You Go Girl! Community Program

Canadian Parks & Recreation Association
/April 09, 2024

The You GO Girl! (YGG) community program first began in 2008 in Stephenville Crossing on the west coast of Newfoundland in an area referred to as St. George’s Bay. 

There is a population of just over 1,600 (as of 2021) who live on approximately 31 square kilometres of land. Created, implemented, and evaluated by the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Circle of Newfoundland and Labrador (ASRCNL), the YGG program was designed as a girls-only program, to build self-esteem and an opportunity to try sport with no judgment, while in turn creating a sense of belonging and increased confidence to play sport in school and beyond. The foundation of the program rests on four components: Sports, Recreation and Physical Activity, Culture, Healthy Eating and Healthy Living. “Most of all, a positive environment is fostered where participants can just be themselves,” says Dana Morris, Indigenous Women in Sport Outreach Worker with ASRCNL. The program is NOT designed for girls who are actively involved in sports; however, those girls can still belong in the program. The goal is to provide programming using the four components as a guide for girls not engaged for whatever their reason, removing barriers to participation and drawing them into a safe space to learn and grow in their very own community. 

More details about the program: 

About 200 girls per year, aged 9–12, are the focus, as this is the age when physical and emotional changes are occurring. Depending on community size, girls younger or older can still participate. These girls cross over 10 communities and each girl has an opportunity to participate in 20 sessions of one and a half to two hours each, although this could be more if funding permits and volunteer coordinators want to continue. The ASRCNL is a non-profit organization funded by the federal government and the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador to enhance and develop Aboriginal participation in traditional and mainstream sport systems.

The community program coordinators receive training on the Aboriginal Coaching Modules, High Five Sport, First Aid / CPR as well as the Indigenous Community Active for Life. There are over 100 women volunteers who attend sessions in the communities sharing their talents and assisting the coordinator in the community. They lead activities such as a variety of sports, line dancing, yoga, arts, and cultural activities such as drumming, ribbon skirts and moon time discussions—all relate to at least one of the four components, showing the girls that there are strong Indigenous women in their communities who are role models. Each session includes a healthy eating component that often features new foods, like dragon fruit, to try. You GO Girl! has been identified by the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association as a best practice program. Dr. LeAnne Patrick, Professor and Researcher from Memorial University in 2010 compiled a report on the YGG program in Stephenville Crossing and St. George’s. Dana Morris reports that they feel the program is so successful in the current format, that they are not looking to make any changes. Feedback from parents is consistently positive. The program has been identified as a community necessity, not a privilege or nice-to-have.

How is the program funded? 

The YGG program ran in several communities from 2008 to 2016. The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, now known as Canadian Women and Sport, and the Active Circle under Motivate Canada, along with the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, provided financial support to the ASRCNL to help communities run the YGG program. In April 2022, the YGG community program was revived through the Sport for Social Development in Indigenous Communities (SSDIC) Stream Three funding from Sport Canada. Unfortunately, in 2024 the decision was made by Sport Canada that the ASRCNL was not eligible to apply for this funding, along with the other Aboriginal sport bodies across Canada, regardless of its success. There are over 100 women volunteers who attend sessions in the communities sharing their talents and assisting the coordinator in the community. 

The ASRCNL has applied to other community grants and is working with community partners to continue this program. The ASRCNL is open to partnerships and funding agencies with the same mission or outcome of providing safe spaces for girls to grow. The expenses that need to be covered include the facility, honoraria for Elders / knowledge sharing, program supplies, healthy food, training, and a stipend for the coordinator. 

What impact has the program had?

Elders (knowledge keepers) have reflected that the YGG program has been an important part of rebuilding communities after COVID. Also, one grandmother was very sad that her granddaughter would soon age out of the program that had been so important to her for years. That prompted the creation of a junior leader category into which this girl could graduate. This brought tears to grandma’s eyes! Those in the junior leader role were able to maintain their activity levels while developing valuable leadership skills. The latter includes things such as communication skills to provide various presentations. Physical activity levels of the participating girls have improved as the program offers a safe space in which girls can participate. One 11-year-old girl noticed in school that the boys were always the captains in charge of choosing team members so they could win and subsequently, girls were left behind. In YGG she has been able to participate in a volleyball tournament. This has reinforced the need in the YGG program to focus on lifelong participation and not just on competitive athletes.

Next Steps for the program:

  • Secure funding now that Sport Canada is no longer supporting the ASRCNL and other provincial and territorial Aboriginal sport organizations across Canada with the SSDIC Stream Three funding.
  • Spread this program across the country through the ASRCNL as part of a national initiative.

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