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December 2023

Looking back at Teen Connect's Epic National Event!

In June this year Teen Connect hosted their annual National Event in association with Canoeing Ireland and Her Moves in Castlebar. We were delighted to have Hannah Craig from Canoeing Ireland tell us how Teen Connect came to fruition and how events like the National Event in June can have such a positive impact on teenage girls' lives.

Teen Connect initially set-up during a COVID lockdown aims to inspire and encourage more teenage girls in and into Paddlesport in Ireland while creating a network to support them and give them a voice/opportunity to shape relatable events, representation, and experiences.

Leaning strongly on the Sport Ireland 5 teenage girls anchors and following the 8 Principles of Success for a teenage girl’s programme, Teen Connect has grown year on year in both impact and reach. Since its inception Canoeing Ireland’s teenage girl membership has increased by 100%.

Fast forward to 2023, a project team of teenage girls from the paddling community was recruited. They were offered leadership training linked to a visibility campaign of their own choosing along with the opportunity to shape and take on roles at Teen Connect events.

Podcasts were the campaign of choice for this project team; they interviewed different female paddlers/role models from the Paddlesports community. To hear a teenage girl’s voice in the context of a sport Podcast was incredibly powerful and highlighted how rare it was for their voice to be broadcast. The opportunity to develop interview skills in a safe environment was relished by all in the project team; event the shyest among them felt comfortable enough and supported to take on this challenge.

On the event front, there were 2 main ones the project team helped to shape and play roles at: one in West Cork and one in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Both were multi-activity in nature, fun spirited with an element of celebration through food, music, and a lot of laughter. The emphasis was on coming together among teenage girls, having a good time and trying new activities all in a very supportive and encouraging environment. Both events were delivered with strong local partnerships LSPs and local clubs and institutions all aspiring to the same objectives.

Group shot from Teen Connect National Event

For the event in Castlebar, we worked with Mayo Sports Partnership and ATU to establish a fun filled menu of activities on the last Saturday of June: SUP, Open Canoe and Paddle Yoga were the outdoor afternoon offering while a Roller Disco combined with Skateboarding in a local community hall was the evening entertainment. To fuel the hungry teenagers and incredible volunteers (without whom the event wouldn’t happen) we brought in a local food truck. The girls from the project team ran the warm-up and supported the Paddlesports activities. Watching them step up and into positions of leadership among their teenage peers was one of the biggest highlights of the event.

Over the 2 events we had close to 90 girls with the vast majority having little to no prior experience in Paddlesports with a handful having done any of the other activities before the events. The willingness, enthusiasm, and level of engagement were all very high throughout both days.

Girls on the water in Castlebar!

The multi-activity format, relatable role models and coaches/instructors who understand the needs of the teenage girls along with food/music/laughter have all become musts in our Teen Connect events. Bearing in mind that this offering is only possible through strong local partners working to the same objectives and incredible volunteers who want to make a difference in this space.

Being a Her Moves approved programme will help Teen Connect identify more partners to help grow Teen Connect. The shoot for the stars goal is that every teenage girl in Ireland has an opportunity to experience Paddlesports in a fun and relatable way. Teen Connect 2024 is ready to be launched and we can’t wait…

Learn more about Teen Connect here

Article by Hannah Craig from Canoeing Ireland

#HerMoves #TeenConnect #FindSomethingThatMovesYou

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