The benefits of sports for girls are well-known. Sports teach girls commitment, respect for others, how to relax, concentrate under stress, set and achieve goals, accept responsibility and failure and be gracious winners. Research shows that physical activity and being a part of a sports team can enhance the mental and psychological health of girls everywhere.
BETTER GRADES IN SCHOOL
- Are better at organizing, setting priorities, and budgeting time. Playing sports adds to – not detracts from – a girl’s time, energy, and commitment to schoolwork and increases the desire to attend college.
- Perform better in math and science. A 1998 study found a strong and positive correlation between a girl’s participation in high school sports and higher grades in science.
- Have a lower dropout rate.A 2004 study found that sports participation reduces the dropout rate for female students in grades eight through twelve. High school athletic participation significantly lowers the dropout rate for white females in suburban and rural schools and Latina athletes in rural schools.
BETTER SOCIAL LIFE/MORE COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Girls who play sports are more socially well-adjusted than girls who don’t:
- Entry into an achievement-based social network: Sports provide girls a core of buddies, integrating them, as Sandra Hanson and Rebecca Kraus, researchers at Catholic University argue, into male -type “networks that are larger, less intimate and more based on achievement” which are different from the small, intense friendship groups based on building and maintaining relationship to which young girls are naturally drawn. This type of network may give female athletes an edge, Hanson and Kraus argue, in other areas of achievement as well.
- More community involvement as adults. A recent study of Canadians found young people who play organized sports are more likely to be involved in community acitivies as adults.
BETTER EMOTIONAL/PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
- Higher self-esteem. Teenage girls generally experience a self-esteem crisis far more serious than boys. Girls playing sports have higher self-esteem and look to relationships with boys less to build self-esteem. They say that sports give them more confidence.
- Better self-image. Female athletes obsess less about their looks and whether they are attractive. High school girls find participation in sports a way to break gender stereotypes.
- More self-confidence. Teenage girls suffer from a lack of self-confidence far more than boys. Studies have consistently shown that girls who are physically active perceive their academic and athletic ability in a better light.
- Lower rates of depression and risk of suicide. Sports and physical activity are linked to decreased likelihood of symptoms related to stress and depression. Teenage girls who participate in sports are less likely to be suicidal than girls who do not participate in sports.
The bottom line is that while sports are not the magic potion they do help girls get through the trials of adolescence.