A group of teenage girls playing football for a local club

Toolkit: Project 51- Challenging gender stereotypes through community sports


This is our toolkit inspired by Project 51, a partnership project with Sported funded by Comic Relief. Project 51 aims to help girls in the most deprived areas of the UK fulfil their potential and use sport to overcome the impact of negative gender stereotypes.

It follows three different areas of advice:

  • Think: Understanding your audience and how stereotyping impacts them
  • Say: How to market your sessions and opportunities to girls
  • Do: Taking action and putting research into practice

A group of teenage girls from different backgrounds playing hockey

In this section you can find practical advice and tools to help you better understand your audience (girls aged 11-18) and the gender stereotyping that affects them. As well as research and insights from Women in Sport, we’ll also share supporting research from external organisations about girls’ lives, values and reasons to engage or disengage with sport that you might find helpful.

Understanding gender stereotypes

In this section we will provide you with background understanding about gender stereotyping and the negative impact it can have on girls engagement with sport.

  1. Girls denied football at school
  2. Teenage girl bullied for playing football
  3. ‘No more boys and girls’ social experiment
  • Understanding gender stereotypes: An introductory piece covering their prevalence in society generally and effects within a sporting context. Includes some practical activities and considerations.
  • This in-depth literature review summarises key findings from existing industry reports and academic papers from sports, business and governance sectors, both nationally and internationally. It helps the reader to understand the reasons underlying the influence of gendered stereotypes on girls’ sports participation.
  • A quick look at the stats behind girls’ sport participation in the context of gender stereotyping.

Supporting Research

Women in Sport has been working to support girls in and through sport for a number of years. See some of our recent research and publications below and for a more in depth understanding of girls lives more broadly see our Reframing Sport toolkit.

  • Puberty & Sport: An Invisible Stage – Women in Sport’s research on the impact of puberty on girls’ relationship with sport and physical activity and the key barriers to sport during this time.
  • Barriers to Sports Participation for Women and Girls – This report highlights the practical, personal, social and cultural reasons why participation rates for women and girls are lower than men. The list of barriers also provides ideas for sports deliverers to implement to encourage behaviour change.
  • Engage-HER Northern Ireland Case Study – Addressing the participation gap between girls and boys in sport in Northern Ireland. This project laid the foundations for Project 51.

Two teenage girls wearing headscarves boxing

How can you market your sessions and opportunities to girls? Find useful examples to inspire your own communications channels to be more inclusive, empowering and appealing to girls.

Project 51 marketing best practice – take a look at how some of the Project 51 organisations have used social media to market their sessions to girls.

Noteworthy Campaigns:

20 x 20

This campaign being run in Ireland is aiming to increase media coverage, participation and attendance figures for women’s sport by 20% by 2020. Their YouTube account in particular is a fantastic example.

This Girl Can

A Sport England led campaign to inspire everyday women and girls to get active in any way that suits them. There have been three phases of the campaign between 2015-18 including posters, videos, TV advertising and social media interaction. This Girl Can also launched an interactive app for advocates to create their own personalised posters.

Always ‘Like a Girl’

A series of adverts that challenge stereotypes and aim to empower girls going through puberty, a time where confidence typically plummets. Their videos link brand messaging with sport to create powerful stories.


Supporting Research

A group of teenagers playing football

Taking action and putting research and ideas into practice, here are the tools to help you to make a plan of action for working with girls in your area; what can you do, or do differently? Find best practice examples from our Project 51 groups to get you started.

Key findings from Project 51 – learn about the impact and results of Women in Sport’s and Sported’s joint 2-year venture, Project 51, a project designed to challenge negative gender stereotypes in sport at the grassroots level.

Consulting girls

Top Tips for Consulting with Girls– quick tips and easy ways to consult with girls to design your sessions and inform your strategy.

Effective Practice for Engaging Girls in Physical Activity – a useful document with some key learnings from the Youth Sport Trust . Although their focus is on engaging girls in PE, their six principles are valuable and certainly apply to community sport and activities as well. Includes top tips and mini case studies alongside each principle.

Sport England Research Guide – an in-depth guide to effective research practice. A potential useful document for those interested in how best to consult and evaluate their consultation methods with girls.

Programmes and events

A look into the creative ways organisations have looked to engage girls, where none dared go before:

Action Planning Template

Use this template as a framework for creating a simple action plan for your group including setting goals, steps to get there and measuring outcomes.