I spent part of last weekend watching my 5-year-old niece play in her first year of soccer. The field was full of 5 year old kids running, kicking, tripping and just having a good time. Aside from the giant smile on my niece’s face, I really enjoyed seeing the amount of young girls playing. I would guess that half of the players were young girls!
Interestingly, Women’s Sports Foundation research shows that boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 9 — and their parents — are equally interested in sports participation. However, by the age of 14, girls drop out of sport at a rate that is six times greater than boys. Girls and women simply do not receive the same positive reinforcement about their sports participation. Boys receive balls, gloves and sports equipment by the age of two. They see their images on television as sportsmen, they see their photos in the sports section and know from their parents and friends that they are expected to play sports.
That’s really unfortunate because there are all sorts of reasons that girls, in particular, should be playing more sports. Here are five:
Girls who play sports do better in school. You might think that athletics will take up all your study time. But research shows that girls who play sports do better in school than those who don’t. Exercise improves learning, memory, and concentration, which can give active girls an advantage in the classroom.
Girls who play sports learn teamwork and goal-setting skills. Sports teach valuable life skills. When you working with coaches, trainers, and teammates to win games and achieve goals, you’re learning how to be successful. Those skills will serve you well at work and in family life.
Sports are good for a girl’s health. In addition to being fit and maintaining a healthy weight, girls who play sports are also less likely to smoke. With a world that places so much pressure on girls to look a certain way sports are a great tool in teaching girls healthy body images. And later in life, girls who exercise are less likely to get breast cancer or osteoporosis.
Playing sports boosts self-confidence. Girls who play sports feel better about themselves. Why? It builds confidence when you know you can practice, improve, and achieve your goals. Sports are also a feel-good activity because they help girls get in shape, maintain a healthy weight, and make new friends.
Exercise cuts the pressure. Playing sports can lessen stress and help you feel a little happier. How? The brain chemicals released during exercise improve a person’s mood. Friends are another mood-lifter. And being on a team creates tight bonds between friends. It’s good to know your teammates will support you — both on and off the field!
For more information on health and wellness issues follow Dr. Remy on twitter at www.twitter.com/DrNekessaRemy