The benefits of playing sport include: –
- Improved academic performance.
Physical exercise has been shown to improve memory function, concentration and to increase problem-solving ability.
- Promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
Playing sport develops an individual’s strength, fitness, balance and co-ordination. Girls who play sport will understand the value of living healthily: a good diet, adequate sleep and avoiding alcohol and drugs.
- Improved ability to deal with pressure.
Sport involves deadlines, competition and pressure. When girls play sports, they learn to cope with such challenging situations.
- Learning about teamwork.
Being part of a team will teach girls to co-operate with their peers and to respect the opinions of others.
- The development of skills of organisation, time management and self-discipline.
To be successful in sport, preparation is key. The more you prepare, the more successful you will be. Sport requires good time management and organisation, as well as commitment and self-discipline.
- Improved body confidence.
Girls who play sports will appreciate their bodies, regardless of size or shape. Sport stresses girls’ physical talents.
- Membership of a different friendship group.
Being a member of a group is one of the best ways to promote wellbeing. When girls belong to several groups, peers from their school or local neighbourhood, from a church group or a sports team, they will have a wider circle of friends to draw upon when relationships end or change.
- Higher levels of confidence.
Playing sport teaches girls how to appear confident. Even when you are not confident, you have to fool the opposition into thinking you are.
- The acceptance of errors.
Through playing sport, girls will experience a trial-and-error method of learning, and appreciate mistakes are an essential part of the learning process.
- The development of persistence.
Sport encourages girls to develop a good work ethic; teaching that hard work and practice are part of a successful performance.
- The acceptance of failure.
In every sport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Girls who play sport will learn to win graciously and to accept defeat without losing a sense of proportion.
According to a survey by ‘Women in Sport’, (March 2022), more than 1 million girls who thought of themselves as sporty at primary school, lose interest in physical activity as teenagers.
One of the main reasons for the high dropout rate is because some teenage girls will feel a need to conform to stereotypical gender roles. Boys see their images on television as sportsmen, they see men on the sports pages of newspapers and know from their family and their friends that they are expected to participate in sport. Girls do not receive the same positive reinforcement. Although perceptions are gradually changing, historically speaking women have always been told that sport is not for them.
- At the first modern Olympics in 1896, women were prohibited from participating.In the Games of 1900, 2% of the athletes were female. By the 1964 Olympics, 14% of the athletes were female. In 2021 in Tokyo, female athlete numbers were almost equal to those of men at nearly 49%.
- Until 2007 male players at Wimbledon received more prize money than women players.
- In December 1921, women’s football in England was banned by the FA. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1971.
- The average wage of a Premier League male footballer is just over £60,000 a week. Players in the Women’s Super League (the top league in women’s football in the country), earn an average salary of £26,000 a year.
- In 1976, the MCC allowed the England Women’s cricket team to play at Lords. This was the first time that female cricketers had been allowed to play at the ground. (The annual schoolboys’ match between Eton and Harrow has been played at Lords since 1822.)
A second reason why teenagers, (both girls and boys), stop participating in sport is that they no longer see sport as being the fun it was at primary school. Children play sport because it’s fun, and they give up because it’s not fun anymore. When we accept that sport benefits young people in so many ways, those parents and schools who feel a need to constantly challenge and stretch their young athletes should re-consider their position. Should they be pressurising and hot-housing children or thinking carefully about how sport boosts young people’s health, happiness and confidence? Not many children will become top professional athletes, but with the right approach, substantial numbers will carry on playing sport for fun for the rest of their lives. It’s time to bring back the joy.
‘Oh, girls, they wanna have fun. Oh, girls just wanna have,
that’s all they really want, is some fun.’