Girls just want to have fun - with their friends
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Written by Chloe Petterson, Insights Analyst
Teenage girls don’t tend to do as much sport and physical activity as other groups. The NZSSSC Census found that only 46% of secondary school girls in the Bay of Plenty have meaningful involvement with a school sport programme – not even half.
Yet the Value of Sport shows clear evidence that sport and physical activity can improve self-confidence, self-esteem and physical self-perception, result in fewer depressive symptoms, and improve cognitive and mental health in young people.
What is stopping them?
Around the world, girls commonly report ‘lack of skill or interest’ and ‘preferring to do other things’ as the most common barriers to being active. They also ‘feel embarrassed’ or ‘don’t have time.’
To get around these barriers, the Young People’s Survey asked what the top four things are that would encourage older girls to play sport more often. Girls want:
- Friendly games where it doesn’t matter who wins
- To be better at sport
- To try different sports before deciding what to play
- To play sport without doing training or competition.
A UK study by the Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation gave similar suggestions for encouraging girls to be more active at school:
- Offer a genuine choice of activities
- Girls-only sessions
- More friendly competition
- Teachers are encouraging and positive
- Focus on fun.
Fit for Girls by Sport Scotland found that giving girls a voice is critical for engaging them in PE, physical activity and sport. Enjoyment increased when girls felt they had freedom, were given a choice of activity, and felt at ease with their peers in the class.
Another important practical element is to give girls equal access to facilities, equipment, mentors, and spaces that girls feel comfortable accessing.
These studies helped shape Girls Active, a UK schools programme depending on teachers and girls to work together to understand girls’ preferences and motivations, devise an action plan, and have a group of girls take the lead in promoting opportunities to their peers.
The impact was measured in clear benefits:
- Improved girls’ attitudes to school generally
- Raised girls’ confidence and self esteem
- Increased levels of participation
- Improved girls’ physical literacy
- Improved girls’ level of fitness
- Improved student behaviour
- Changed how both students and staff view PE and sport for girls.
We know regular participation helps with social skills, social integration, competence, cooperation and teamwork. Positive experiences in adolescence also have a positive influence on motivation to be active in later years. So let’s help our Bay of Plenty girls become more active by offering them fun with their friends, on their terms.
- School Sport Representation & Teacher Involvement in Sport by Region. NZSSSC, 2018.
- The Value of Sport. Sport New Zealand, 2017.
- Young People’s Survey. Sport New Zealand, 2011.
- Understanding Psycho-Social Attitudes towards Sport and Activity in Girls. Institute of Youth Sport, UK, 2011.
- Fit for Girls. Sport Scotland and Youth Sport Trust, 2012.
- Getting Girls Active. Youth Sports Trust & Girls Active, UK, 2014.
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