Today’s the 26th annual National Girl and Women in Sports Day, and The National Association for Girls and Women in Sport have a message: high school girls still receive 1.3 million fewer participation opportunities than do boys, and evidence suggests that the money spent on girls’ sports programs lags significantly behind the money spent on boys’ programs.
Forty years have passed since the passage of Title IX, the landmark law that bans sex discrimination in schools. Since the law was enacted in 1972, there has been a 940% increase of girls participating in high school athletics, and a 456% increase of young women participating in college sports.
While these numbers are encouraging, girls and young women only accounted for 41% of the participants in high school athletics in 2008. K. C. Wilder, Ph.D., a private sports psychologist in Lambertville, NJ says that girls tend to shy away from sports or quit them for a variety of reasons including negative early sports experiences, low self-esteem or lack of a strong support team.
Which is too bad, as studies have shown that girls who participate in sports reap many benefits. According to the American Association of University Women girls and young women who play sports:
- Have higher than average levels of self-esteem
- Have lower levels of depression
- Are less likely to develop an eating disorder
- Have better grades and higher graduation than non-athlete females
- Are less likely to use illicit drugs or smoke cigarettes
- Are less likely to get pregnant while in school
“Parents can encourage girls to participate in sports by gently guiding them to find sports that interest and excite them,” says Dr. Wilder. Consider using these six tips to encourage your daughter to play sports:
- Let Your Daughter Know There’s No Such Thing As Perfect: “Parents can reinforce to their daughters that ‘perfect’ does not exist in sport or in life,” says Dr. Wilder. “Sports parallel life on so many levels that a girl will benefit personally by developing a sense of resilience and acceptance of adversity that can be learned on the playing field.”
- Bring It Home: “You can kick a soccer ball in the yard with your daughter without talking about ‘playing soccer.’ You can put a basketball hoop in your driveway and shoot hoops without talking about ‘playing basketball,’” says David Salter, father of three daughters, girls’ sports coach and author of Crashing the Old Boy’s Network, the first book written about Title IX and gender equity in athletics. “At some point, your daughter will either show an interest and want to take the activity to the next level or not.”
- Take Them Out To A Ball Game: “We often took our girls to college basket ball games, so they could see other ‘girls’ doing something that they might want to try at some point,” says Salter. Giving your daughter a sports role model might encourage her to participate in sports.
- Find a Youth League: “Many townships and youth leagues have opportunities for young girls to have an introduction to athletics,” says Salter. “Contact your township or community center, or local youth league to see if there are clinics or open-play activities where girls can just go and learn a little bit and participate without too much coaching to see if she likes it.”
- Explain the Benefits: “I encourage parents to have a talk with their daughters about why it’s important to keep their bodies in motion,” Salter advises. “This is a life-long goal, and it’s so important for our daughters for many reasons from weight management to osteoporosis.”
- Put In the Hours: “Be supportive in the same way you would be about homework, piano lessons or any other pursuit that takes practice over time,” says Carla Lundblade, a clinical therapist specializing in sports psychology.
- Be Supportive: “Know and explain the benefits of sports and the life lessons it teaches,” says Lundblade. “Patience with oneself while learning something new, perseverance and competition are all valuable lessons for a young girl to learn through sports.”
How do you encourage your daughter to participate in sports? What has worked and what hasn’t? Let us know on our Facebook page.