Championing Female Participation in Sport this International Women’s Day (and everyday)

A mosaic of images of women and girls taking part in various activities at YMCA Calgary, from the Pride Parade to girls only basketball to aquatics classes and more.

Intelligent. Inspiring. Confident. Successful. Happy. These are words women who participate in sports are more likely to use when describing themselves. But did you know that girls are 3X more likely to drop out of sports than boys and only 18% of women over 16 stay involved in sport? (Canadian Women & Sport).  

“At YMCA Calgary, we see the benefits of sport participation firsthand and are committed to creating welcoming spaces where all female athletes can thrive,” says Shannon Doram, President and CEO. “I can attribute several of my leadership skills to lessons I learned in the rink, which only fuels my passion to close this gap and create more opportunities for girls and women.”  

International Women’s Day takes place on March 8. First recognized in 1911, the purpose of the day was to bring attention to the women's rights movement and gender equality. This year’s theme #InspireInclusion calls for us to “break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected” (International Women’s Day).

At YMCA Calgary, we believe everyone should experience the benefits of sport and are committed to making that a reality.

Girls-Only Basketball  

In 2018, YMCA Calgary launched girls-only basketball programming in response to the high numbers of girls dropping out of sports and the unique needs of young, female athletes.  

Although the program’s momentum was halted during the pandemic and national drop off rates in girls soared, it is now back and stronger than ever before, offering girls-only skills development programs, basketball day camps and as of January 2024 – leagues.  

The winter league will wrap up with our first girls-only basketball tournament on March 10 at Saddletowne YMCA.  

“Sunday’s tournament is an important milestone for YMCA Calgary,” says Brigitte Edwards, Senior Director of Programs. “It shows that by focusing our talents and resources, YMCA Calgary can run programs that champion female sport participation by creating inclusive, fun and empowering environments.”

Representing four YMCA Calgary locations – Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, Saddletowne YMCA, Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton and Shawnessy YMCA, 45 girls ages 11 – 14 will be competing for gold. Everyone is welcome to come out and support the players between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.  

Girls In Sport Day Camps  

Many of us need to try several sports before we find the one we love. In partnership with Girls in Sports Canada, we are offering six mini multi-sport day camps to help girls gain exposure to different sports, build confidence, and drive long-term participation in sport.  

The Power Up! Multi-Sport Day Camps run by Girls in Sports Canada are offered on PD days and are open for girls ages 8 – 12. Participants can play a variety of sports including basketball, climbing, skating and dance, gaining knowledge in building a positive body image, emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and a growth mindset.  

There are five more offerings coming up including:  

March 22 - Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton

April 19 - Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton  

April 26 - Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge

May 17 - Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton  

June 10 - Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge  

You can learn more about these day camps and register [here].  


Staying informed is the first step to creating change. We encourage you to learn more about International Women’s Day, the women’s rights movement and female participation in sport through the following resources:  

International Women’s Day: Official Website  

The Government of Canada: Women in Canadian History: A Timeline

The Canadian Encyclopedia: Early Women’s Movements in Canada

The Rally Report: Encouraging Action to Improve Sport for Women and Girls  

COVID Alert: Pandemic Impact on Girls in Sport  

Girls In Sport: Articles

Canadian Girls are Dropping out of Sport According to National Study