Get Girls Active with FitSpirit
FitSpirit motivates grade 7-12 girls in Ontario schools to become physically active and inspires them to stay active throughout their lives. Ophea is partnering with FitSpirit to promote the FitSpirit program to schools in Ontario. We all believe that all kids have the right to enjoy the lifelong benefits of healthy active living.
We caught up with Cassandra Collins, FitSpirit Coordinator in the GTA to learn more.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and why FitSpirit is important to you
My name is Cassandra Collins, I am the FitSpirit Coordinator for the GTA. As a coordinator, I work with schools to help them implement a girls physical activity program designed to get all girls in their school moving! I love this organization because it inspires people to approach physical activity in a new way, different than the traditional sports method. The program promotes a unique activity environment where there is no stop watch, it is inclusive by welcoming and providing opportunities for all girls, and breaks the cycle that often leads girls to disengaging in physical activity. FitSpirit is a club for girls, and teaches girls that physical activity is a social activity – participation is better with friends!
2. What makes the FitSpirit program unique/special?
School gyms are completely booked up with sports, from floor hockey to basketball, to lunchtime dodgeball games. If a girl isn’t involved in sports and doesn’t have PE class there is less opportunity for her to be physically active at school. We are keeping youth on the sidelines by not motivating a large portion of them to be physically active. FitSpirit is special in that it creates a space for those girls not involved to get involved. By having a FitSpirit club in your school, you are saying that it is important for every girl to have the opportunity to be physically active. That even though you might not identify as a “sport player” or aren’t competitive, you can still try new sports and physically activities, and reap the benefits of belonging to a team and being physically active!
3. What impact does FitSpirit have in school communities?
Schools that participate in FitSpirit see a team form amongst the girls in their school. Girls say hi to each other in the hallways, support and encourage one another, and have increased self-esteem. One of my favourite success stories is that of Silver Stream Public School. I love going to watch the program at this school. Their program leader, Kelly, is a superstar. The gym is an absolute safe space for these girls. Girls walk in for their sessions, throw on some music, go straight to the storage area, and grab skipping ropes, and get right into playing games, running around, and laughing and having fun together. The program is so successful that even the boys at the school want to get involved and help with the program. Kelly does a great job at giving the boys ways to help out and support the girls! You can watch her success in this video.:
4. How does FitSpirit celebrate success?
One of the great ways that FitSpirit grows its engagement in the school is through hosting the Celebration Event. The FitSpirit Celebration Event is a high-energy day where girls get to spend time with their friends, along with all of the other girls that participate in FitSpirit across their region. In Toronto, there are around 3,000 girls that attend the Celebration Event. At the Celebration Event there is a big stage where girls can follow along and dance to music all day, run or walk a 5 or 10K, and explore activation stations (such as floor hockey, rock climbing, yoga, volleyball, etc). This is the greatest day of the year! The fun and energy that you feel from this day is unlike any other. Girls remember this day, and use this day to fuel participation at the school level! Once other girls hear about how fun this day is, they are sure to sign up for the FitSpirit club!
5. How do you support FitSpirit schools in the GTA?
I am in regular contact with over 60 schools across the GTA. I talk with each program leader to help them overcome any obstacles they may be facing, and give them tips and tricks to create a great program at their school. Another great part of my role with FitSpirit is recruiting ambassadors. I attend many networking events, and stay active in the community. When I meet someone who inspires me, I want to get them engaged to then inspire girls! This is the best part of my job! I have met many influential women that have so much fire and passion that they want to share, it is amazing to create opportunities to let them share their passion with youth. (Partner schools receive up to 3 ambassador visits per school year)
6. Final words: What long term impacts does FitSpirit have on participants?
FitSpirit’s mission is to help teenage girls to be physically active throughout their lives. The ‘throughout their lives’ part is very important for our organization. We want to empower girls with the tools to stay physically active once they graduate high school, and understand how being physically active makes them feel. We always see girls reaching out to us to see how they can bring FitSpirit to their school when they have switched schools, and we get girls who participated in FitSpirit reach out to become ambassadors once they have graduated. FitSpirit is also partnered with 4 universities and 1 research center on longitudinal studies to explore the long-term effects that participating in FitSpirit has on girls.
Learn more about FitSpirit and Cassandra by watching their video: In the skin of a FitSpirit Coordinator, Cassandra Collins on YouTube.
To learn more about FitSpirit and register yours school visit FitSpirit.ca.