How to build a sense of belonging.

Written by Natalie Doyle

September 22, 2023

A women's hockey team in a huddle during a match

One of the main benefits of girls playing team sports is that they feel part of something. It helps to develop a sense of belonging, which in turn builds confidence. A likely additional benefit is that they will stay with the club for longer because they feel tied with its identity.

So how can you facilitate this sense of belonging? There are many ways that this can grow over time but here are some things you might want to try:

  1. Let me them get creative. Why not let them design the kit, or at least pick the colours? Maybe your girls’ section or team is going to have a different name and they could help decide what it is? Get them involved with these decisions and see how creative they can be. You could even develop a ‘working group’ to lead on the design of the new kit and have the girls be part of this.
  2. Use their images (with permission of course). You could ask someone to volunteer to take some photos during training or on match days. Everyone can be a budding photographer with a smart phone and you can get some high quality images to use around the clubhouse or on social meda. If they see pictures of themselves representing the club, they’ll feel like they are a key part of the team.
  3. Recognise their achievements. This could be through player of the match awards, praise at training or on match days, or as part of annual awards evening. Show them that you see the contribution they are making. This doesn’t just need to be for achievement in terms of ability. You might want to recognise players who work hard, are reliable, or who represent the values and ethos of the club. Be specific with your feedback and tell them exactly why they have been recognised in this way. Girls often like to know ‘Why’!
  4. Give them additional responsibilities. Would they like to volunteer to help with a younger age group? Would they like to work on some social media content? Let them take on additional roles in the club, if they want to, and they will feel an increased sense of belonging. This can start with a small area of responsibility, and as they feel ready, they grow their responsibilities, which will also result in increased confidence.
  5. Communication is key. Listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, take their feedback and opinions on board. The best way to build relationships is through effective communication so make this your priority. Some clubs have introduced Youth Councils to provide a platform for young people to input into decision-making within the club. You could have player representatives from each team that are responsible for contributing to discussions on behalf of their teammates.

What other ways have you tried to build a sense of belonging in your club? What have been the results? I’d love to hear your ideas so please get in touch.

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