Claudine Labelle

Ashoka Fellow
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Fellow Since 2010

Citation

This profile was prepared when Claudine Labelle was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Claudine is creating community support networks to motivate young girls to become more active and to develop confidence and a positive self-image. She is working in multiple cities in Canada, bringing together professional athletes, career women, schools and amateur sport organizations. Olympians give conferences to inspire teenage girls and help them reflect on healthy lifestyles and self-development. Claudine invites teenagers to participate in FitClub and athletic challenges organized by teachers and accompanied by mentors—professional women and athletes. Her goal is to prevent unhealthy lifestyles by developing early habits for physical activities. Claudine offers teenage girls opportunities to interact with role models—athletes as well as women of all ages who have integrated sport into their lives in different ways, but who benefit from it in similar ways. They all enjoy it thoroughly, have used it as a self-development tool, and as a way to improve their health and develop support networks. Through big sport events, amateur sport organizations, schools, and mentors, teenage girls experiment with fun and interesting sports and games. With ongoing activities and network support, inactive girls make and sustain commitments to physical activity, trying new sports and developing new behaviors. The community clusters are constantly expanding to increase the motivation of young girls and their sense of belonging. As a result, Claudine is also preventing future eating and emotional disorders.

One of the most important players in the life of a teenager is the school system, and Claudine is strengthening its capacity to support girls in their physical, mental, and social development. She is developing train-the-trainer relationships with schools and teachers, getting them involved in supporting young girls to become more active. Claudine works closely with teachers to create FitClub’s that enable young girls, who are often intimidated by sports, to get together to exercise. The training plan is designed for all fitness levels so anyone can participate. The more active FitClub members are invited to motivate their less active teammates to get moving. Claudine also brings extra resources to schools, like kinesiologists and nutritionists, and thus changes mindsets within the school system by introducing a much needed focus on teenage girls’ health. Furthermore, she offers a service to youth organizations that gives young women the opportunity to partake in sports. This gives girls the chance to experiment with a variety of physical activities, all in an unthreatening and casual environment. Claudine also partners with large citizen organizations (COs), like the YWCA and creates programs for their members.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

Updates

Former elite cyclist Claudine Labelle is passionate about sport, and she has always known about the benefits of exercise for physical and mental health.While training at an elite level, Claudine became involved with young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds with the goal of teaching them the importance ofphysical activity. She then found that adopting a healthy lifestyle and being fit is generally more important than competing. The alarming statistics on sedentary behaviour among teenage girls led her to the idea of developing a training program exclusively for girls. She founded FitSpirit in 2007 to encourage girls aged 12 to 17 to be active. Two years later, the FitClub training program was launched. The objective of FitClub is to introduce participants to their first 5K or10K race through a training program that runs 8 to 10 weeks, in which they signup on a voluntary basis, and which caps off with a major regional event. After meeting with participants, Claudine found that training in a recreational setting has a beneficial effect on self-esteem and staying in school. To date, more than 110,000 teenage girls from high schools in Ontario and Quebec have participated in the program.

In addition to FitSpirit, Claudine acts as mentor to several mentees. In 2016, she was awarded the Trophy for Sport and Innovation awarded by the International Olympic Committee. So what is Claudine’s greatest wish? That as many Canadian girls as possible live the FitSpirit experience. That wish is off to a great start!

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