Fiona Coghlan was speaking at the Support Her Sport conference on Tuesday

IRELAND’S Grand Slam winning captain Fiona Coghlan believes more work needs to be done with girls at a young age to encourage them to stay involved with sport.
Coghlan, a PE teacher at Lucan Community College, led Ireland to a Six Nations Grand Slam victory in 2013 but retired from rugby after defeat to England in the semi-final of the 2014 rugby World Cup.
The 36-year-old was speaking at the third annual Support Her Sport conference at Croke Park in recognition of International Women’s Day last Tuesday where it was revealed that 74% of 17 to 24-year-olds have little or no interest in sport.
And Coghlan believes that parents need to do more to encourage their daughters into sport.
“I am a secondary school teacher but you look at primary schools and see kids coming out of them lacking fundamental movement skills, and their confidence is low,” she said.
“They don’t have faith in their ability and what they are good at so it is difficult, when they are 12 or 13, trying to convince them that they actually do have potential in some sort of activity.
“I know myself, we try to offer as broad a program as possible but then you are limited with facilities like swimming and cycling in schools so there are gaps there, but that is where parents come in.
“At parent teacher meetings, they say ‘oh she’s just not that into sport’. Well, what have you tried and what have you brought them out to? I just think parents are quick enough to get their boys involved with sport at a young age but not so quick with their girls.”
Another point of contention has been the lack of female coaches in rugby but Coghlan has, in the past, spoken out against the idea of introducing quotas as a way of solving the issue.
“I’ve had coaches who have never played elite rugby but they were very good coaches. I think it is women second guessing themselves sometimes, where they won’t put themselves forward for the roles.
“There are more women involved at mini level than ever before but it is too slow to wait for them to come through, there has to be some sort of pathway put in place.
“As elite athletes, you just want the best coach whether it is male or female,” Coghlan concluded.

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