More than 200 young girls and amateur coaches descended on WinSport on Sunday to hear from female Olympic and National team athletes who were once in their shoes.

The second annual Fast and Female Summit encourages girls between the ages of 8 and 18 to continue their athletic pursuits at an age when it’s common for young women to simply walk away from sport.

"There's actually a huge problem with girls quitting in their early teens and at six times the rate of boys before they're 14," explains Chandra Crawford, Olympic gold medallist cross country skier and the founder of Fast and Female.

Girls attending the summit heard firsthand stories and received guidance from 33 ambassadors including:

  • Chandra Crawford
  • Alex Gough, luger (three time Olympian)
  • Cassie Hawrysh, skeleton (Olympian)
  • Jessica Greg, short track speed skater (2010 Olympic silver medallist)
  • Jessica Groeneveld, whitewater kayaker (2013 Pan Am champion)
  • Allison Long, swimmer (Canadian National Team)
  • Maria Samson, rugby player (member of Canada’s 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup squad)
  • Erica Wiebe, wrestler (2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist)

Crawford, who founded Fast and Female a decade ago, says she was blessed to spend her formative years growing up in an active family. While she thrived in sport, other girls her age gave up on athletics for reasons ranging from injury to peer pressure to feelings of isolation. She says the decision to stop competing can deprive a girl of valuable life skills.

"Some of the skills that I hope girls get from being in sports, and I know they'll get, like bouncing back from failure, teamwork, coachability,” said the 2006 gold medallist. “(Skills) that are useful in life beyond just being a straight A student."

Amita Chahal, an 11-year-old soccer goalkeeper, admits the pressures of team sport can, at times, be arduous.

“Sometimes when I get really nervous, the ball's coming towards me, I fumble it,” said Chahal. “Then I just feel like I let down the team"

Chahal says Sunday’s event was a lot of fun and the program has provided her with powerful tools that will help her in the future. She particularly loved building her core strength by throwing medicine balls.

Skeleton athlete Cassie Hawrysh says sport and physical fitness can remain a passion for girls throughout their lives even if they’re not competing at a high level and individual sports may remove the pressures found in team environments.

"There really is a chance for girls to find a sport that might just be for them, that they get to go do and love on their own and not worry about maybe some of those outside pressures that make it more difficult for them to love it."

For more information on the positive impact sport can have on young lives, visit Fast and Female.

With files from CTV's Bill Macfarlane