Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall keeps busy outside of the competition by serving as the president of Canada-based Fast and Female, an organization that seeks to empower young female athletes. Over 250 ambassadors from both the United States and Canada represent Fast and Female. A small group of these ambassadors recently competed in the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Founder Chandra Crawford originally created Fast and Female in 2005 for Canadian ski racers, but it turned into something much greater. The cross-country skier graduated from the University of Calgary with a master’s in business administration, competed in three Olympics, and was a member of the Canadian National Team.
Crawford formed the organization after a young girl she babysat for told her that girls didn’t get to participate in masculine activities and instead had worry about their appearance. Crawford realized sports could help kids stay out of trouble and competitive athletes could serve as positive role models for young girls.
The Summits feature leadership and building stations, a dryland component, a sports psychology presentation, a sports nutrition presentation, awards presentations, fun and social activities, inspirational presentations from ambassadors, and an autograph signing. During these activities, girls also have the opportunity to meet inspirational athletes.
Champ Chats help girls make friends, learn about the reasons girls quit sports, provide opportunities to connect with role models, and include beginning sports activities, such as dance and yoga.
Canadian Luger Rachel Klassen serves as a Fast and Female ambassador. Klassen explained how she missed up to 12 weeks of school due to training, so she had to develop crucial life skills from sports: time management, organization, dealing with challenges, goal-setting, and more.
“I owe a lot of myself and outlook on life to the lessons sport have taught me. Yes, being on a team teaches the skills you would expect like leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship among many, many others, but it’s the qualities that you don’t think of right away that have been so invaluable growing up,” said Klassen.
In addition, Fast and Female TV features short interviews with speakers and athletes. One of these videos is a reel of several testimonials from athletes, coaches, ambassadors – anyone involved in the Fast and Female events. In this video, coach Katie McMahon of the Chelsea Nordiq ski club reiterated the organization’s emphasis on role models.
“I think it’s also really important that you have a variety of role models, not just the athletes that are at the high performing end, but have the coaching role models, have the strength coach…in all forms, show them that there are many paths to staying in skiing,” said McMahon.
Attendees have shared their experiences from these programs on Instagram.
“It was a great experience, and great to see how many girls came out! Would definitely do it again, and I loved having so many successful women in sports that I could look up to,” an event participant said.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), about 38.6 percent of girls do not participate in sports compared to 25.1 percent of boys. In addition, the WSF states that female participation in sports drops off between ages 9-12. Unfortunately, women often face social, cultural, practical, and personal barriers that prevent them from participating in sports. For instance, many people believe only men should participate in sports, and this self-consciousness often deters girls from signing up.
“Some women are turned off ‘sport’ altogether because they see it as a male-dominated activity,” the WSF report reads. “For many girls, being sporty is felt to be at odds with being feminine.”
Fast and Female helps girls fall in love with sports early on and connects them with empowering female athletes. As a result of the organization’s efforts, the next Olympian may arise – who knows?
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