Kicking goals: Exploring the experiences of girls who play Australian Rules football

Paige N. Kernebone, Amie O’Shea, Alethea Jerebine, Lisa M. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Issue Addressed: Increasing physical activity of adolescent girls is a key priority for health promotion, as their physical activity levels are generally lower than boys. This study aims to understand the experiences of adolescent girls who play Australian Football League Women's (AFLW) football and to explore girls’ pathways to playing football. Understanding how AFLW and gender norms/stereotypes influence girls’ experiences and self-perceptions was a key focus. Methods: A qualitative description design and purposive sampling were used. Six adolescent girls aged 11-17 that play football in urban Victoria, Australia participated. Short interview survey questions covering demographic and football pathway information were administered prior to online one-on-one interviews. Interviews lasted 30-45 minutes. Questions were framed broadly, open-ended and non-directive (some using image prompts). Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The results cover four themes: (a) Self-perception—participants presented with positive self-perceptions, (b) Social support—a supportive team and exposure to women playing football, and family support/involvement, were encouraging factors in pathways to playing football, (c) AFLW role models—were positive influences on participants’ experience and self-perceptions and (d) Influence of gender norms/stereotypes—participant self-perceptions displayed conforming and non-conforming features of gender norms/stereotypes. Participants reported exposure to sexist commentary about girls in sport through social media and peers but instead of being discouraged, most used it as motivation or empowerment, while others were dismissive. Conclusions: Findings suggest increased media coverage of AFLW players may be beneficial. Education programs/initiatives which i) involve AFLW role models and ii) encourage family friendly club environments and team bonding spaces are recommended. So what?: Findings indicate that adolescent girls can thrive in their football experience, which could increase feelings of empowerment and foster positive self-perceptions, contributing to overall health. Further research in this area is recommended to expand on and strengthen our study findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-890
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by Deakin University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Australian Health Promotion Association.


  • adolescent girls
  • AFL women
  • Australian Rules Football
  • gender norms
  • physical activity
  • role models
  • self-perception
  • sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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