Women’s sport is undeniably seeing a surge in popularity. Audiences across the globe are recognising the raw talent and passion within women’s teams, [repeated from above- suggest change] with commentators authentically channelling the excitement from the games, it won’t be long before the rest of the world catches on and pays attention.
There is a long list of benefits attributed to playing a sport, including the noticeable improvement to health and fitness. However, there are also the social skills that are learnt. Increased confidence, communication, discipline, resilience and collaboration are all transferable skills that can be put to use both inside and outside of sport. At the same time, the impact of sport on mental health is widely acknowledged now too. Sport England has previously spoken out about the abundance of evidence, acquired from mental health projects that they have funded, that supports this.
Sport is known to have a positive impact when it comes to body image. Body image is an issue that has become more prevalent in recent years, particularly among young girls. The impact of sports on body image is one that should be taken seriously, improving personal acceptance, self-determination, self-esteem and self-worth. Even the United Nations has spoken out about the role that sport will play in the future of women’s confidence and the ongoing fight for equality.
With this in mind, it’s essential to identify the strategies that can be put in place to encourage more girls to take part in team sports. Previous research from ‘Women In Sport’ found that there are low participation rates for girls aged 5-18, with only 14% of girls aged between 8 and 10 years old meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity. This is vastly different from boys, making the ‘gender play gap’ something that is very real, and closing the gap a priority. Below, we discuss some ways to encourage young girls to participate in sport.
Set an example
Parents and the family dynamic have an enormous influence when it comes to shaping children’s passions and interests, and they are more likely to take part in an activity they see their family doing. Research from Cambridge and Southampton universities has proved that mothers directly influence children’s activity levels.
Enjoying sport or exercise-related activity with your children is going to pique their interest far more than encouraging them to go about it alone.
Make it fun
Sport naturally encourages competition in order to achieve the desired outcome, but aggressively pushing the competitive elements can remove the fun entirely. Fun can get overlooked when it comes to sports, particularly team sports, but is incredibly important for keeping children engaged. While it’s often the adults involved (coaches, parents and volunteers) that are placing emphasis on success, children just focus on the joy experienced while playing – a lesson we could all learn.
To attract young girls’ interest in sport and keep them engaged, making it fun is vital.
Make it about supportive peer groups
As adults, we understand the support network gained from team sports is one of its key benefits. This support network will be just as vital to young girls growing up, offering a peer group outside of school, and one that will encourage participation in sport to continue.
This aspect will be key to overcoming barriers to sport, and nurturing these relationships will be critical when maintaining engagement as young girls grow older.
Talk about the achievements of women’s sports teams and female athletes
Girls need to understand that sport is inclusive, and their participation is valued.
It’s a sad fact but, currently, women’s sports only accounts for 7% of all UK sports coverage, despite many women’s teams actually doing better than their male equivalents.
It’s important to make young girls aware of female athletes, their achievements and their journey, providing a source of inspiration for honing their skills, taking part in sport and believing in their own ability.
MMaking this a part of everyday conversation normalises women’s sports and makes them valuable in young girls’ eyes.
Validate feelings of body confidence
If girls are resistant, or suddenly become resistant, to playing sport you will often find that becoming more conscious of changing bodies and body confidence is playing a role.
It’s essential to validate these feelings, rather than dismiss them, allowing your child to talk, understand them and find solutions with your help, while also providing you with an opportunity to encourage participation in sport as a solution.
It’s essential for parents to help children see that sport is uplifting and helps the body move as well as helping our mood. Asking questions around how the child wants to feel after playing sport and how to recognise those feelings is also vital.
Instil confidence in all parts of their life
Sport is a great tool for instilling confidence, but it is imperative to underpin this in other areas of their lives and routines too.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be focussed on achievements but, instead, can centre on skills, values and other personal attributes. Building confidence helps children make decisions, be in touch with their moral compass and trust their intuition in all walks of life, creating strong, resilient and happy children.
Using bedtime to talk about the favourite part of the day, or asking them to list five things they love about themselves, is an incredibly powerful technique. When discussing their day, asking them about anything they found challenging and how they overcame them also works to validate their thought processes and solution-based thinking. These are all transferable skills that can improve sports performance.
Here at PlayFundWin, we are championing girls’ sports and helping to support both female, male and mixed teams. If you want to learn more about raising much-needed funds for your club, get in touch today and we can explain how our cash-raffle platform can work for your club.
Meta title: How to Encourage Girls to Play Sport | PlayFundWin
Meta description: Women’s sport is full of raw talent and unrivalled passion – it’s vital that we encourage more girls to participate in sport.