Q&A- Lacrosse Nova Scotia talks about gearing programming toward women 

Q&A- Lacrosse Nova Scotia talks about gearing programming toward women

Lacrosse Nova Scotia (LNS) launched the Women’s 22+ Lacrosse Program to create programming adapted to women’s needs. The initiative allows for fun and a chance to be active for women ages 22 and above at all fitness levels.   

To learn more about the program, we spoke with Donna Goguen, the Executive Director of Lacrosse Nova Scotia: 

Q. What sparked the idea for this program?   

A. The initial idea for this program came from Kathy Johnston, Manager of Recreation and Community Engagement for West Hants Regional Municipality. Lacrosse Nova Scotia had an opportunity to partner with her and to provide a program targeted toward women and girls funded by a federal CPRA grant, in March of 2022.    

She suggested providing a try-lacrosse program for mothers of school-aged children. To our surprise, 15 mothers registered with ten children who were provided with an activity so that the mothers could enjoy their lacrosse session. Through ‘word of mouth’ some lacrosse mothers in the HRM found out about this program and asked LNS if we could provide a program in HRM. 

We had some extra floor time in late spring of 2022, so we gave it a shot. To our surprise, we had 28 women register. We organized a second program in HRM in the fall of 2022 and had 56 women register such that we had to open a second, more advanced program, and had 73 women registered between the two programs.    

Q. What does the Women’s 22+ Lacrosse Program mean to you? 

A. This program is one of the most important programs I have been part of in my 30-plus years of volunteering and working in male-dominated sports. All my work was with youth and I have had the privilege of trying to increase participation opportunities for the girls’ side of hockey and lacrosse. It never occurred to me what a gap in programming there was for women to participate in sports.  

I also taught group fitness for 25 years, so promoting and facilitating physical activity for body, mind and spirit is important to me. To hear the laughter and pure enjoyment of the women participating in these programs is so rewarding. It encapsulates everything that sport can be for any age group. 

Q. What barriers does the Women’s 22+ Lacrosse Program tackle and how did you find out that that was a barrier?  

A. The barriers were primarily financial and finding ways to supply the equipment needed to get women started in the program, helmets and sticks. Most women would not have this equipment and would hesitate to try a program they had to purchase gear for.  

By providing ‘loaners’ it gives them the opportunity to try the sport and decide if they want to keep coming back. A barrier that we brainstormed with Kathy in the West Hants program was babysitting. Their Community Recreation Centre providing that service as part of the program managed that barrier.  

A final observation for our programs is the importance of having women facilitators teach the skills and the rules of the masters game. While we also had a few men help facilitate, it was interesting to see the difference in responsiveness to the facilitators, at the beginning of the program, until the women were able to get to know the men and feel comfortable taking direction from them. 

Q. Now that the program is up and running and in its second phase, describe the ways you see the program benefiting the women involved? 

A. I see women who weren’t able to pick a ball up with the stick or catch it, learn the skills quickly so that within the first four weeks, they are able to progress to doing basic learning drills. Within eight weeks, they are able to be successful in a basic scrimmage. These women show confidence in their abilities, are fitter than they were and have fun getting fit.  

One of our lacrosse moms told me on the first day that she was not going to run. She has now come to all three programs and is running. We laugh about that now. We survey after each session for feedback and have identified women who are interested in coaching and helping to administer a league in future. 

 We also see women with confidence who can also choose to try our co-ed adult and masters programs, possibly even with their husbands or significant others. 

Q. What are your hopes for the program in the future? 

A. We hope for a sustainable program for adult women. We plan on a future women’s league that would include a stream for experienced women to play competitively coming out of our youth and junior programs, plus a non-contact master’s league to accommodate recreational play. 

We hope to provide programs that continue to grow and bring women of all age groups and skill levels into lacrosse for fun and fitness.   

 Q. What is your broader goal/hope for Lacrosse in NS related to the program?  

A. Our broader goal/hope for Lacrosse in NS is to expand this program for adults throughout the province as we work toward expanding our youth programs. We hope to use this same example to provide successful sustainable programs for men, and under-represented groups.  

It is an indigenous origin game given to the Iroquois/Haudenosaunee people by the Creator and shared with the world. It is a medicine game for healing people, and we think it’s a great time to be part of this game.    

Q. Anything you would like to add?  

A. I think it’s important to thank Sport Nova Scotia and Support4Sport for helping us support this important program and the goals that Lacrosse NS has to achieve gender equity in our sport. 

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