There’s a thing that happens to teenage girls with regard to sport. There they all are growing up, doing really well with ballet and gymnastics and athletics and horse riding and hockey and netball and tennis and running, jumping, skipping, dancing and then suddenly, just like that, the majority of them stop.
Why is that? I obviously stopped because my parents never came to watch me do anything and I lost interest, but that is clearly an unreasonable attitude because parents today over-watch their children do everything and they are still giving up.
I suspect that female adolescents give up serious sport for a number of different reasons including:-
They get bored.
They would prefer to do other things – like meet friends, shop, talk.
They are not wanting to play such competitive games as boys and most of the stuff they have to do at school is either team sports or highly competitive.
They become painfully conscious of their bodies and get a bit shy and embarrassed.
They do not want to be told what to do.
They do not all have a burning desire to “win”.
To many parents teenage daughters can become an unfathomable mystery – particularly to their fathers who often feel as if they live in a parallel universe. That I suspect, is because the male take on the matter is “NEVER GIVE UP”, “WHERE IS YOUR COMPETITIVE SPIRIT?” “WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO TRY YOUR HARDEST?”. My daughter gets very upset because she has to defend herself against her father AND her brother over reasons why she didn’t want to carry on with yet another sporting activity that she was good at. In her case she has so far given up: ballet, dance, horse-riding, swimming, running and rowing. An impressive list of “been there, done that’s” for a 13 year old I suspect.
Anyway. So what can be done? This is a tricky time for lots of reasons and their weight tends to naturally increase. So it’s important to find a way round it.
Yesterday when I was discussing the issue with my friends, another point was raised that I hadn’t really thought about and actually it is probably the biggest barrier for the teenage girl. Hormones. I so remember feeling rubbish every month. Grumpy, sore breasts, stomach ache. Large sanitary pads and small stretchy PE shorts don’t work well together. Neither do swimming costumes and lessons and the worry of leakage. Try running when everything hurts.
The classes I am running with 6 mothers and their teenage daughters are in fact going very well. The environment is very non-threatening. They get to see their friends. We get to enjoy some time together and slowly we are improving their fitness. Perhaps there should be more of this sort of thing on offer.
I think schools should try and introduce some different sports. Kick boxing for example. That would make them incredibly fit and strong and would help with self-defence. My daughter wants to try boxing next. I can’t find anywhere locally to do it.
I don’t think their needs are being properly addressed.