Young girls “fall out of love” with sport by the time they’re teenagers.
A damning study from Women in Sport revealed that even active young girls become less sporty as they enter their teen years due to a lack of confidence, the pressure of schoolwork, and not feeling safe outdoors.
In a world where girls and young women face barriers to certain jobs, equal pay, and more, they shouldn’t also feel like they can’t partake in their favourite sporting activities.
Here, we cover some ways to encourage your girls into sport and keep their passion for activity alive into their teenage years and beyond.
Point to female role models
This year’s UEFA Women’s Euros 2022 is set to be the biggest-ever female sporting event in Europe. Coverage of women’s football has increased in recent years, with the BBC broadcasting women’s FA Cup Finals in the years leading up to its exclusive coverage of this year’s Euros.
The adage of “see it to be it” rings true, especially when it comes to young women participating in sports and traditionally male-dominated jobs and activities. There’s evidence that the increased visibility of the England Women’s team in recent international tournaments translates to more women playing football.
Encouraging your little ones to watch nationally broadcasted sporting events like this can show them that they can do anything they put their mind to when it comes to sport. What’s more, once the new club season starts, why not take them to see their favourite women’s team? Record-breaking attendances for Newcastle United Women and Barcelona Women were recorded in May 2022, so this is only the start of increased attendances at women’s football.
Help them understand the benefits
The reasons why teenagers fall out of love with sport are heartbreaking. Half of young women said they don’t like to be watched when they’re exercising, and many respondents to the Women in Sport survey said they didn’t like becoming hot and sweaty. Others felt they didn’t have the right body shape.
It’s clear that the wider societal pressures on girls and women to look and behave a certain way are impacting their participation in sport. Nobody wants to feel judged or self-conscious when taking part in physical activity. But it’s important to note the benefits that sports can bring to girls and young women.
Playing sport can combat the lack of confidence women feel when taking part. 61% of girls aged 12–17 who play sports report better body confidence – higher than the 42% of girls who were less active. It’s understandable that confidence issues might plague young women as they continue sports into their teen years, but helping them to understand that sports will actually increase that confidence may help them feel more positive about continuing. You can even point to the fact that over two-thirds of girls who play sport feel happy on a daily basis, compared to less than half of those who don’t.
Make it a social activity – with friends or family
Another reported reason for 48% of girls giving up sport in their teens is because their friends have stopped playing. Many sports are inherently social activities – so it’s no wonder that sport-playing girls feel less lonely, bored, or depressed than those who don’t participate.
If your daughter’s friends have stopped playing sports with her, either casually or at school, this is a great opportunity to get her signed up to a sports club or team. She can make new, like-minded friends and continue her passion in sports.
If you’re an active mum, you can also encourage your daughter into sports (and into continuing playing sport) by playing with her. Don’t consider yourself active? You’re not alone – 32% of mums felt that they couldn’t prioritise exercise during lockdowns due to their commitments. So why not use sport as a way to bond with your daughter? Fill your backpacks with drinks and energy-boosting snacks and head outside or to a sports club together.
It’s sad to see how many activities young girls don’t feel comfortable with because of societal expectations. Whether they’re shying away from STEM subjects at school or falling out of love with sport, we have an important role to play to ensure our daughters feel confident in everything they do. Watch and play sport with your girls and be their personal confidence coach. It might not take much to get your little ones into sports, but there’s plenty you can do to make sure they feel comfortable continuing it into their teenage years and adulthood.