ICOACHGIRLS (ICG) is a new pilot programme delivered by Sport Ireland in partnership with 4 local sports partnership and the Sport Ireland Campus. As part of the ICOACHGIRLS pilot project there are currently 5 ICOACHGIRLS play centres in operation across the country (Roscommon, Limerick, Tipperary, Dublin and Wicklow) delivering activity sessions to 180 girls.

Research shows that girls are four times less likely than boys to engage in sports. The presentation of sport in typically male-oriented ways (i.e., selective, competition-based, delivered by male coaches, etc), makes sport a less attractive proposition for girls. This, compounded with young girls’ greater lack of competence compared to boys, lower levels of confidence, negative early experiences of sport and physical education, and the lack of family support, all add up to a global picture where few girls meet the WHO recommendations of daily physical activity with the associated risks for their physical and mental wellbeing. Physical activity plays a crucial role in child development, contributing to the growth and development of a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Despite this, only 13% of primary school girls get sufficient physical activity to meet the physical activity guidelines (CSPPA 2018 | Sport Ireland)

Project Aims:

ICOACHGIRLS aims to promote and increase physical activity and sport amongst primary school-age girls and girls that have never taken part in organised sport or that have tried and dropped out. The Girls Play Centres was based out of Roscommon Convent of Mercy Sports Hall. We are extremely grateful to Roscommon Convent of Mercy to have given us the use of their exceptional facilities.

Programme role out:

The programme was staffed by two female head coaches who provided the young girls with friendly, relatable role models. The coaches worked with the girls to co-create a 10-session programme of activities that met their social, psychological, and physical needs, gave them a sense of ownership, and allowed them to build a positive relationship with sport and physical activity. Thank you to Joan and Charlene for your time, and coaching expertise, and for making this a successful and enjoyable initiative.

We were very lucky to have 10 assistant female coaches from TY from Roscommon Convent of Mercy. The assistant coaches engaged with the young girls supported them in developing their sense of belonging being active, and assisted them to be more confident and competent in being active, listening to them and giving them feedback and encouragement. Thank you, girls, for your time and help, you were all amazing!

Well done to the 35 + primary school girls from St Comans Wood Primary School. Thank you to the principal, teachers, staff, and parents for allowing us to run this pilot and for making this possible. We hope the girls enjoyed it, benefited from it greatly, and will remember the fun, energy, and learning through physical activity.

Thank you to Sport Ireland Coaching, especially Vicki, Sheelagh, Declan and Ann and for piloting supporting, and guiding me every step of the way.

10 Physical Activity Session

The girls engaged in a 10-session programme of physical activity, which supported each girl to:

  • Cultivate a love for physical activity.
  • Express themselves through body language and words.
  • Boost fundamental movement skills like balance, coordination, and agility.
  • Discover an activity or sport they can enjoy in their community.

Over the 10 weeks the girls have gotten the opportunity to try out, Basketball, Hockey, Lyrical dance, Badminton, Volleyball, Soccer, Tag Rugby, Rinka, Music, Hip Hop, Multi-sports games and activities, and much more.

What happens next?

After the 10 sessions, the girls will be signposted to a series of sports clubs and active leisure activities in order to support their continuous involvement in sports and physical activity.

Conclusion

This project has been really rewarding and exciting to be a part of it. Firstly, I can’t express how important and beneficial movement and physical activity are for everybody but especially young girls. Physical activity provides the foundations for physical, social, psychological, educational, and life skills. It’s important these girls develop a love for physical activity and have positive experience with sport at a young age which can lead to healthier choices in adulthood.

I have seen first-hand the benefits of this pilot programme on the girls. Week 1 was all about building trust, listening to them, and being supportive. The programme avoided a performance-based environment, which can often create a negative experience and can cause sports dropout, low enjoyment, and burnout. Instead throughout the programme the coaches ensured the girls were in a safe environment and really focused on outcomes like enjoyment, self-esteem, and teamwork.

As the weeks went on, the girls grew in confidence, abilities, and skills. By week 10 they were smiling, running around, engaging in the activity, and being happy in themselves. I am delighted to have been the coordinator of this programme and to be an advocate for promoting physical activity for primary school-aged kids in Roscommon. I hope to further my mission and encourage and promote movement for all.