Wilmington, DE, February 1, 2011 – Research shows that playing sports can boost a girls health, self-confidence, and even her report card. Athletic girls are also less likely to smoke, and later in life, girls who continue to exercise regularly are less likely to get breast cancer and osteoporosis.
With so many potential pluses, KidsHealth.org, the most-visited website for childrens health and development, polled more than 3,000 girls online (ages 7-12) to find out how they felt about being an athlete.
The month-long poll, administered between November and December 2010, found that girls who like sports (88%) like them so much that theyd rather play sports than text (81%), watch TV (80%), or go to the mall (55%). KidsHealth is sharing the results this week to mark Girls and Women in Sports Day, the Feb. 2 event that celebrates and supports female athletes.
Girls who dont like sports (12%) worry they wont be good at them or that people will laugh at them. But more than 60% of nonathletes say theyd like to get better at sports and theyd most like to try swimming and dance.
Girls who didnt like sports were more likely to say that boys were better at sports (45%) and that boys sports programs were more important than girls (31%). Most girls (90%) had not heard of Title IX, the 1972 federal legislation that required equal opportunities for girls to play sports. Girl athletes were no more likely to know about Title IX than nonathletes.
Also across the board, 93% of girls say they hope their own daughters will play sports one day.
Whether your daughter is or isnt involved in sports, parents should still encourage girls to get active and stay active, says Mary Lou Gavin, MD, medical editor for KidsHealth.org. Girls who exercise or play sports get fit, but the benefits are more than just physical.
To help parents motivate their daughters, KidsHealth.org offers two sets of tips: one for parents whose daughters love sports and another for parents whose daughters need help finding a sport theyll enjoy:
Have a Sports-Loving Daughter? Five Tips for Parents from KidsHealth.org
- Find more time for sports: Most (90%) girl athletes said theyd like to play sports more than they do. In addition to official practices and games, look for opportunities for your daughter to try new sports and enjoy sports in a casual way. Athletic girls said the new sport they most want to try is ice skating.
- Guard against injury: Girls said the hardest thing about playing sports was getting hurt (35%). Insist on protective gear, such as helmets and mouthguards, and be sure your daughter has the right shoes and equipment. Good conditioning, well-trained coaches, and never playing when hurt also can protect your athlete.
- Back off the pressure: A quarter of girls said they felt pressure from their parents about sports. Another 20% said they dont like when their parents come to games because they embarrass them with loud cheering or are too critical after the game. As one 12-year-old put it, I play sports for fun, but they only want me to be a winner.
- Elevate girls sports: Teach girls about the history of womens sports and let them know they deserve equal opportunities to play. More than a third of girls said they had been teased about playing sports. Attend sporting events to support your daughter and other female athletes. Girl power!
- Encourage a lifetime sport: Nearly 80% of athletic girls said they planned to keep playing sports after high school. Help them meet that healthy goal by introducing them to a sport that can be played for a lifetime, such as tennis and swimming.
No Sports for Your Daughter? Five Tips for Parent from KidsHealth.org
- Start with a clean slate: More than 60% of nonathletes said they had quit a sport. And they say theyre worried they wont be good at new sports, so they dont want to try. Offer your daughter a do-over with sports and let her know she might need to try several sports before finding the right one for her.
- Try the buddy system: Your daughter may be more likely to try something new with a friend. Investigate classes and local programs that she and a friend can do together.
- Ask about workout clothes: Some girls, especially those who are overweight, may shy away from exercise because they dont like how they look doing it. It can help to have sneakers and a comfortable workout outfit (and a supportive sports bra, if needed).
- Make it easy: Organized sports are great, but also think about sports and games that can be played at home or in a casual way. Take a look at whats in your garage (balls, whiffle ball sets, badminton racquets, bikes, skates) and help identify times when your daughter could play outside.
- Inspire her: Playing sports can help your daughter feel capable and strong. Energize her by attending girls sporting events and introducing her to female role models in sports history. And when your daughter gives sports a try, be sure to praise her for getting in the game!
KidsHealth.org is the #1 site devoted to childrens health and development in English and Spanish. Each year, more than 200 millionparents, kids, and teens turn to KidsHealth.org for expert answers, making it the Webs most-accessed site on childrens health. KidsHealth.org has been honored as one of the 30 Best Websites by U.S. News & World Report, one of the 50 Coolest Websites by TIME magazine, and the Best Family Health Site For Moms by Good Housekeeping. KidsHealthalso createsKidsHealth in the Classroom, a free website for educators featuring standards-based health curricula, activities, andhandouts. KidsHealth comes from Nemours, one of the nations largest nonprofit pediatric health systems and a founding member of the Partnership for a Healthier America,a partner to First Lady Michelle Obamas Lets Move! campaign to mobilize the nation to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. For more information about KidsHealth, please visit KidsHealth.org.
About the KidsHealth KidsPoll
KidsPoll is a project of The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media, creators of the award-winning website KidsHealth.org. The purpose is to gather opinions, attitudes, and feelings from kids about issues that affect them and to provide a national platform through which to share these views. The information is shared with families, educators, health care organizations, the media, and other interested parties at the national and local levels. All information is self-reported via anonymous online surveys by a convenience sampling of KidsHealth.org visitors.