You may be surprised to learn that by the time our girls reach teenager-hood, they are twice as likely as boys to drop out of sport.
They’re often disadvantaged from a young age, normally playing organised sport around two years later than young boys. Boys will start developing advanced skills from as young as two years old and are encouraged more strongly by their parents to participate in sport.
When girls start later, they are less likely to have the skills required for success. In young children, particularly, success is synonymous with fun. Girls struggling with sport are less likely to have fun and want to continue.
Some other main reasons for not continuing with exercise are fear of ridicule and judgement, social stigma and a lack of positive female sports star role models. So, it’s important to address these barriers from a young age so that girls are more likely to continue playing sport throughout their lives.
Why is it important for my daughter to participate in sport?
Research shows a number of facts in regards to girls playing sports.
1. Girls who play sport perform better at school.
Exercise improves learning, memory and concentration, giving active girls an advantage in the classroom. Studies suggest that taking time out from school work to exercise does not reduce scholastic outcomes, but rather improves them. Also, girls who play sport are also more likely to graduate than their peers who don’t.
2. Girls who play sport learn teamwork and goal setting skills.
Working with coaches, trainers, and teammates to win games and meet goals is great practice for success later in life. Being a team player, setting goals and the pursuit of excellence transfers easily to a workplace setting in adulthood. It is no coincidence that 80% of female executives identified as being a sporty “tomboy” when they were a child.
3. Girls who play sport are healthier.
Sports deliver obvious health benefits such as improving fitness and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Sport strengthens their bones and muscles, and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and muscle atrophy. Some other benefits are not as well known.
Girls who play sport can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer in later life by up to 60%. Furthermore, girls who play sport are less likely to smoke and engage in other risky behaviours when they reach adolescence.
4. Girls who play sport are more confident.
As girls see their skills improving and goals becoming reality, they feel better about themselves, physically and socially. Participation in sport also requires players to feign confidence to their teammates and opponents. In the real world, faking confidence is the easiest way to achieve confidence.
5. Girls who play sports have better psychological wellbeing.
Physical activity releases endorphins that act as a natural mood lifter, to relieve stress and fight depression and anxiety. This is so important for young girls, as they are nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety or depression than young boys. Team sports are also great for making friends outside of school who will support them both on and off the field.
They are also more likely to have a positive body image, something that is particularly important for young girls. Girls with a positive body image are more likely to form healthy friendships, and generally feel more in control of their lives.
How can I help motivate my daughter to play sport?
1. Let your daughter know there’s no such thing as perfect.
Parents play a key role in reinforcing realistic expectations. One of the main contributors to girls dropping out of sport is fear of judgement of not being good enough. Parents can help reduce this concern by celebrating achievements, no matter how small, and remaining optimistic. Not every girl will be a sporting star, but it is important to play sport for all of the reasons mentioned above.
2. Start at home.
Start slowly by kicking around a soccer ball in the backyard with your daughter, playing catch or shooting hoops. Eventually you will see if your daughter is interested and wants to take this activity to the next level.
3. Take her to watch women’s league sports matches.
Another key reason for girls dropping out of sport is the lack of female sports role models, compared to those for young boys. Seeing older girls playing sports at an elite level can motivate your daughter to give team sports a shot.
4. Try before you buy.
By attending a school holiday sports camp, your children can discover what sports they enjoy, before committing to the costs of a club membership. Australian Sports Camps offers short term sport holiday camps in 9 different sports. Children are grouped by age and ability and learn skills, and it is a great way of having fun and making new friends.
5. Explain the benefits to her in a way that she will understand.
Regular physical activity is a lifelong goal, so it’s important for our daughters to understand the benefits, from weight management to breast cancer. T each her about good sportsmanship and camaraderie.
6. Be supportive.
In the same way that you are with homework, music lessons and other pursuits that take practise over time, have patience and be encouraging. If possible, volunteer to take her to training and games, and show that you’re excited to watch her compete.
Be just as supportive of her when she doesn’t win or succeed in a sport. Allow her to express her disappointment, but counteract the negativity with reminders of her accomplishments, and reassure her that even professional athletes experience off days.
If you’re not sure where to get started when getting your daughter involved in team sport, Australian Sports Camps coaching programs are a great way to sample different sports for a few days each to see what your daughter enjoys the most.