Women Involved: Chandra Crawford (Fast and Female)

Meet Chandra Crawford who founded Fast and Female! A Canadian Cross Country Skier, she won gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Passionate about sports and wanting to keep young women involved, she started Fast and Female in 2005. Young women are much more likely to drop out of athletics than males-Fast and Female creates a positive environment and a great way for communities to take action!

You can find Fast and Female on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

What inspired you to create Fast and Female and why do you feel it is so important to have a program such as yours?
Fast and female exists because of a need in society for more confidence in girls, there is also a need for physical activity for everyone in all walks of life. The value of physical activity is so important for everyone.
In their teens, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate than boys; I created Fast and Female in 2005 with my teammates to do something about that.
I want girls to achieve their potential in life and improve their confidence, and sport is a great way to grow confidence!

What athletic activities does Fast and Female offer? Do girls get to pick and choose what they try?
Over the last 9 years Fast and Female has had events in 24 different spots in 5 different countries and has 40 big events during the year. (Most are located in North America.)
1/3rd of events are in Cross Country skiing, but because of demand of other sports you will find events featuring mountain biking, canoe/kayak, ski cross, speed skate, and triathlons. It all depends on if there is a super motivated volunteer in that sport (community) who gets in touch with Fast and Female to set up the event.

Fast and Female offers very inclusive activities. Girls take part in physical literacy, which are vital skills for health and well being for whatever sport they choose. Imagine girls at various stations working on core, strength, flexibility, and plyometrics.
General athleticism is the main goal of Fast and Female and exposing girls to a variety of different sports, role models, and experiences.

Why was it important for you to get other professional athletes on board to help with the program?
Reason we have so many ambassadors is because they are all such wonderful role models and we can reach many girls! Fast and Female has 100 different ambassadors who are available to go to events.
If someone wants to have an event in their community/sport (it’s really available to them to contact the up and coming athletes, past athletes, etc. who they would want to come out and be role models for that sport.)
It’s so valuable for young women to have good role models- that is what our ambassadors do.

Why do you feel it's important to introduce and encourage young women to athletics?
Athletics and sport will give confidence and confidence is very valuable in life.

What has been the most inspirational moment for you since Fast and Female started?
About a year ago when a 9 year old girl told me she was nervous to advance to her next level ski group. I was really nervous about going to Sochi 2014 Olympics.
Tinisha and I were able to totally connect on our fear of putting ourselves out there, trying things that are hard, trying things not guaranteed, and trying our best and we might fail was one of the most rewarding and inspirational moments since starting Fast and Female.

For someone who is not athletically inclined, how would you help them find an athletic activity that they would enjoy?
There are so many wonderful ways to move and be active! I highly recommend trying as many activities with as many different people you can.
I had never done Tabata, I found a new thing I really enjoy. Another example on finding something you really enjoy- My mom in her late 60’s just discovered she loves pilates! We are so happy to see my mom connecting with something that is a good physical activity for her.
We can all have and do whatever we want and there are so many wonderful athletic activities out there for girls and people out there of all ages and walks of life.

You have Summits, Champ Chats, and Power Hours-how did you come up with these programs and why are they so well received?
These continue to be developed to meet the demand, to meet the flood of emails in our inbox.

We’ve added the Power Hour- any club can have a power hour and do something for their girls. Any club can have a Fast and Female power hour, usually it takes a couple weeks to line something up.
It’s picking a unique activity that will connect/bond them and keep them in sport. It’s a great idea to have the girls do something that isn’t their typical sport. Example- take your basketball team rock climbing, if you have a running group- go swimming.

Champ Chat- classic event format (having events at a national championship) If you are the organizer or part of the club, give us a call and we’ll make sure there is an inspiring program for girls that will make the event even more memorable.

Summit- only had one so far, stand-alone-day full day for girls. The main objective is to spend more time with girls, the parents, and coaches. They get to meet inspiring role models and experience the community of Fast and Female!

What inspired you to reach out and encourage professional athletes to help you with your program/become ambassadors vs. athletic (non-professional) athletes?
We have all kinds of ambassadors! We have athletes who are Olympians, regional champions, recreational triathletes. It’s very inclusive.
The national ambassadors have an elevated profile- more mainstream (girls see them more in media)
For non-professional athletes we have the Expert category. There you will find physiologists, strength/conditioning coaches, and sport psychologists.

Is there a way that non-professional, athletic women can help support your organization?
Absolutely! Women of all walks of life can be part. They can wear our logo and merchandise; connect with us on our social media networks. Those are low-impact ways that one can help. Volunteer at events, help organize an event or fundraiser- I have met a lot of incredible non-professional, normal women who have become friends of mine and help Fast and Female out regularly!

What would you like people to know about Fast and Female and what you do?
They can become involved and host a power hour in their sports club, kids club, with their friends, etc. It’s an extremely fun organization to be a part of. We are trying to create a movement all across North America and the world! We also have a need for many professional services- graphic design, grant writing, database management, etc.
We are a volunteer-driven organization and would love to get people involved in any way they want to. For them to take it on as their own cause, to help further the cause of keeping girls in sports.

Where do you hope to see the program in the next 5 years?
We would want to measure our impact. If a person had a strong research background they could help us with this- help us figure out the measurability of our programs.
We have already reached 8,000, will reach another 3,000 girls per year ideally grow into a movement that people can take into their own clubs, so we can see photos online, all over social media of girls everywhere in all kinds of athletics/sports activities becoming ambassadors for their communities in their clubs.

What can be done inspire the next generation of female athletes?
Role models- strong, female role models!
It’s so valuable if a 12 yr old athlete meets a 16 yr old athlete (or a 30 year old meeting a 40 year old athlete.)
Strong and positive role models are valuable and help girls/women see what they want to do.

What inspired you to get involved with athletics? You are an Olympic XC skier, are there other athletic activities you enjoy?
I grew up in a very athletic community with a great family and was exposed to a ton of different sports.
Kayaking, travel, backcountry skiing, love reading, dancing, singing, playing guitar, yoga, cooking, and mostly love people and animals and have a lot of passions in life.

Were you a natural when you started out, or did you struggle?
I was exposed to sport at an early age (toddler), and my struggles have been throughout my career. It’s always hard to improve yourself no matter how natural you are.
I think it was funny when I won the Olympics, people said “Oh that course was great for you!”
It definitely was NOT great for me!
When I got to the 2006 Olympics in Italy I hated the course, but I worked on it every day for those 3 weeks.
I’d been working on skills like that at home; I made that course into a good fit for me, rather I made myself into a good fit for the course!

What are ways that we can encourage someone who isn't "naturally talented" at their athletic choice-but loves it regardless?
Bill Bowerman said he doesn’t have time for those who are naturally talented and he spends all his time with the ones who are hardworking, dedicated, and passionate for the sport. I think that this is something everyone can get behind. (Coaches, family, and administrators) For individuals to recognize the value of work ethic and down-scale attention of natural ability. To have people praise effort, struggle, and work.

Why is it so important for your own mental/emotional well-being to be physically active?
I just have a feeling when I need to go for a run; I get out there and feel way better. It’s like any habit. There is a need recognized, a habit that happens, and then a reward. I always get that reward!

What is something random about yourself that people may or may not know?
I am really intimidated by my next phases of business school- I’m doing my MBA at the University of Calgary. It’s a big transition like everyone says, but I’m really fortunate to have a lot of support, so it’s not unlike an Olympic endeavor.

Also? I love wearing my cowboy boots! I can run in them, wear them all day, go to concerts, and I think they are the greatest shoes on earth!