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Why participation in sports & physical activity, is so vitally important during adolescence❓

👉The exercise involved in most sports improves teens' health, strength, emotional balance, and life years. Exercise releases cortisol, which reduces stress; and endorphins, our bodies' natural feel-good chemicals. Sports participation is linked to reduced heart disease and diabetes, among other health benefits.

💪Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of physical activity during adolescence in my opinion, is the increase of confidence & self esteem levels & the decrease of depression levels.

😒However the drop out levels for young girls particularly in sport in this country is alarmingly high.

👉I have been working with the U-15 & U-16 Valley Rovers girls Gaelic Football Teams for the last 6 weeks, which is what totally spurred me on to write this blog post.

Why I am passionate about both getting, & keeping you all moving💪💪💪❤

👉Director of Participation and Ethics, Sport Ireland, Dr. Una May outlined the need for this research: “Evidence shows that participation levels plummet during adolescence with just 7% of girls aged 14-15 meeting the recommended physical activity levels.

👉As kids enter their teen years, they might lose interest in physical activity. Between school, homework, friends, and even part-time jobs, they're juggling a lot of interests and responsibilities.

💪But regular physical activity can help your teen feel more energetic, improve focus and attention, and promote a better outlook. And regular physical activity can help your child maintain a healthy weight and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems later in life.

Fitness in the Teen Years

Physical activity guidelines for teens recommend that they get 1 hour or more of moderate to strong physical activity daily.

In addition:

  • Most of the physical activity should be aerobic, where they use large muscles and continue for a period of time. Examples of aerobic activity are running, swimming, and dancing/fitness classes.

  • Any moderate to strong activity counts toward the 60-minute goal.

  • Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity should be included at least 3 days a week.

Given the opportunity and interest, teens can get health benefits from almost any activity they enjoy — skateboarding, jogging, pilates, swimming, dancing, boxing, or playing basketball in the driveway.

Women in Sport: Why is there such a high dropout rate?

We need to have a serious look at how we approach sports

👉It is very common in mixed schools that priority is given to male teams who typically gain more supporters and more funding from the school. On a familial level, it historically was very rare for a family to sit down and watch the Saturday night women’s game or the women’s Six Nations, if they could even find coverage of them. Educationally, girls are receiving an entire set of messages at institutional, instructional and interpersonal levels which does not include women in sport, thus failing to help young girls acclimatize to the normality of women in sport.

👉This is also further supported by the lack of sporting role models for girls both on social media and mainstream media. 65% of girls don’t know of any sporting role models in their chosen sport but could name a male one, which was discovered in a study done by the WSF. To fill this vacuum, many girls have turned to Instagram models and influencers for their role models where impossible beauty standards are prevalent, many of these body types are unachievable if partaking in sport due to the lack of visible muscle which develops through exercise. For many girls this is a deterrent as women who are perceived as muscly are likened to men and deemed too big to be attractive: an understandable disincentive for even the most confident of girls. A girl’s experience of sport is constantly being devalued by the prevailing social norms. “There is a perception that boys have superior sporting skills than girls with more resources and time being devoted to male sports as a result.

😒Every 1 in 2 girls drop out of sport before they reach the age of 20, according to the Women’s Sports Federation. That is a ridiculously high number for a country that prides itself on the great outdoors. Assuming the population is 50% girls and 50% boys: that is 25% of the population that is not taking part in any physical activity on a regular basis. These worrying statistics highlight the need for a revolution in the way in which we approach women’s sports. I don’t mean just from the media and the top down; I mean in the way each and every one of us does.

👉Unfortunately, this is not just a phenomenon that is specific to Ireland as there are similar levels of drop out rates across Europe and the developed world, with the Scandinavian countries typically reporting higher rates of participation. According to the Australian Youth and Confidence Research, over half of the girls quit sport by the age of 17 with a similar trend in Canada which has seen a constant decline in participation rates over the last twenty years. The Women’s Sport Federation (WSF) and project Play have concluded that girls of color play less sport than white girls—a worrying statistic for bodies looking to increase their diversity.

So why is it that so many girls stop taking part in sports? The gender gap in sport participation is a situation that has gained recognition recently as brands such as Nike and national federations such as the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) have begun increasing the awareness around women in sport and facilitating easier access through improving sportswear and active campaigns. Although these are having an impact by destigmatizing the reality of women participating in sport, there is still a long way to go to reach parity in genders being physically active.

👉When looking at the reasons driving women to drop out there seems to be a general theme: fear. Women taking part in sport is only a recent development and for years there has been a general stigma surrounding this participation. This is mostly due in part to the historical emphasis placed on men being the only engagers of sport. Traditionally, women would only do so for leisure and must at all times retain decorum. While this large gap can be explained by the lack of publicity surrounding women’s championships, it is only the beginning of the self-fulfilling perpetual circle of gender disparity in sport. It is also only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons for girls dropping out of sport.

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