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Want to help set up your daughter for success? Keep them active! Research indicates that for young girls, a lack of physical activity is directly related to rebellious behavior, such as substance abuse, low self esteem and poor health. On the other hand, if girls stay active they are more likely to develop positive coping skills, increased self esteem and increased confidence.
But many girls who were involved in sports when they were younger drop out as they approach puberty. It might be because they lose interest, or because they’re afraid of being teased or because they’re not having fun anymore.
Whatever the reason, we can help our girls continue with youth sports. Here are some suggestions on how to guide girls to a healthy, active lifestyle they’ll stick with for life.
Define What Physical Activity Means
Make sure girls know that “physical activity” requires movement of your body that increases your heart rate. Whether you are participating in a light activity like walking your dog or a vigorous activity like chasing down a pass in a soccer match, you are engaging in essential physical activity. Make sure girls know that working out regularly will make them strong, increase their energy, and help them develop into a physically active female.
Change Attitudes About Exercise
If a girl says, “I’m not an athlete,” explain to her that physical activity is not black and white. Remind girls that no one is ever born a natural athlete. Even Olympic champions start at the beginning and work hard to succeed in their sport.
If a girl says, “I’m afraid of getting teased,” demonstrate that you empathize with her by telling her that everyone wants to be accepted by their peers. Explain to her that being part of a sports team is all about belonging, acceptance and team spirit.
If a girl says “I don’t know anything about sports,” help her learn. Start playing and watching different types of sports together so that she learns and becomes familiar with the rules of a range of games at her own pace.
Keep Things Fun
If a girl enjoys her time playing sports, she will be more likely to play in the future. Here’s how you can make being active fun for your daughter:
- Go to sporting events in which the athletes are female.
- Each season, try a weather-appropriate sport, such as snowshoeing in the winter, beach volleyball in the summer, softball in the spring and cross-country in the fall.
- Vary the environment. When you go for a walk, try taking a different route through your neighborhood. Instead of running around a track, run along the beach or around a park.
- Learn about female athletes. Read or watch biographies on inspirational female heroes like Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm and the Williams sisters.
- Make a sports scrapbook. Collect pictures of female athletes, and also of you and your daughter doing physical activities.
- Give gifts of sports equipment and apparel.
Emphasize the Importance of Teamwork
Make getting physically active a team effort. Girls are more likely to enjoy and maintain physical activity if their guardian or parent is active as well. Keep activity logs of sports you’ve played together, teach her your favorite sports you played at her age. You can even craft matching activity charm bracelets and add a new sports equipment charm to represent every new activity you try together.
Don’t Give Up!
Most importantly, once a girl is involved with physical activity, it’s crucial she maintains it. Encourage her to track her progress by keeping an activity journal or fitness calendar so she can visually see her development.
Always remind girls that being active will help them be more confident, do better in school, and be more secure socially. Plus, staying active and playing youth sports are just plain fun!
Yasmin Alameddine is a communications professional who wrote this blog while interning at Active for Life, a nonprofit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy and physically literate kids. For more blogs like this one, please visit ActiveforLife.com.