6 Ways to Help Girls Not Quit Sports!

Growing up in a family full of athletes was a privilege I never realized I had. Being put into numerous sports at a young age, supported by family members to work hard at each one, encouraged to practice with others, and strive for athletic achievement have all contributed to my academic success, confidence, self-esteem, and overall physical and mental health.

But sadly, girls’ participation in sports has historically been lower than that of boys even though the benefits of physical activity are equal for both genders. Due to several factors including lack of access, safety and transportation, social stigma, lack of positive role models, cost and more, girls are dropping out of youth sports at two times the rate of boys by the age of 14 according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

We know that physical activity has been proven to increase a child’s attention span during class, improve their academic performance, boost their heart rate to decrease the risk of heart diseases, and improve their mood. Beyond the physical benefits of exercise, participation in sports can help young girls grow confident in their own abilities, learn about teamwork, develop leadership skills, and build a positive body and self-image.

With all these benefits at play, it’s imperative to share statistics and raise awareness around the disparity in youth participation in sports. But the question remains, with all these contributing factors that deter young girls from continuing in their athletic journeys, how do we get them to stay, or even start?

Below we’ve compiled six ways that can help girls stay in sports and get the physical activity they deserve.

1. Share the benefits of sports

Break it down into a version the girls may understand based on their age. Kids just want to have fun while they play, but sometimes sharing the bigger picture can make a difference in why they go to practice.

  • For the youngest, you could let them know that, “playing sports will help them grow big and strong”.
  • For pre-teens, share that participating in sports will help them in school and to make new friends.
  • For an older group of girls, let them know that being part of a sports team can help them be a great leader – 94% of C-suit execs participated in sports when they were younger.

2. Keep it fun

Getting girls to stay in sports many times relates to the environment in which they play. By keeping sports fun, girls will be more willing to participate and want to return year after year.

  • For parents – If she shares that she didn’t like a certain sport, don’t hesitate to have her try another! A new coach, practice facility, or team can also make a huge difference in her participation.
  • For coaches – bring your girl squad to a women’s professional or college  game! They’ll love to see the skills of the pros and be inspired by the players on the field. Can’t go to a game? Tune into ESPNW for the latest women’s games!

3. Try multiple Sports

If you’re able, it’s also a great idea to enroll your daughter in numerous sports for each season so they can figure out what they like and dislike instead of forcing them to narrow down too early into only one sport. Cross-training is a great way to improve athletic performance across the board. By trying multiple sports, she’ll also be introduced to a slew of different girls – helping her find a group she feels comfortable with.

4. Be a role model – participate with them

  • To the best of your ability, try to engage or practice with your daughter at home. This support will reinforce the idea that she belongs on the team and in sports. Many girls think that sports “aren’t for them” because of social pressure or the idea that “sports are for boys”. By showing her that sports are for girls of all ages, she’ll be reminded that it’s a great thing to be playing!
  • Even if you know nothing about the sport she’s participating in, try to ask questions about the game. Having her explain the rules or different plays will show her how much she knows about the sport! Or if she’s confused about certain rules too, you can research it together. Let her know you value her participation on the team.

5. Inclusive play

If she has tried numerous sports and didn’t like any of them, it’s important to still make an effort to stay physically active. Use games and activities from the Summer or Winter Fun Packs from BOKS to keep kids moving at home or in school. By focusing on inclusive, non-competitive play, kids can reap the benefits of exercise while ensuring everyone is getting a chance to participate.

  • Bring BOKS to your community or school to get more kids moving before the school day. New friends, new activities, and a new way of getting physically active can spark interest in numerous sports. Sign up today for free here!
  • After some time of playing games with friends or peers in school, your daughter may bring up the idea of joining a team to play more with new friends they made during BOKS!

6. Advocate for girls at every level for equal representation

  • As a parent, community member, teacher, or youth organization administrator, it’s essential to continuously advocate for girls in sports. We need to recognize when there is not equal representation in programs or if the opportunities are skewed. Thanks to Title IX, we can enforce equal opportunities, but we still need to make sure the program is of substantial quality.
  • Ask questions:
    1. Does this coach have experience leading girls?
    2. What is this organization doing to recruit more girls to participate?
    3. How is this program catering their uniforms and culture to suit young girls?
    4. What is my community doing to inspire young girls to participate in sports? Are they highlighting the high schools’ female athletes in the same way as the males?
    5. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns!

At the end of the day, the statistics speak for themselves. By the age of 17, over 51% of girls have completely dropped sports, and over 67% feel like, “society doesn’t encourage girls to play sports”.

It only takes one person to make a change in their community. Bring BOKS to your school to spark the joy of movement in kids of all ages and abilities. Start a new sport in your child’s school if they don’t have a girls’ team! Volunteer your time as an assistant coach or help with pick up and drop off for kids that might need it. There is always something that can be done to help girls stay in sports to reap all the benefits of movement and teamwork!

What are you doing to help?

Michela North

Former 2x All American Basketball Player

ACE Certified Health Coach