According to programme partners, it is important to establish a safe space for all children prior to integrating members of the opposite sex. Girls must know and trust that their growth is a priority within the programme. They must feel comfortable on their teams, playing their sport and communicating with one another and coaches before introducing boys into the programme. Similarly, if you are adding girls to a programme that was formerly only for boys, it is important to talk to boys about why girls are being added. If integrated too early or hastily, girls or boys can feel threatened and intimidated, thereby stunting opportunities for growth. Consider integrating slowly, inviting the new group to attend sessions occasionally at first and then with more regularity when both groups are comfortable with the presence of the other.
In various countries around the world, youth sport, particularly football, is often mixed-gender, girls and boys playing alongside each other on the same teams until they are 12 or even 13. However, as girls and boys hit adolescence, their bodies change in different ways, making it difficult for them to play together. Research also shows that when girls turn 14, they drop out of sport two times the rate of boys1, particularly when the teams are mixed-gender. This transition to adolescence is a scary, confusing and emotional time for both boys and girls. Although mixed-gender teams may be great ideas for girls and boys at a young age, as they both enter their teens, it is important for an organisation to recognise girls may need their own space and their own teams so as not to stop playing completely.