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Girls Play Programs & Events

Chicago Park District Girls Play Initiative

Launched in 2018, the Girls Play Initiative works to expand opportunities for girls in sports and ensure that young women have equal access to recreational offerings in their communities. Through programming, special events, and camps we focus on providing opportunities for girls to create life-long healthy physical activity habits. 

Why a Girls Play Initiative?

Nearly 67% percent of the women surveyed in the Always ‘Like a Girl’ Study said that they felt society doesn’t encourage girls to play sports. However, girls who play sports not only feel more confident, but are more likely to show improvements in physical and mental health, academic achievement and self-esteem.  Through sports, girls learn important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and confidence.

Girls participate less than boys.

Girls' participation rates in sports lag behind those of boys at all ages. They experience a great decline in physical activity than boys as they grow up—and are three to four times as likely to drop out of sports. African American and Hispanic girls enter sports at a later average age and drop out earlier than their counterparts, leaving girls of color with an even narrower window of opportunity.

Girls face social and cultural barriers to sports.

Due to conflicting societal messages about femininity and athleticism, girls are considered “outsiders” in sports and physical activity contexts, and boys dominate both informal and organized physical sports spaces.


But girls need sports—maybe even more than boys.

The need for an outlet for girls is high. Thirty-one percent of girls and young women experience symptoms of anxiety, while only 13% of boys do. (Damour, 2020) The number of teenage girls who said they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped by 55% from 2009 to 2012; but it didn’t change for boys. And girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen are now three times more likely than boys to become depressed. Between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of teenage girls experiencing depression increased from 13 to 17 %.  In the same time period, that statistic moved from 5% to 6% for boys. A larger portion of 13- to 17-year-old girls report feeling tense or nervous every day or “almost” every day (36% for girls vs. 23% for boys).
SOURCE: Damour, L. (2020). Under pressure: confronting the epidemic of stress and anxiety in girls. Ballantine Books. 


2020 Accomplishments

  • Hosted annual Girls Day of Play in honor of National Girls & Women in Sports Day with over 500 girls participating citywide.
  • Hosted a Girl’s Flag Football clinic for girls in 5th-8th grade in preparation for the CPS SCORE Flag Football season.
  • In partnership with Nike & We Coach, we trained 150 Chicago Park District staff through the Chicago Coaches Girls Initiative about best practices in creating girl-friendly spaces and how to keep girls in programs.
  • Girls Equity/Gender Equity Out of School Time Committee was formed to dedicate efforts to increase opportunity.