It Starts With You
Social Change

It Starts With You

Extensive research shows that physical activity and sport can enhance the mental, psychological and spiritual health, irrespective of gender.

Research shows that girls who play sports do better in school and are more likely to graduate than those who don't. Exercise improves learning, memory, and concentration, which can give active girls an advantage when it comes to the classroom. Adolescent women 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. Girls who play sports are also less likely to smoke and have a reduced chance of getting breast cancer and osteoporosis later in life. In later years,women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. 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.

So why are girls turning away from sports?

Research suggests the reasons include a lack of fun, cost barriers and cultural messages that tell girls in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that sports are for boys. According to the Rally Report survey, common barriers to participation range from lack of time, availability, and awareness of sport, to changing priorities, low confidence, negative body image, perceived lack of skill, and feeling unwelcome.

Income and culture plays a role too. Girls in families with an income over £60,000 have a higher chance of participating in sports than families with lower incomes. Ethnicity is also an interesting factor that influences participation rates. Girls that self-identified as Indigenous participated less than girls self-identifying as Caucasian, South Asian, Asian, and Black. 

Girls in sports may experience bullying, social isolation, negative performance evaluations, or the loss of their starting position. During socially fragile adolescence, the fear of being tagged “gay” is strong enough to push many girls out of the game.

We all have a role to play when it comes to gender equity in sports. According to the report,( 2020 Rally Report [PDF]) - gender role models and active parents have a positive influence on girls and teenagers.

With this in mind, WSM know that change needs to occur from the cradle to the grave, and that the most crucial and formative change will take place at youth level. The establishment of clubs both in and out of education is crucial, normalising women’s role in sports starts at a very young age, and it is something that we can all drive change in. Whether you are a parent, a sibling, a teacher or a friend, taking ownership and getting involved in supporting the encouragement, development and establishment of opportunities for sports for girls, starts with you. We are the future.

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