The advantages of playing a sport are numerous, especially for young adolescents who may feel confused or insecure. Playing a sport improves life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and perseverance, improves self-confidence, academic achievement, and emotional health, and decreases risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
However, girls are dropping out of their sport at a much higher rate than boys – in fact, six times the rate of boys by the age of 14. There are multiple reasons for this, such as damaging messages around women playing sports, lesser quality programs, fewer opportunities, or other fears and insecurities.
Sports have the ability to bring people together, build someone up, and inspire others. How do we encourage young women to stick to their sport and believe in themselves? These 4 tips will help you encourage the female athletes in your programs to see their greatness and stick to their sport.
1. Address and challenge stereotypes
As stated before, there are numerous stereotypes about women playing sports, which can damage their self-esteem. Challenge these negative comments by calling them out when you hear them. As a leader, you are educating the next generation of athletes, and the verbiage you use has an impact on both boys and girls. You are an influential part of these athletes’ lives, and you can be the person who shows them they are capable.
2. Build quality programs for female athletes
Sometimes, you’ll find that there are more programs for boys than there are for girls, or the boys’ programs seem a little higher quality, resulting in fewer girls signing up for their programs. If you offer girls programs, put the time into making these programs engaging and tailored to young women. Bring guest speakers and coaches -strong women athletes who will encourage young women and work with them to improve.
3. Create a positive narrative around women’s sports
A professor of interdisciplinary studies at Purdue, Dr. Cheryl Cooky found in a 2019 study that coverage of female athletes on news and highlight shows, including ESPN’s SportsCenter, accounted for just 5.4% of total sports coverage. Ultimately, this may cause some girls to feel like there is no place for them in sports. Along with your favorite football and men’s basketball teams, keep up with women’s sports and talk about strong female athletes, so that young female athletes can be represented and have strong women to look up to.
Along with that, challenge the notion that women should compete against each other, and build the understanding that women are strong team players and can rely on each other- inside and outside of their sport.
4. Celebrate your athletes’ strength
Young women, especially in middle and high school are being bombarded with societal pressures of who they should be. Remind your female athletes how great they are! It is important that youth sports highlight teamwork, hard work, and community; you can give them that experience. In the world of girls’ sports participation, fostering confidence, self-esteem, and a lasting passion for physical activity should be the primary goal. You have a unique opportunity to empower young girls by emphasizing the journey of skill development and embracing the strength and capabilities of their bodies.
Ready to empower the next generation of female athletes?
As previously mentioned, young female athletes frequently quit their sports for various reasons. However, participating in sports provides numerous advantages for adolescents, and it is crucial to build positive narratives and safe environments for girls in sports. As a leader among the upcoming generation of athletes, you have the opportunity to instigate positive change.