Nike Strengthens Its Efforts to Make Sports Fun for Girls With a New Guide for Coaches

Nike is doubling down on its effort to make sports fun and welcoming for girls.

The athletic giant’s latest initiative is the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide, a manual created in partnership with We Coach (with support from Youth Sport Trust). Its creation is geared toward giving coaches what they need to eliminate barriers specific to girls in sport and to keep things fun.

The Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide focuses on five pillars: make sure the playing space and team culture work for girls; create connections with girls; let girls compete; focus on progress, not the final outcome; and encourage girls to be brave, not perfect.

To develop this, Nike used insights from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Nike’s Coaching Through a Gender Lens report. According to Nike, the insights from the research revealed that girls are more likely to not only love playing but will keep playing as they get older when they like their coaches. Aside from helping coaches, Nike said the benefits could be equally as effective when used by parents and caring adults.

“Leveling the playing field for girls is a challenge, and it’s been made even harder by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nike Inc. chief social and community impact officer Jorge Casimiro said in a statement. “Girls love to play, and being a better coach — or at-home P.E. teacher, as some of us are trying for the first time — can help keep them playing now and in the future.”

This latest initiative comes in the same month Nike and Naomi Osaka revealed the Play Academy, a girls-only sports program in partnership with Laureus Sport for Good that the tennis star said aims to “level the playing field by changing the game for girls.”

Below, Casimiro shares insight with FN into the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide and explained what makes it impactful.

How specifically will the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide help to recruit and retain girls in sport? What makes this effort stand out? 

“In some parts of the world, girls are dropping out of sport at twice the rate of boys for reasons that can be addressed or even prevented. But we know that when girls connect with their coaches, they’re more likely to love playing and keep playing. This guide equips coaches, parents and other caring adults with the tools that can help make sport fun for girls now and in the future.”

“The Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide was created by Nike and We Coach, with support from Youth Sport Trust in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It’s an open-source, global tool grounded in expert research, that is easy for coaches, parents and caring adults to put into practice on the field or at home. We hope that both trained coaches and parents who find themselves in new roles right now can use this guide to help more kids benefit from play and sport.”

What is the most impactful aspect of the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide? What do you expect to resonate with people most? 

“School, play and sport look different this year, which means coaching looks different, too. Parents are finding themselves in news roles, like at home P.E. teacher, and coaches are trying new ways to encourage their players over Zoom. The Coaching Girls Guide was designed to serve program leaders and coaches working to recruit and retain girls in sport. But the details can help parents and caring adults too.”

“The guide shines a light on the barriers to play that are specific to girls like the lack of access, lack of coaches, apparel and equipment that don’t meet their needs. It can also help adults recognize the seemingly small behaviors like using ‘guys’ to address players or consistently using male sport examples that can make girls feel unwelcome in play and sport environments.”

What do you hope coaches, and non-coaches, will take away from the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide? 

“Everyone can be a coach. This guide is designed for program leaders and coaches with formal training and for parents and caring adults who might find themselves in new roles right now. We hope the guide makes coaches and non-coaches feel better equipped to succeed and ready to teach, motivate and inspire kids to reach their full potential.”

Why did Nike and We Coach select these five specific pillars of focus? And how will focusing on these five pillars help achieve your mission? 

“These pillars are based on insights from subject matter experts and from girls themselves in the Women’s Sports Foundation and Nike’s ‘Coaching Through a Gender Lens Report.’ For example, competitiveness — friendly competition among teammates, other teams and themselves — was one of the primary reasons girls shared for why sports are fun. So we’re encouraging coaches to Let Girls Compete by creating meaningful relationships, but also challenging them to improve and compete.”

“Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation tells us that the biggest factor in determining girls’ participation in play and sport is the presence of a supportive coach. These five pillars can help coaches — and parents — create a culture and environment where girls are empowered to play.”

How did Nike work with We Coach to develop this guide? What were the key takeaways from its development? 

“Nike worked closely with We Coach, and Youth Sport Trust in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to create this guide based on insights from research — like the Women’s Sports Foundation and Nike’s ‘Coaching Through a Gender Lens’ report — and a convening of subject matter experts hosted by Nike. The guide was adapted for different countries and cultures by local subject matter experts.”

“The biggest takeaway is that good coaching for girls starts with good coaching. Many of the tips in the guide are helpful for coaching all kids — regardless of background, gender identity, ability or aspiration.”

After the release of this guide, where will the Nike and We Coach partnership go? What other initiatives, if any, are in the works? 

“We Coach is a valued partner for our Made to Play work. Already we are working together to bring the Made to Play Coaching Girls Guide to life through virtual coaches’ trainings this fall, and we’re continuing to work with We Coach and other experts in the field to explore and incorporate even more coaching best practices into our tools and programming.”

What other efforts is Nike working on concerning recruiting and retaining girls in sport? 

“Nike has programming specifically focused on keeping girls active by creating early positive experiences with sport and play. We continue to create spaces where girls can learn, grow and have fun — without fear of failing — by being intentional in how we design sports programs and by connecting them with coaches who inspire and encourage them to become the leaders we know they can be, in sport and in life. This work continues Nike’s long history of advocating for women and girls.”

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