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The Younger, The Better: Study Examines the Lifetime Benefits of Sports for Girls

It has been proven time and again that physical activity and sports can improve the health and well-being of American girls and women, serving to reinforce the preventative health message that girls and women deserve and need complete access to opportunities. Now, a 20-year respective study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released this month shows how children’s social skills impact their success.

The study suggests that kindergarten students who are more inclined to display social competency, skills like sharing or helping other children, are more likely to achieve higher education and better paying jobs. The study evaluated 753 kindergarteners from four Fast Track Research Project locations on a five-point scale; the evaluation was then averaged into a composite score for each child to represent their overall level of positive behavior and social skills displayed. Researchers continued to record positive and negative milestones until the children turned 25 by noting if they earned high school diplomas, college degrees and full-time jobs, as well as if they developed a criminal record, depression or substance abuse problems.

Overall, this study showed that children who scored “well,” or on the higher end of the spectrum for social competence, were four times more likely to graduate from college than children who scored on the lower end of the spectrum. This idea that early social and emotional skill development is linked to adolescent and adult well-being is one of the many reasons that it is critical for girls to get and stay involved in sports or some form of physical activity.

Why?Young adults who participate in sports have higher educational aspirations, higher grades, and less school-related discipline problems than non-athletes. Programs, like Go Girl Go! and Sports 4 Life, are instrumental in helping to get young girls active and, importantly, to foster strong social skills early on. Through our programs, girls learn teamwork, the importance of working together, the principles of sharing, effective communication and goal-setting – skills this new RWJF study have found set girls up for a lifetime of success.