“Sport should change for the girl, not the other way around”.

Access Sport’s National Youth Board members, Zoe and Katherine, recently attended the launch of the Breaking Barriers report. 

In the below article, they share their experiences after attending the launch and explore the Youth Board’s opinions on this important piece of research.

Article by Katherine and Zoe

This collaborative research project between Access Sport, the Sweaty Betty Foundation, Women in Sport and Nuffield Health, has broadened our understanding of how teenage disabled girls feel about physical activity. So we were thrilled to attend the Breaking Barriers launch event last month.

As reflected in the research findings, the importance of education and asking the right questions was highlighted on the night. The panel agreed that no girl wants to feel singled out and judged. However, finding the right balance between this and adapting sessions appropriately is key for a successful experience. It’s clear to us, that every girl is different and no one solution fits all. We must prioritise 1-to-1 conversations and ask girls what they want/need from sessions. 

A really imprtant topic covered in the  discussion was the ‘enjoyment gap’. It was fantastic to hear that the panel thought that disabled young girls should not only be able to access physical activity, but also be able to participate in formats that appeal to them.

The panel discussion also highlighted how the voice of disabled teenage girls is often lost in research, and this is where we thought the video accompanying the research was particularly important – hearing from young disabled girls directly about their experiences was really powerful and brought the research to life. You can watch the full video by clicking on the image below.

Mollie, a member of the Youth Board who participated in the research, shared her thoughts:

"There aren’t enough opportunities targeting disabled teenage girls, and there isn’t much research on the topic either. I play powerchair football, and even though it is a sport designed for inclusivity with able-bodied and disabled people playing together, I’m the only girl on the team. I’d like to see more examples of able-bodied people being integrated into sports designed for disabled bodies, and greater targeting of disabled teenage girls as participants in these sports.” 

The findings also highlight the importance of education and guidance for sports providers and coaches in delivering to teenage girls. The panel reflected this and agreed that if we want to achieve equal access to sports and physical activity for disabled teenage girls, it is essential that the whole sector works collaboratively to support providers.

Shane, Youth Board Chair, related the research to his coaching role: 

“As a coach, it is crucial to continuously upskill and develop a stronger understanding of barriers for different intersecting identities to ensure my sessions are open to all. Having a toolkit paired with this research is invaluable to embedding inclusive practice into my delivery”.

Shane also added:

“This research highlights the importance of funding bodies, sports providers, and sport facility operators offering accessible activities for disabled teenage girls. It is therefore vital that going forward these stakeholders prioritise equal access to the benefits of sport and physical activity for all local participants”

As stated in the panel, "unfortunately not all things are made equal". However, we think a positive outcome from this research would be to see:

  • Sports providers taking the findings and applying them
  • Key stakeholders seeking out opportunities to listen to what the disabled teenage girls attending their sessions actually want
  • Further research in the future considering different intersecting identities in relation to barriers to sports participation. 

If you are interested in Access Sport Youth Voice initiatives, please contact: 
[email protected]