Benefits - Why Sports Participation for Girls and Women (page 2)

— Women's Sports Foundation
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Girls and Women Need Encouragement and Aspirational Role Models

Many people think that girls are not as interested in sport as boys. Women's Sports Foundation research shows that boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 9 -- and their parents -- are equally interested in sports participation. However, by the age of 14, girls drop out of sport at a rate that is six times greater than boys. Girls and women simply do not receive the same positive reinforcement about their sports participation. Boys receive balls, gloves and sports equipment by the age of two. They see their images on television as sportsmen, they see their photos in the sports section and know from their parents and friends that they are expected to play sports.

Even though our daughters are not as likely to be discouraged from playing sports as they were 10 years ago, they simply aren't encouraged to the same extent as little boys. As a result, they enter organized sport two years later than little boys and are therefore less likely to have the skills necessary for early success experiences. If a child is unskilled, he or she is unlikely to have fun. It's no fun to strike three times in row. The no. 1 reason why boys and girls play sports is because it's "fun".

We must do a better job of supporting our daughters' sports participation. For Christmas and birthdays, we must find books about girls in sports, give gifts of sports equipment and sports lessons. We need to take our sons and daughters to see women playing sports so they grow up appreciating and respecting the sports skills of women and so our daughters see images of themselves excelling in sports -- because she is not going to see those images on television or in the newspapers. It's no accident that girls' sports participation in Olympic sports increases significantly following the Olympic Games, one of the few times that coverage of women's sports is equal to that of men's sports. Aspirational role models drive youth demand for sports. This top to bottom synergy has not yet become commonplace in women's sports because of limited college and professional sports opportunities and television coverage.

However, the trend is clear: the increased participation and success of female athletes at the Olympic Games, increased television coverage of women's college sports, new women's professional sports leagues and the participation increases of females in all sports and all age levels. "We ain't seen nothin' yet!"

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