Ideas For Engaging Boys In A Sport Programme

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At Boxgirls (Nairobi, Kenya), boys often come to the gym and want to train. Programme Director Priest often asks the older girls to train the younger boys in boxing techniques. The results are two-fold. The boys gain greater respect for their female trainers and the peer leaders gain greater confidence.

Coaches may feel like they are encouraging inclusion by creating rules for a mixed-sex game, such as “one girl must touch the ball” or “girls’ goals are worth more points than boys’ goals.” However, these games that assume that girls are weaker players actually work to reinforce negative stereotypes. An alternative is to mandate that every player touch the ball before scoring, or mandating that a different player score each point.

  • Educate boys about the forms and consequences of gender-based violence. Bring in experts to share facts of how gender-based violence negatively impacts individuals, families, communities and countries. Offer incentives for boys to attend.
  • Hold discussion groups with boys and girls to encourage cross-gender conversation. Hold others without girls and invite boys to share the thoughts, fears, concerns that they have about gender roles, sexuality, relationships and masculinity.
  • Adopt a Code of Conduct – a specific, zero-tolerance policy for violence, harassment or the use of language that is derogatory or negative towards girls and women.
  • Help boys create a new vision for their manhood. Share the strength in honour, treating women with respect, being responsible for actions, communication, and fairness.
  • Practice gender equality in your sport programme. Give girls equal resources, opportunities, gear, media attention, coaching. Most importantly, have the same expectations for leadership, responsibility, performance and fairness for all participants.
  • Place girls in positions of leadership relative to boys when possible. Having a talented female peer leader or coach train boys can have a lasting impact on their notion of gender power dynamics.
  • Be intentional about what roles and responsibilities you put boys and girls in during sport. Ask yourself if they contribute to rigid gender roles or help to open opportunities for both boys and men? Instead of having girls wash uniforms and boys move heavy equipment, rotate between all boys and girls in the programme.
  • Put positive role models in front of boys, in the form of coaches, programme staff and guest speakers, who are well-regarded by the boys and will speak out against GBV and offer alternative profiles of manhood.
  • Encourage and invite older boys or peer leaders to run workshops and sessions with younger kids about the issue of or issues pertaining to GBV
  • Give boys the benefit of the doubt. Assume boys want to be peaceful, respectful participants in their communities. Create high expectations for each and every boy and girl.
  • Recognise that boys are getting other powerful messages about masculinity and violence from their families, communities, television, and peers. Be willing to acknowledge and process those often contradictory messages with boys.
  • Insist that all participants follow the rules of the game, team, etc. Encourage and reward acts of justice, respect and fairness wherever they occur in your programme.