Women in Sport - Daughters and Dads

Women in Sport - Daughters and Dads

23 June 2019

Sport England article featuring why we invest in Women's football - We invest in women's football to help address the gender gap in physical activity levels

While developing football skills may not be the primary focus of Women in Sport’s new Daughters and Dads programme, it's using football clubs as an entry point to get more families active and teach fundamental movement skills.

Following work done at the University of Newcastle in Australia, where they had great success with their Dads and Daughters Exercising and Empowered initiative, Women in Sport has teamed up with the Fatherhood Institute, Fulham FC Foundation and the EFL Trust to try and improve the lives of girls by strengthening relationships between them and their father, or father figure – whether that be an elder brother, uncle, grandad, step-father or anyone else taking on a fatherly role.

Supported by our Families Fund with an initial investment of just over £118,000 of National Lottery money last October, the project is now approaching the conclusion of its pilot phase and has secured a further £306,000 to continue for another two years.

So far, the pilot has seen 14 families sign up to take part in one of two hour-and-a-half sessions a week, for 11 weeks. Each session involves a class-based theory element, as well as practical-based play designed to teach fundamental movement skills, increase activity levels and develop the bond between father or father-figure and daughter.

“What we’ve seen is that a lot of girls don’t have the confidence and competency to enjoy being active. A lack of exposure to fundamental movement skills can prevent them transitioning into different sports throughout their lives,” said Women in Sport innovation manager Lee Warren.

“Girls’ movement skills are often developed through stereotypically female sports such as gymnastics and dance, this can mean they miss out on developing movement skills such as striking, throwing and kicking.

“It’s not a football-specific programme but it uses some of the actions and movements which are performed in football to develop skills that can then be used, potentially for football or other sports at a later age.”

The ultimate aim is for, at the end of the programme, the family’s lives to be enriched and for the father and daughter to self-sustain their physical activity levels within their family and community, and to improve the retention and experience of girls in physical activity.

Now the pilot has been successful, the project will be rolled out to create two hubs, each working with three football clubs – three in London and three at a second hub further afield.

“We’re trying to challenge the gender stereotypes that are out there. We deliver educational classroom sessions around topics such as the importance of positive role models, pinkification, and being adventurous,” Lee added.

“The practical sessions give support and strategies to families to overcome challenges and fathers to be positive role model for their daughters.

“Then we go out into the field, do fitness-based activities, practice fundamental movement skills, rough and tumble play – that helps to build the social and emotional bond between daughter and dad.

“What we do find is that, for some dads this is a new way of interacting with their daughters and they can be a little hesitant about it, but we’re starting to work though those barriers and fathers find that it is ok to do it, and in fact is great fun.”

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