How to encourage girls to play sports

How to encourage girls to play sports

Image: Alex Browne


How to encourage girls to play sports

Canadian Olympian Marie-Philip Poulin tells us why she got into hockey and about the important role her parents played in her career.

Before heading to the Olympics, Marie-Philip Poulin, one of the stars of Team Canada’s women’s hockey team, sat down with us to share her struggles as a woman in a male-dominated sport.


Canadian Living: How did you become interested in hockey?

Marie Philip-Poulin: I have an older brother and he played hockey. I started figure skating when I was four and switched to hockey when I was five, and since then it’s been my passion. I was my brother’s number one fan.  I was following him everywhere, and we were playing hockey every night we could. My parents gave me the opportunity to try hockey when I was five, and it’s been the best decision of my life. They always supported us. They worked two jobs they did everything — the laundry, everything — to really help both of us.


CL: What challenges did you face as you pursued a career in hockey?

MPP: I was the only girl playing with guys until I was 15, I was body-checking, and I had to prove myself. I had to keep digging deeper at every practice and every game because I was the only girl. I would hear guys saying “she’s taking a spot” or hear parents asking “why is she playing here?” which wasn’t easy to hear, but that’s what kept me going. It gave me the “never give up” mentality and made me stronger at the end of the day. So those were the challenges, along with injuries. I surround myself with people who make me better, and that’s what’s happened throughout my career.


CL: Did you ever feel like you wanted to give up?

MPP: Sometimes it crushes your spirit when things get hard, but you never want to give up. And that’s what my parents taught me since I was a little kid — to never give up, even when things get hard, you fall down and you get right back up. And, obviously, that happens, but with the love I have for hockey, I never wanted to give up.


CL: What advice do you have for your girls who want to become an athlete?

MPP: Have dreams and passions, and don’t be scared of failing or trying something new. Sometimes when things get hard you want to give up. Have a dream —in sports or arts or music — have a dream, and let yourself raise that bar to get better every day. For me, being able to reach that goal since competing at the Olympics and being able to team up with Tide is something I take pride in. Just having that mindset to keep going every day. I try to give that message to little girls.


CL: What advice do you have for girls who may be intimidated to follow their dreams?

MPP: Just go for it. When you want to chase something, when you want to achieve your dream, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Go for it, put your hard work hat on, and go. Sometimes, when you’re young you hear things like you might not achieve it because it’s not for girls, it’s not a sport for the girls, but we want to push our limits to get better every day. We want to get more little girls to play hockey. It’s a man’s sport, but we want to change that, and that’s something we’ve been trying to do over the last couple years. And just having that passion, that dream, and having fun throughout it all is something I really value and share with little girls.


CL: What advice do you have for parents of girls who are interested in sports?

MPP: Let them challenge themselves. I think it can be hard for kids to try other sports because it’s expensive, but when you have the support of your parents, it can push the kids further in anything they want to try. It’s super important. Challenge them and make them raise that bar every day.


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How to encourage girls to play sports