Why It is Critical For Girls To Play Sports
By Alex Flanagan
As the mother of 14-year-old and 12-year-old girls, you don’t have to tell me that the middle school and high school years are tough on young women (and their mothers). In my household, sometimes a meltdown can be caused because my daughter doesn’t like what we are serving for breakfast. Other days it’s because she doesn’t feel comfortable with her outfit or how her hair looked when she woke up. Most nights she hasn’t gotten enough sleep because of all the fricking homework her school insists on giving her and dreads having to navigate the lunch table social circles where the girls who are supposed to be her friends somehow forget to save her a seat. With the onset of puberty and all the pressures society (and we parents) put on young women to be perfect, being a girl is hard. The great news is, sports can help!
If you want to raise a happy, healthy, motivated, successful girl, make sure she plays sports, especially in high school. That’s one of the findings in a recently released report by the nonprofit group, ROX or Ruling Our Experiences. The organization surveyed over 10,000 girls in the U.S. in 5th through 12th grades as part of the girls and sports impact report and found girls who play sports are more confident, have higher opinions of themselves and their bodies and stronger relationships with other girls compared to those who don’t play sports.
The benefits of playing sports go way beyond those associated with exercise and this study found that when girl drama really heats up, in high school, that is when the benefits of sports are biggest. The ROX report says high school girls who play sports have lower levels of sadness and depression, they have higher opinions of their abilities and competencies. Female athletes trust and get along with other girls and have healthier ways to handle stressful situations than those who don’t play a sport.
Maybe the most eye-opening part of the report for me is the page on social media. We all know too much time on the gram isn’t good for our girls, but did you know that according to this study: Girls who spend the most time using social media are 5 times more likely to report that they are sad or depressed nearly every day? One-third of all girls report being bullied or that they have had an argument at school due to something that happened on social media. As you might expect, the more time your girl is on a field or court, the less time they have to be on their iPhone. 63 percent of girls spending 10+ hours on social media are non-athletes.
Finally, if you want to raise daughters who will speak up for themselves and believe they are smart enough for their dream career, playing sports will help with that too. The report also found high school girls who play sports are significantly more likely to have supportive friends and they have more positive and expansive views on girls’ roles and opportunities related to careers and leadership.
Just in case you were feeling like all that time in the car or sitting out on a practice field isn’t making a difference, it is. Now you have a study that proves it.
Alex Flanagan co-founded I love to watch you play in 2015. She was flying home from an NFL work assignment when a learning specialist, who was sitting next to her, shared 5 reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty missing her son’s game. She shared their conversation on her own website alexflanagan.com and the response was so overwhelming it inspired her to create ILTWYP to help parents like herself navigate youth sports.