Sports Empower Women and Girls for Life
By Dr. Emanuel Finn
Sports causes girls and women to own their inner and outer strength while recognizing the importance of play, activity and equal opportunities. Sports helps girls to gain confidence in the decision making process and empower them to see themselves as leaders and role models and lay the foundation for living an active and healthy lifestyle. Young girls are often told to stay quiet and polite. Don't be bossy. Try not to be "too much". This teaches and conveys the strong message to girls that others are leaders, not them. Sports offers an outlet for girls to be strong, competitive and compassionate with their teammates. These are the fundamental skills young women need to be successful in their careers, professional, social and romantic relationships and daily lives.
Organized sports enable girls at a very young age the ability to understand that they are responsible for pushing themselves to do better. Of course parents, coaches, teachers and others guide, push, support and mentor girls to improve themselves. But ultimately it's up to them to achieve their goals. Beating your previous year's timed mile, earning a starting position on the team, becoming team captain are all goals girls can push and strive for.
There are so many lessons girls can learn about themselves through sports, and their abilities to rise up and try again or dig deep and believe in themselves and say – "Yes we can; Yes, we did that." Girls and women know that through sports and competition that when there is adversity and things get hard or seem impossible, they can push myself to dig a little deeper and just keep going. It's no different than giving birth and being in labour and bringing a precious child into the world.
Sports help to build self-efficacy, find strength and empowerment through the life choices that young girls choose and make. At the end of the day, we all have different strengths and it is important to explore and tap into those strengths to build a sense of empowerment and self-confidence. Sports has helped our girls to push through their doubt, seek out what they enjoy, encourage others, and surround themselves with those who elevate them in positive ways.
Their passion for sports and in particular the wonderful game of football has had a tremendous impact on their lives and the lens through which they view the world. We also saw the discipline, teamwork, kinship and perseverance displayed in every game whether they were winning or losing.
Girls involved in athletics feel better about themselves, both physically and socially. It helps to build confidence when you see your skills improving and your goals becoming reality. Other esteem-boosting benefits of sports participation include getting in shape, maintaining a healthy weight, and making new friends. High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
The foundation of former tennis star Billie Jean King is dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity in the United States and is a strong advocate for equal opportunity for our daughters to play sports like their male counterparts.
Their position is that girls who participate in sports too can get the psychological, physiological and sociological benefits like boys. Sport has been one of the most important socio-cultural learning experiences for boys and men for many years. Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
According to a 1994 article in the U.S Journal of the National Cancer Institute, as little as four hours of exercise a week may reduce a teenage girl's risk of breast cancer by up to 60%; breast cancer is a disease that afflicts one out of every eight American women. Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.
Sport is where boys have traditionally learned about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors—critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.
In an economic environment where the quality of our children's lives will be dependent on two-income families, our daughters cannot be less prepared for the highly competitive workplace than our sons. It is no accident that 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former athletes having played sports.