A growing number of girls are quitting sport. It appears that girls, particularly during fourth grade, are abandoning sports. That`s according to the results of the 2016 Irish Life Health Schools Fitness Challenge which shows a significant gap between the fitness of boys and girls during the first four years of secondary school.
It is true that biological differences between the bodies of male and female exist. According to The Irish Times male athletes who run over distances between 200m and 10km are 10 % fitter than female athletes. But still that is not enough to justify those results as normal.
This tendency is worrisome. Lack of exercise can lead to other health problems, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart conditions. We also can`t ignore the psychological benefits of sports. Exercises help to combat depression, and avoid habits like drinking and smoking. It is also a social activity, where we can meet people and make friends.
For Dr. Kare Kirby, head of performance psychology at The Irish Institute of Sport, the moment where girls quit sport is after the fourth grade. A period that marks the beginning of adolescence.
In this stage female teenagers will prefer other activities rather than sports. Other teenagers will follow the same trend. They are also more conscious of the changes in their bodies and faces. They might end considering physical activity to be something unfeminine.
Psychologists from Flinders University in Australia conducted a research to determine the reasons why teenage girls between 13 to 15 years old withdraw from sports. The research conclusions and results were very similar to the situation in Ireland.
The main reasons for quitting sport involved concerns about team-mates and teasing and concerns about appearance and image. Some girls felt they were crossing gender boundaries by playing sports more suited to males.
The benefits of sports
Female teenagers tend to have low self esteem. A survey in the USA with 1800 people and sponsored by Always, showed that 89% of girls aged 16-24 felt gender related pressures. They are expected to correspond to certain types of behaviors and actions.
Sometimes the prejudice starts at home. Parents may consider certain sports to be unfeminine, which creates more pressure for girls to quit sports altogether. Parents should get involved in the sport their children like, and also play this sport with them.
Sports can help girls to build confidence through teamwork and learning to win and lose. It can be beneficial to their professional life. A research from EY Women Athletes and ESPNW revealed that 61% female executives considered sports to be important to their professional success.
Sports are also positive in terms of sexual health. Female athletes are less likely to become pregnant at a young age. They also have fewer partners, which reduces their exposition to sexual transmitted diseases.
Now is the time for girls to tell others why ts hey need sport in their lives. In the era of social media this task should not be difficult with good planning.