In January 2018, the Women’s Sports Foundation published “Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters” (Teen Sport Report), which found that nearly 40 percent of girls do not participate in sport. In one of its evidence-based policy recommendations, the report put forth that improving girls’ participation in sport is vital for academic achievement, psychological well-being and physical health.
Now, the 2019 Australian Youth Confidence Report echoes that sentiment for teenage girls on the other side of the globe. The report, released in May, found that one in every two Australian girls are quitting sport by age 15, and that between the ages of 11-17, girls are playing nearly an hour less per day than boys of the same age.
Like WSF’s Teen Sport Report, the Australian study also observed the positive effects that sport has on girls, particularly in their teen years when societal pressures are higher than ever. Per the Australian Youth Confidence Report, two-thirds of girls surveyed acknowledged that sport can make them feel more confident, more resilient and better about themselves.
“Our research tells us participation in teen sport nurtures perseverance, resilience and confidence; essential skills teen girls need now and in the future,” Mim Hayson, Suncorp’s EGM Brand & Marketing, told the Australian Ministry of Sport. “This, in turn, can have a real positive impact on their health and wellbeing, career prospects and financial security moving forward.”
Teen Sport Report had similar findings for girls in the U.S. Additionally, it delved deeper into the material, analyzing the different effects that specific sports had on the overall well-being of teens:
“Findings linked sports participation to positive physical health. Teens who played sports were more likely to have a healthy diet — eating breakfast, and fruits and vegetables, daily — get ample daily physical activity, and sleep at least seven hours per night. All of these have been identified as important factors in preventing obesity and related diseases … Sports participation was directly related to teens having a more positive attitude toward schoolwork, improved academic performance and higher grades, and higher aspirations for earning a college degree and post-college education specialization. In addition, our study showed that teens who played sports fared better than non-athletes on multiple markers of psychological health, including high self-esteem and stronger social connections, such as higher levels of social support and fewer feelings of loneliness.”
It is important to note the parallels between these two studies despite the fact that they were conducted a year apart on opposite sides of the world. The bottom line remains: We need to ensure that teenage girls have the support and encouragement they need to get in and stay in the game.
To read “Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters,” please click here.