Motivation and Incentives

Case Study

Soccer Without Borders (SWB), an organisation using soccer to build a more inclusive world, has a programme site in Granada, Nicaragua. Many of the girls in the community could not afford proper football shoes to play with. The organisation gathered donated football boots and created a gear library, allowing participants to “check out” shoes for practice and games and return them when the game or practice was over. At the end of the season, players who attended practice regularly and showed committment to the team get to keep a pair of cleats or a new uniform. 

There are countless strategies for motivating a girl to participate in a sport programme. The effectiveness of incentives varies depending on age, sport, geographic region and the individual themselves. Programme directors and coaches often want to give girls every possible incentive to play. However, with limited resources, most programme directors have to make difficult choices about which incentives will yield the greatest results relative to cost, or how deeply invested to get in any one form of motivation.  For specific tips and promising practices related to motivating participants, see the Motivation section in the International Guideline for Designing Sport Programmes for Girls.

Economic Incentives for Participation

Giving girls a chance to earn and manage money are skills that will serve them beyond the playing field. A girl that is financially independent is an asset to her family and becomes less reliant upon others to meet her needs. Furthermore, when a girl earns money, perceptions of her ability and self-worth shift. Some programmes have had success in retaining girls by offering them a chance to earn money within the programme. For example, girls can get paid small sums for cleaning, mending uniforms, officiating, or coaching. Other programmes have used small sums of money as part of the leadership schemes.  If the intention is for girls to use the money for school fees, programme leaders can pass the girls’ earnings directly to the school. It also can be tremendously valuable to teach girls about saving, protecting, and managing money once they are earning. Conversely, if a girl is not earning money at a sport programme, it is possible that her caregivers will see the participation as a waste of time, compared to home duties or paid work elsewhere. If your sport programme cannot provide income to girls, then provide encouragement and support for them to earn income in another job. Introduce them to vocational training and non-formal education opportunities, and schedule practices during times when girls do not have to work. Also, be flexible if a girl has to miss a training session or a game for work. 

Although there are many positive ways to provide economic incentives for girls to participate in sport programmes, there are also negative and harmful practices that could create the situation where girls only attend the programme if they are given money. Try not to hand out money in exchange for simple participation. Girls should be there because they love sport and want to exercise. Making it easier for them and their family financially so they can participate is important, but simply providing money for showing up sends the wrong message to the girls. Also, staff must be careful when finding employment for the girls in the sport programme, so as not to reinforce or promote child labour or exploitation of participants.

Non-economic Incentives for Participation

Non-economic incentives, such as small prizes, clothing, or equipment, are a successful retention strategy for many programmes.  Some programmes provide a ‘membership card’ that is stamped each time a participant attends a practice or a programme award ‘badge’ with each new skill obtained.   The programme can award prizes for different levels of participation and achievement. Prizes from hair elastics or pencils, to cleats or tennis racquets can be earned. In this way, girls have clear incentives for participation, and equipment is earned rather then given.  As a coach, be responsive to the girls in your programme. Ask their opinion on what will best help them to meet their needs inside and outside the sport programme.