With the widely anticipated 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup just around the corner, it is becoming ever so more important to teach, support and empower young Australian females about their rightful place in sport.
It is acknowledged that being involved in sports can assist in breaking down gender stereotypes, improve the self-esteem of women and girls, and add to the advancement of leadership and strategic skills.
However, with all the positives of female participation in sports, it is a shame to see that young girls aged 11-17 in Australia have a lower retention rate in sports compared to their male counterparts of the same age.
Tackling this problem head-on, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted jointly in Australia and New Zealand, is expected to be a celebration of women’s football in both countries.
Showcasing the footballing talent of females all across the globe, the World Cup is bound to supercharge women’s football in Australia and New Zealand. The hope is to increase future female participation, starting in grassroots programs.
Proactive in addressing this same issue, Sydney FC has recently unveiled its new grassroots initiative, the ‘She Can’ program.
The She Can Program was developed by Sydney FC to break down barriers to sports faced by young girls across the country. It involves both practical and theoretical elements that hope to provide participants with skills and a more in-depth understanding of their own support networks. The program acknowledges that barriers to participation can be overcome as they arise and encourages girls to continue to play their chosen sport in the future.
Rolling out the program in late 2022, students from Illawarra Sports High School were the first to take part in She Can.
The female participants discussed many important topics that young girls could potentially be too nervous or afraid to talk about, such as confidence, leadership, menstruation, body image, and relationships.
A young female participant expressed her gratefulness to the program in a statement:
“She Can has allowed me to open up and talk to the girls about things I wouldn’t normally talk about.”
Mirroring the same gratification, another participant added:
“I have also been able to learn more about who to talk to if I have issues with different things that might put me off taking part in sport.”
The Director of Sport at Illawarra Sport High School, Amy Child, was excited about the opportunity her students had to take part in the program. She spoke about the importance of the program via press release:
“It’s really important for girls to be involved in programs like She Can so that they remain in sport, and also become engaged in lifelong activity and start to overcome and think about the barriers to dropping out of sport.”
Sydney FC Foundation Chair, Jenny Abood is proud of the ‘She Can’ program, addressing her club’s pleasure in a statement:
“Sydney FC is a club known for supporting and developing champion women footballers. We are proud of what our women have achieved domestically and offshore over the last 15 years and now to roll out the She Can Program to keep young girls playing sport is fabulous,” she said.
“Our Board appreciate the importance of such a program, especially given the heightened interest in the beautiful game as we approach the Women’s World Cup this year, hosted in Australia.”
Sydney FC’s Premium Partner Under Armour supported the program by providing participants with a sports bra each to use during and after the program.
Currently, across the globe, different initiatives are designed to support and empower women. Similar to the ‘She Can’ program of Sydney FC, ‘Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation’ (SHE CAN) was developed in 2011. This initiative is aimed at building global female leadership by equipping and empowering talented low-opportunity women from post-conflict and climate-challenged countries with the education, mentorship, and leadership skills needed to change their nations and the world.
The Australia and New Zealand 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins on July 20, with record crowds expected to attend.