This week’s spotlight shines on the Spring Training program offered by Girls in the Game, a Chicago-area organization dedicated to improving girls’ health and fitness.
Girls in the Game was founded 15 years ago by a group of women who recognized that their participation in sports as girls helped them develop the strength, voice and confidence they needed to succeed as adults. Since 1995, Girls in the Game has emerged as a leader in girls’ health and fitness, serving 2,500 girls in Chicagoland each year. Girls in the Game's comprehensive, evidence-based programs address the health needs of girls ages 6 to 18, and equip girls with the skills and confidence they need to become healthy, successful young women. Girls in the Game’s After School programs use sports and fitness, health and nutrition education, and leadership development activities to help girls form healthy habits to benefit them now and in the future. Girls meet after school, once a week, and are engaged in sports, health and leadership programming tailored to the specific needs of elementary and middle-school girls.
Spring Training is Girls in the Game's train-the-trainer program that gives qualified youth service professionals the tools and training they need to run a Girls in the Game program at their school, park or youth center. With Spring Training certification, youth service sites and their representatives are certified to run a designated Girls in the Game program for either elementary, middle or high school girls. Created specifically for girls ages 8-14, the program is currently implemented in 30 different schools and sites around the Chicagoland area.
Kristi Skala is the Training and Evaluation Manager for Girls in the Game. She reports that the success of the Spring Training program is evaluated in a number of ways. Youth service providers who participate in Spring Training evaluate the quality and content of the training itself. They are also provided with three months of follow up support so that potential problems can be addressed and questions answered. Additionally, outcome evaluations will be performed on participants of programs implemented by the first five pilot sites to ensure program fidelity and monitor progress.
Research demonstrates the importance of both gender specific and sports programming, and many underestimate the need for structured sports and fitness programs for girls. As Skala points out, girls today still do not have as many sports and fitness opportunities as boys have. This lack of understanding or awareness of the need for gender-specific healthy lifestyle programs for girls often leads to challenges in finding staff and resources to implement Girls in the Game’s programs.
Implementation in Your Community
Skala believes that the Girls in the Game model is highly transferable. In fact, Spring Training exists to give youth service providers the tools to implement Girls in the Game programming in their own communities. Sites that aren’t ready for the full Spring Training program can benefit from one day workshops on a variety of topics. These trainings can help youth service providers run their own programs more effectively and efficiently, while ensuring that youth have a positive and healthy experience.
How are the health and fitness needs of school-aged girls addressed in your community? Share your comments!