How Sports Improves Girls’ Overall Health and Life Skills
Are you worried about your daughter becoming detached and self-isolated? Get them involved in sports! As young girls age, they are countered with understanding who they are and what their place is in the world. Getting involved with sports assists in easing the transition between adolescence and young adulthood. Physical activity encourages advanced development in life skills, teamwork, and, overall health.
Better Physical and Reproductive Health
Being active has numerous physical and reproductive health benefits. According to the Go Out and Play study, 3 times as many female athletes as non-athletes labeled their health as excellent. Girls who participate in sports have stronger immune systems and are at a reduced risk of chronic illness later in life such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and breast cancer. With the passage of Title IX, there was a 24% increase in physical activity in girls ages 6 to 19 years leading to lower rates of obesity among the age group. Consistent and healthier menstruation is also a gained advantage with sports engagement; menstruation is lighter and more regular with less cramping and discomfort. Being more aware and having more control over their bodies has an empowering effect; there is an increase in demand for body autonomy and integrity.
Better Social Skills
Essential life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, problem-solving through communication, and relationship building are included in sports. Incorporated values such as gender equality and respect are adopted through social learning taking place in group activities. Understanding for example, how your teammates give and respond to critiques helps with developing a connection that is more than the surface level. Building trust through communication and setting goals as a group teaches them to ask for help. No one can score or win a game alone and the team’s success is often based on the collaboration and mutual respect they share with each other. Designing programs that are focused on developing these social skills can be very beneficial to the overall team.
Better Emotional and Psychological Health
Girls who participate in sports have stronger physical confidence, higher self-esteem, and have a more positive body image compared to non-athletes. The integration of more community-based sports clubs limits the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) which often happens within the home. Engagement in a sports organization creates a social safety net and brings the vulnerable out of their home environment and provides opportunities to receive critical information and services they may be lacking.
Sports have the capacity to reach out to inaccessible and at-risk groups such as drop-outs and migrant populations and increase the quality of life in adolescent girls. The introduction of activities can be utilized through grassroots community-based initiatives and social entrepreneurship at low-cost and low participation. Check out our Module on Gender to learn about how to incorporate a gender lens into your organization and how to address gender-specific needs within your community.
By: Ola Adebayo, GIL Team Member