The Benefits of Sports for Girls

By Renee Bogacz

I am ashamed to admit that when my daughter was in 4th and 5th grade, I discouraged her from participating in the one activity she so desperately wanted to do – cheerleading. Lucky for me (and for her), my daughter was unwavering in her desire to be a cheerleader so I relented and got her involved with a local cheerleading program, and she also did cheerleading while in junior high. I learned a whole lot from those years my daughter was a cheerleader, and not just from her experience; I also learned a lot about how beneficial it is for girls to be involved in an organized sport.

Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that mandates equal participation for males and females “…in every educational program that receives federal funding.”  Numerous research projects have been conducted since the passage of Title IX and they show overwhelming evidence of the positive impact participation in sports has for girls.  Benefits can be seen in the areas of health, academics, and the workplace.

 

Health Benefits

The Women’s Sports Foundation cites numerous health benefits for girls as a result of sports participation, including

  • High school girls who play sports are less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy.
  • A teenaged girl’s risk of breast cancer can be reduced by up to 60% with as little as four hours of exercise a week.
  • The risk of osteoporosis is reduced when girls participate in weight-bearing exercises that establish bone mass.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports also sings the praises of girls in sports, stating that physical activity can help reduce stress and depression as well as reduce the risk of obesity, adult onset heart disease, and certain cancers.

 

Academic Benefits

The Women’s Sports Foundation also asserts that girls who play sports are more likely to graduate than those girls who do not play sports.  The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports that many high school female athletes have higher grades, higher standardized test scores, and lower dropout rates than their non-sports playing counterparts; they are also more likely to go on to college.

 

The Workplace

Interesting information from the Lance Armstrong Foundation explains the benefits of coed sports’ teams, saying that boys and girls who play sports alongside each other build friendships with members of the opposite sex and develop respect for one another.  The Women’s Sports Foundation takes an interesting approach, saying that being part of a sports team teaches children important rules about teamwork that carry through to the workplace; if girls don’t participate in sports, they might find themselves at a disadvantage.  Some of the rules learned through sports that also apply to the workplace include

  • Teams are chosen based on people’s strengths and competencies as opposed to who is liked or disliked.
  • “I will” equates to “I can.”
  • Winning and losing has nothing to do with your value as a person.
  • Pressure, deadlines, and competition can be fun.

 

In the end, being involved in sports is going to benefit girls not only in these tangible ways but in intangible ways as well.  Ultimately, girls will experience boosts in their self-esteem, self-confidence, and body image by being physically active and being part of a team.  While my daughter did not continue on with cheerleading in high school, she did stay involved in athletics by joining the athletic training program.  She is still staying physically active and seeing the benefits of physical activity along with learning how to be a valuable member of a team.  What parent doesn’t want those things for their daughter?

Renee Bogacz has taught language arts and computers for 20 years at Channahon Junior High School. She is a member of her school district’s technology committee, student handbook committee, and anti-bullying committee. She regularly uses technology in her classroom and develops and presents cyberbullying and Internet safety presentations for her school district.

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