Girls and Women of Color

Teen Sport in America

The Women’s Sports Foundation commissioned the Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters report to better understand the impact of sports participation on teen health, well-being and academic achievement.

WSF offers a “Teen Sport in America” toolkit to help organizations utilize this data to communicate the importance of youth sports participation. To request a copy, contact Kristen Gowdy.

Teen Sport in America Executive Summary.
Teen Sport in America Fact Sheet.

Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters Full Report

Her Life Depends On It III & Girls and Women of Color

To assist readers who have specific interests, the WSF has created a series of Research Briefs from Her Life Depends On It III.

Her Life Depends On It III is the Women’s Sports Foundation’s comprehensive report that reviews existing and emerging research on the links between participation in sport and physical activity and the health and wellbeing of American girls and women. As with the previous editions in 2004 and 2009, this study also confirms that physical activity and sport provides the critical foundation, in no small part, that allows girls and women to lead healthy, strong, and fulfilled lives. Ten years since its first publication, the updated Her Life Depends On It provides an even more comprehensive review of the ever-expanding body of research that demonstrates how important it is for girls and women to participate in sport and physical activity. The report’s contents reflect the review of 1,500 studies, nearly 400 covered since the previous edition.

Her Life Depends On It III and Girls and Women of Color

No sweat: African American adolescent girls’ opinions of hairstyle choices and physical activity

This recently-published small study, financially supported by the Women’s Sports Foundation as part of it’s partnership with the University of Michigan (2010-2013), included 36 African-American girls ages 14 to 17 in three states. The authors found a consistent theme among participants: Adolescent girls preferred straightened hair, which was viewed as the most “attractive” style, and said they avoided getting wet or sweating during exercise because they worried it would ruin their hairstyle.

In an interview with the U-M Health Lab, Dr. Woolford explained more about her study and offered suggestions on how to overcome the potential conflict between hair and health.

In an essay for Time, Dr. Woolford and her collaborator, Carole J. Woolford-Hunt, emphasized the larger implications of the study’s findings, stating, “If it is the case that African-American adolescent girls engage in lower levels of physical activity due to concerns about maintaining straight hair, then social norms and pressures are influencing black populations in ways that are likely detrimental to health.”

Download the Study

Go Out and Play

This study measures the nationwide participation rates of girls and boys in exercise and organized team sports. The central focus is on how the intersections among families, schools and communities are related to children’s involvement and interest in athletics and physical activity. Some of the personal and social benefits associated with children’s athletic participation are also identified and discussed. The athletic interests and involvements of girls and boys are examined from childhood through late adolescence, including entry into sport as well as drop-out patterns.

Read the Executive Summary here.


To assist readers who have specific interests, the WSF has created a series of Research Briefs from Go Out and Play on the following topics:

Go Out and Play – Athletic Participation and Children’s Well-Being
Go Out and Play – Entry Into Sports, Dropping Out of Sports
Go Out and Play – Gender Equity in Sports
Go Out and Play – Interest in Sports and Physical Activity
Go Out and Play – Participation in Sports and Exercise Activities
Go Out and Play – Participation in Team or Organized Sport
Go Out and Play – Physical Education
Go Out and Play – Sports, Exercise and Family Life
Go Out and Play – Understudied Populations
Go Out and Play – Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
Go Out and Play – Youth Sports in America – Full Report One Pager

Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America

Who’s Playing College Sports: Money, Race and Gender

This research is the most accurate description of college sports’ participation patterns to date, shows that both men’s and women’s sports participation have increased over the past 25 years. It examines factors, including Title IX and athletic expenditure growth, impacting today’s college sports participation trends, which vary widely by sport. Changes in high school sports participation, rising health care costs, increased numbers of international students, and college recruitment are explored, as well as the implication of these participation trends on college sports’ diversity.

Read the Executive Summary here or the full report below.


Who's Playing College Sports: Money, Race and Gender

Title IX and Race in Intercollegiate Sport

Are women of color receiving their fair share of the opportunities in intercollegiate athletics? Some writers have suggested that female athletes of color have not accrued as many gains during the Title IX era of American sport as white female athletes. Other writers suggest that Title IX has hurt male athletes of color. Overall, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities receiving federal funds, has helped to spur girls’ and women’s participation in sport. Yet the assessment of progress in intercollegiate sport by women of color and men of color is confounded not only by the complexity of race relations in American history, but also by the scarcity of reliable data on minority athletic participation rates during the Title IX era (from 1970 to the present).

Title IX and Race in Intercollegiate Sport

Minorities in Sports

A study showing the effects of high school varsity sports participation on academic achievement, career upward mobility, leadership aspirations, and social involvement of women, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans.

Minorities in Sports (PDF 12591k)