My train to Petrozavodsk was an interesting experience but I eventually arrived at my host family’s apartment. Liudmila has put me in good hands with her co-worker, Lena, and her seven year old son. They didn’t think I would like being there with the cat, so he is staying somewhere else.
I have had some very interesting interviews with school principals, parents, girls, college students, and employees in sports related industries. As I have shared information about Girls in the Game, the most common response has been, “Why only the girls? Why not the boys too?”
So I have changed the way I start to talk about Girls in the Game. I begin with the history of sports in America and Title IX. I then talk about the issues girls and children in America face today with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, lack of health education and lack of physical activity opportunities. Many of this surprises people here in Russia, as they do not face these issues to the same degree as Americans. At least that is their perception. The research I have been doing, as you saw in my last post, proves otherwise.
Yesterday I talked to a group of parents with children of all ages about what types of sports girls and boys are involved in, the messages about health that parents send to kids, where health education should be learned, and who is responsible for providing physical activity. I learned that their girls do face many of the same challenges as our girls. They have issues with body image and talking negatively about themselves, they are less active because of video games, cell phones and Facebook, and they are less likely to participate in team sports and “prefer” to play individual sports.
Later, I was able to attend a Tae Kwando class. This class was ages 8-11 and about 80% of the participants were boys and 20% girls. In fact, there were four girls in the class. However, the coach told me that usually his classes have more girls than boys especially in the older classes. I interviewed two of the girls in the program and when I asked them what they like about being in the class, one girl said, “In school the boys bully us and so here we learn how to stick up for ourselves. When they find out we are in this class they look at us differently.” The girl next to her nodded in agreement. Next, I told them about Girls in the Game and that we learn team sports with girls only. They too, asked, “Why only the girls?” I told them that sometimes it is more fun for us girls to learn how to play sports together without boys around. They smiled and agreed with my response. I told them about the leadership topics and health topics as well. One little girl said, “That sounds great!” I asked if they would sign up if we had Girls in the Game in Petrozavodsk and both nodded excitedly.
Many of the adults that I have spoken with seem to think there is not such a need for this program. However, when I talk to girls and young people (ages 16-30 by Russian definition) they all say they would love to join this program and would have loved it as a child.
Mila says zdrah-stvooy (hello) to every one back at Girls in the Game.
Sending warm wishes across the Atlantic,