Every year more female athletes drop out of organized sports during what BC Alpine athletic director Johnny Crichton recognizes as a time when teens are making critical decisions about their future. The decline of girls continuing in sports inspired Crichton and his team of B.C. coaches to create Girls Fast Forward, the first provincially run all-girls camp in Canada.
“I thought as a PSO ( Provincial Sport Organization) we should adopt this model and see if we can do something for our own membership,” he said.
Hoping for 40 participants in the inaugural camp, which ran Dec. 5 to 9 at Sun Peaks, they were pleased when 56 girls in the U16 division registered for the weekend.
“We (had) almost every single registered U16 in the province here which is really exciting,” he said.
The camp aimed to reduce pressure placed on athletes and build friendships as it recognized the age group as when most girls drop out of ski racing and training.
“We were putting so much pressure on performance at that age which is ridiculous. I wholeheartedly disagree with it. I really believe in building strong athletic foundations at this age and try to grow the passion and a love for the sport. That’s we’re trying to do with this camp.”
Focusing on the idea of empowerment, the coaches were accomplished women from across the province, including Britt Janyk Tilston (World Cup winner and Olympian), Dani Robson, Katie Findlay and former Sun Peaks Alpine Club program director, Montana Molyneux.
“Personally for me, I had a lot of awesome female role models growing up and in ski racing,” she said. “I had a few female coaches that were amazing that I still remember to this day, how they coached and how much fun they were and still keep in touch with them. I’ve been in the coaching world now in ski racing for eight or nine years, and there’s a lack of female role models or females to look up to.”
She said if she’s experienced challenges being one of the only female coaches in the province she can only imagine how younger girls in the sport see female coaches excel.
“I think it’s even crazier to have all these girls here looking up to all these female coaches. If one of the 56 said, hey I want to coach, or I want to keep racing because that looks like something cool to do, (then) we did a good job,” she said.
The camp focused on technical slalom and giant slalom skills but they also brought in successful female speakers from other disciplines to speak on a variety of topics.
“All we wanted to do was create an environment for girls to come in to connect with other girls and to also be able to share and fail and try again and succeed, and it wasn’t all just based off your athletic ability,” she said.
After the two year commitment to the program, both Molyneux and Crichton plan for the camp to run annually for many years to come.
“I can’t see how I can’t keep it going because it’s going to be instrumental in our sport,” said Crichton.