, while the other gets no more than thirty minutes of physical activity a week. WSF’s GoGirlGo! provides tools to help communities and program leaders get girls active.

Kicking off the Leadership Institute, everyone was asked to participate in some ice-breakers and to get moving themselves. WSF Advocacy and Program Manager, Sarah Axelson, transitioned to speaking about what GoGirlGo! is and what some of the main tools for facilitators are depending on the age group they work with. Many program leaders agreed with how important it is to establish a safe space and trusting environment for the girls to talk and how they as program leaders must set the tone and be a role model for the girls.

Four program leaders from New York Junior Tennis and Learning (NYJTL) came up to the front of the room for a Q & A session where they spoke about their experiences using GoGirlGo! and what some of their best moments have been with their girls. Jisbel Barada noted how the curriculum “builds their character,” while Michelle Williams talked about how “GoGirlGo! brings the girls together as a unified group.”

They each spoke of breaching difficult topics with their girls as some are from broken homes and have a tough time at school. GoGirlGo! affords program leaders an opportunity to let the girls know that they are not alone. The program provides the basis for a sisterhood amongst the girls. Each program leader spoke of how touched they were to see older girls who had gone through their program tell the younger girls how cool GoGirlGo! is and participate in the lessons and sports activities.

“I just love the curriculum. I feel it touches everything and really reaches the girls at all levels,” said Shani Long-Boxill, a program leader from NYJTL. While GoGirlGo! works with girls of varying ages, the tips are similar across the groups, such as providing a safe space, listening to the girls and understanding the overall mood in the room that day, being patient, and of course, making it fun.

Cheroki Greene from site P.S. 58 said, “It’s been a whole year since I started using the GoGirlGo! curriculum and the best part is getting the girls to open up and build their self-esteem.” Through GoGirlGo! girls are able to open up to one another and become friends with new girls. A consistent highlight of the curriculum was said to be that it breaks down cliques and shows the girls that they are not so different from one another.

Briana Mitchell, a program leader from site A.M.S. 241, said that her favorite part is seeing the kids interact and truly open up with one another around more serious topics in the curriculum.

Following the day’s Q & A, NYJTL invited a group of third graders to participate in a demonstration using the GoGirlGo! curriculum to show program leaders how it can educate the girls while getting them to move and still be fun. Several of the girls are recent immigrants and did not speak, so bilingual program leaders assisted in the activities. WSF also offers GoGirlGo! in Spanish.

Through the Foundation’s research report “Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America,” we know that African-American and Hispanic girls are doubly hit by both gender and race disparities in sports. Girls in these demographics are less likely to play sports than boys and less likely to play sports than their Caucasian peers. They also enter sports at a later age and drop out earlier.

Therefore, programs like GoGirlGo! are so important in helping to reach girls at a young age to educate them about the importance of staying active. Through sports girls learn leadership, confidence, self-esteem, perseverance, teamwork and much, much more.

As the Leadership Institute began to wrap up, Jessica Kruskamp, the NYJTL Chief Education Officer, shared, “I love how the GoGirlGo! curriculum educates the girls about how they can become empowered for themselves and for their community and for their family and for their school. I love that it gets our educators and mentors working with the girls in a very strategic and specific and well planned and fun and engaging way. I think it covers really sensitive topics and gives us the tools to do so that we wouldn’t otherwise have and I think it makes the girls feel strong.”

If you are a parent and would like to learn more about WSF’s curriculum please take a look at our Parent’s Guide, which is also available in Spanish. This will give you some insights on motivating your daughter to become physically active and creating a positive, healthy and supportive environment.

If you are a program leader and would like to learn more about what the GoGirlGo! curriculum is all about before placing your order, please take a look at these teaser pieces, designed to give you a quick glimpse into our award-winning program.

Download the curriculum here for free and help girls get active!