The importance of sport role models for girl athletes


Girls participate in sport at a significantly lower rate than boys (Slater & Tiggemann, 2011). Couched within a social identity approach (Tajfel et al., 1971), female role models may be an important part of girls' sport participation. We examine (1) whether role models are important to girls' sport participation, and (2) whether girls' athletic identity mediates the association between role models and participation. For Study 1, data were drawn from the Canadian Women & Sport Rally Report dataset, whereby 166 adolescent girl athletes (Mage = 15.8, range = 13-18 years) reported who they considered to be their sport role models and rated how role models influence their sport participation. For Study 2, we sampled 121 young adult women (Mage = 21.5, range = 19-25 years) on their retrospective experiences with role models as an adolescent athlete. In Study 1, 56% of girl athletes, compared to 33% of boy athletes, agreed or strongly agreed that there are not enough role models in sport. Further, 60% of girls reported that they would stay in sport if there were more female role models. In Study 2, girls rated trustworthy and friendly as the most important role model characteristics. Mediation analysis indicated that the association between having a role model and dropping out of sport was mediated by athletic identity. Overall, many girls perceive role models as important to their participation in sport. Female role models might help girls develop an athletic identity, and this might help keep girls in sport into young adulthood.