Mandisa Lau – Breaking Down Barriers, One inning at a time: Reflections as a Community Researcher

Breaking Down Barriers, One inning at a time: Reflections as a Community Researcher 

Up to 62% of Canadian adolescent girls are not participating in any kind of sport and one in three girls who have participated in sports drop out by late adolescence (Canadian Women & Sport, 2020). 

 Such statistics illustrate that gender inequality continues to be prevalent in sports. Therefore, I was thrilled to collaborate with Canadian Girls Baseball, Brock Centre for Sport Capacity and Community Researchers on a research project that was looking to understand female athletes and family satisfaction. Specifically, Canadian Girls Baseball (CGB) were looking to see if a female-owned, and led organization made an impact to young female athletes. As a result, I created survey questions that were then distributed and e-blasted to families to capture their satisfaction rate. In total, there were 50 respondents.  

Our aim for the research project was to examine players’ satisfaction as well as understand the impact of a female-led sport organization upon female youth participants. This blog provides my reflections, key lessons, and valuable skills that I acquired as part of this project. I look forward to continuing to practice and improve such skills throughout my journey as a researcher.  

Diamond, Surveys, and Self-reflection: Lessons Learned 

I learned a lot from attending training modules, conducting needs assessments, creating, and analyzing research data. Below, I outline two skills that I learned through this process.  

Lesson #1- “See Me, Be Me” 

“See me, be me” I first heard this simple but profound quote during my initial needs assessment with Canadian Girls Baseball CEO, Dana Bookman. With multiple female leaders to look up to within the CGB, this quote was very fitting. The quote was also extremely inspirational as it encourages women to keep breaking down barriers, especially in male-dominated sports, like baseball. For instance, when one strong female leader overcomes a barrier, it inspires others to do the same. Through survey responses, parents also indicated that CGB was an excellent example of what women can achieve when they work together.  

Lesson #2- Think Outside of the Diamond: Design your Research to be Impactful for a variety of stakeholders’  

When I was designing my survey, I had focused on our main objectives: 

  • To measure/determine/analyze if organized baseball programs can result in a safe environment where female players can develop psychosocial skills and life skills  
  • To determine how CGB has influences the lives of female players 
  • To measure/determine what impact female players felt as CGB is a female-led, girls only organization. 

I assumed that these results would only be used to tailor and improve CGB’s existing programs I did not realize that the results could be used beyond program improvement, such as, grant and funding applications. Therefore, I included questions where respondents self-reflected on the perceived importance of CGB being a female- run and all sports organization that aims at to break down barriers, especially in male-dominated sports.  

Developing my Skills as a Community Researcher 

By participating in this collaborative project, I was also able to reflect on my experience and how I can best apply the professional and life skills I developed. Below, I outline and discuss three professional and life skills.  


As a full-time student with two part-time jobs, I always hold myself accountable for everything I do.  However, I have never partaken in an independent study course where the majority of the course was done autonomously and self-directed. At first, I found it daunting, how was I supposed to hold myself accountable if there were no specific deadlines? In addition to the monthly training modules, it also served as a quick check-in to see where each student was at with their projects. Through monthly training modules and email check-ins with my academic supervisor, CBG and Community Researchers, I had the opportunity to enhance my accountability skills.  

Written Communication  

Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, most of my communication with CGB was through email. It was important that I was able to draft well-written and clear emails to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Therefore, I further developed my writing skills through drafting weekly reports and emails to CGB, Community Researchers and my academic supervisors.  


Conducting a research project remotely had its own challenges. Specifically, a prominent challenge encountered was the management of varying work schedules. Our initial meeting took place during my reading week when I visited New York, and despite being on a trip, I looked forward to our meeting and was prepared to work remotely. On the other hand, different work schedules also meant that there were delayed messages or missed email responses. Our course timeline was greatly affected by this, especially during the launch of the survey. However, with a new mindset and an extension to the course, we were ready to continue!  


As a result of this collaborative project with Brock Centre for Sport Capacity, Community Researchers, and Canadian Girls Baseball, I learned important lessons about the value of having a strong female mentor and how to use survey results beyond the CGB program. In addition, I had the opportunity to gain and improve on my accountability, written communication, and flexibility skills. Overall, I hope that this meaningful collaboration as well as my research data will bring light to the persistent issue of gender inequality in sports.


Canadian Women & Sport (2020). Canadian Girls are Dropping out of Sport According to National Study. Women and Sport. 


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