As a young athlete, Chandra Crawford looked up to skiers Sara Renner and Beckie Scott. Now, as a three time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist in cross country skiing, she hopes to be a role model for the next generation. Following a successful skiing career, Chandra has committed herself to the work of Fast and Female, the organization she founded in 2005 to keep more girls in sport. Having experienced the benefits first hand, she felt compelled to make a difference in the lives of youth.
“Girls drop out of sport in their early teens six times more than boys, and miss out on the benefits of personal development in sport. I want to change that.”
Fast and Female works with young women aged 9-19, and has already reached more than 8,000 girls. Inspiring young women and keeping them in sport is her purpose in life, Chandra tells us. In particular, Fast and Female is focused on the drop out stage. “Girls drop out of sport in their early teens six times more than boys, and miss out on the benefits of personal development in sport. I want to change that.”
“Confidence in sport can translate to confidence in life, and it’s very important to learn to cultivate this quality.”
Participation in sport can teach an individual many things, particularly how to deal with setbacks, working toward self-improvement, and teamwork. What did Crawford learn from her own athletic career? She learned the value of always doing her best. Life is more satisfying when you constantly put forth your best effort. In fact, it’s the best way to avoid regret, she explains.
This organization is unique in recognizing the old adage: "It takes a village.“ Confidence in sport can translate to confidence in life, and it’s very important to learn to cultivate this quality,” Chandra says. This means reaching out to educators, parents, and coaches so that they too can be part of the process. She feels strongly that creating a positive environment is crucial when removing barriers to girls’ participation in sport. Teaching adults how to create a supportive environment is an important piece of the puzzle.
The athlete ambassadors who have teamed up with Fast and Female are also a big part of this village. The organization wants to provide girls with positive, healthy role models, and not surprisingly, they’ve partnered with many incredible female athletes in both winter and summer sports. It's not important to be a big name, Chandra explains. What's important is being dedicated to supporting girls in sport. Despite this, there are some pretty big names on the ambassador roster, including Kelsey Serwa, Marie-Michele Gagnon, and Marnie McBean. The Fast and Female team hopes to offer participants fun-filled days and new friendships. The goal is to make the experience of participating in sport a pleasant one.
In her experience, young women begin to lose interest in sport at this age because of the cultural pressures they are subject to. The key to creating a positive environment, she asserts, is to keep sport fun and social. Chandra reminds us that it means very little to keep young women in sport if they are not happy and enjoying the experience. For Crawford, what makes it all worthwhile is the satisfaction that comes with feeling that she’s made an impact in the lives of young women. “Letters from parents and participants are the most valuable payback I get! Big smiles and stories of the strength we find from rallying together for this cause are so amazing."