Girls High 5

New initiative launched to boost girls’ participation in sports and elevate female coaches across Europe

With girls in Europe four times less likely than boys to engage in organised sport1, the new initiative ICOACHGIRLS (ICG), led by researchers from Leeds Beckett University, aims to promote physical activity and sport amongst primary school-age girls.

Co-funded by the European Union, with Leeds Beckett University’s Dr. Ruth Brazier managing the programme, ICG is focused on increasing physical activity and sport amongst primary school-age girls and growing the number, competence and confidence of female coaches. 

The ICG initiative has a target to set up a minimum of 35 ‘Girl Play Centres’ in local communities across Europe, reaching more than 1,000 previously inactive girls.  

Recent data also shows that only 31% of coaches across the EU are female2. ICG recognises the essential role coaches play in getting and keeping girls in sport and in response has developed a “Come into Coaching” programme for newly qualified or new-to-coaching teenage girls and women.  

The training supports female coaches to gain basic knowledge and provides opportunities for learning to be applied in safe play centre environments, all while being mentored by two female head coaches. With the roll out of this initiative, ICG aims to support the development of over 400 female coaches.  

Dr Ruth Brazier, Postdoctoral Fellow at Leeds Beckett University and ICOACHIGIRLS project lead said: “We know that sport does not always cater to girls’ needs. For example, a lack of female role models, and unequal provision may hinder girls’ ability to participate. We have to acknowledge that girls may have different needs to boys. 

“Since the launch of ICOACHGIRLS (ICG), the project continues to go from strength the strength. We’re seeing play centres roll out across Europe, engaging girls from all backgrounds and allowing them to be physically active in ways that suit them. We are really excited to see the impact of the project so far and are looking forward to its continued success.” 

Experts behind the initiative have produced three coaching guides to aid their work and guidance in supporting girls in sports. These cover topics including, (Re)introducing girls to sport and physical activity, Girls in Sport: Best Practice Guide, and Women in Coaching: removing Barriers to Start and Stay.  

Alongside Leeds Beckett University, other partner organisations include Sport Coaching Europe, Sport Ireland, NOC*NSF, Special Olympics Europe, the Lithuanian Sports University, the Hungarian Coaches Association, and FIBA Europe

To learn more about ICOACHGIRLS and its mission, head to