Coaching Association of Canada

5 Strategies to Develop After School Programs for Young Women

This article was originally published by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) as part of their commitment to membership in the Canadian Active After School Partnership (CAASP) and has been slightly modified for #CoachToolKit.


The benefits of physical activity and healthy eating are well documented. However, girls and young women face different barriers and have unique needs in after school programming, compared to boys and young men. Without a specific approach designed to overcome their barriers and meet their needs, girls and young women will not participate.

These five tips will help guide active after school programs for girls and young women.

1. Effective Program Design

Quality programming is key to engaging girls and young women in after school programming. Effective program design will ensure the content and operations of the program meet the needs and interests of girls and young women.

2. Supporting Effective Human Resource Policies and Practices

Knowing and responding to the psycho-social needs of girls and young women is a critical component of ensuring that girls and young women will be attracted to a program. Ideally, program leaders are aware of and understand these needs, but knowledge implementation can be encouraged by human resource policies implemented by the organization offering the program. Supporting effective human resource policies and practices, including ensuring properly trained female staff and volunteers lead active after school programs for girls and young women, is the second strategic direction.

3. Effective Organizational Supports

Effective organizational supports focus on the elements around the program that contribute to its success, such as policies, evaluation, sustainable funding, and collaboration amongst the various levels and departments of government.

4. Establish and Maintain Partnerships

Organizations delivering active after school programs need to establish and maintain partnerships with other organizations in their community that reflect the diversity of their program participants and the geographic community. Organizations also need to develop partnerships with the families of the girls and young women in their programs.

5. Ensuring Access

Transportation is a significant barrier to girls’ and young women’s participation in after school programming. Ensuring access so girls and young women can get to and from programs safely, that the programs are within their economic means, and are respectful and accommodating of differences, is the last strategic direction.

The successful establishment and delivery of an active after school program for girls and young women will require a champion who understands the need for programs designed specifically with girls and young women and will pursue the resources to meet the need. Champions are dedicated, ardent, and passionate. If they are to be found, they need to identify successors, so that once a program has been started, it can continue.