Finding the girls
Success should not be by accident
Over the last few weeks I've had some time to think(!) and also some interesting discussions with parents, kids, fellow coaches etc on the topic of finding more girls and getting them racing. In my case, sprint, but in general as well.
The few girls we have (who, lucky, are very talented) have been found mostly by accident or it's been a struggle for them to get involved. I've had parents tell me that they've been to come and try days at DISC then mostly given a runaround when they expressed interest in going further by calling Cycling Victoria. This is not CV's fault, the structure as it stands at the moment is that CV has to tell parents (or adults!) to "call your local club". This can be quite a hit and miss approach, some clubs have better responses than others and it's then down to volunteers who may or may not have female cyclists as priorities. So we miss some kids. I suspect we miss a lot of kids. If we want a high peak and consistant international success, it is fundamental that we have a broad talent base. We can't just bumble along hoping that volunteers will have the time and the motivation to do right by people who have already expressed an interest.
In retail, if someone walks into a shop, the battle is 90% won. Sales people are just finishing it off. We need to learn from this. If a kid goes to a come & try day, or schools racing, or HPV racing; they're already interested, they've walked into the shop. All we need to do is make eye contact and talk to them. But to do that, we need to be there. If you walk into a shop and there's no staff to help you, or if there is, they ignore you or wait for you to come to them, you're much more likely to walk out and go somewhere else. The same applies to us and recruiting junior female cyclists (and male, but there's so many more of them that it's not such a critical issue). I think we need a visable, friendly club representative, preferably female (because CV can't do it, politically and resourcefully) at every C&T at DISC, and where possible, at school cycling championships and major HPV events. We shouldn't get lucky every now and then, we should structure for success. It needs to be deliberate and planned and resourced. We are letting kids slip through our fingers. We need to stop it happening.
Building development squads for kids already in the sport is the easy, sexy thing to do*. Converting the kids who have shown an interest into kids who will have a go is the vital part. Not sexy, no big public relations coup for sponsors, but MUCH more important to the long term success of our sport locally and internationally.
* - not that it's not valuable, it is, but it's not going to get girls started in the first place.