One question that I often ponder is: why aren’t girls into sport? (…in general, when they hit teenage years). Perhaps I’m so curious because I so very definitely stick out from this stereotype. To me as a sports-crazed wanna-be-athlete, I just don’t get it.
Why aren’t girls into sport?
I think many will agree that with most sports, the men’s games are far more popular and well-known. Football in particular is one heavily dominated by men. I can’t kick a ball with any mild accuracy, but attach a tennis racket to my wrist and I’m in my element. Tennis is my sport. But I struggle to get on court with a group of similar aged female players and have a serious game. It’s not simple; I have to compete in the adult squad and train with the boys in order to reach a decent level of play. That being said, not complaining as I’ve actually improved miles more this way and prefer the boys’ attitudes towards sport, even if they’re a little overly competitive at times (yes, racket tantrums are a regular occurrence).
The media, as ever, has cottoned-on to this issue; propaganda such as ‘THIS GIRL CAN’ and ‘LIKE A GIRL’ now litter social media. If you’ve read my post on ‘THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA’ you’ll be aware of the persuasive power influencers possess when it comes to issues like this. Whilst recognition is encouraging – without meaning to offend anyone – I’m not exactly eager to join a band-wagon of feisty feminist campaigners going a little over the top with their message. However, so long as empowering girls with the confidence and grit to get stuck into sport remains the main driving force, these campaigns are shining examples of how the media can be a profoundly effective platform for change.
Sticking with the tennis theme (are we in the depths of Wimbledon or are we not?!) I’m currently being put through my paces in training to coach younger players. The coach told us that in his experience, once many girls hit a certain age (usually around the ‘delicate’ teenage time) they lose interest in sport and quit. Saddening or what? I don’t quite know how I’d cope without sport, especially whilst tackling exam time at school (forget stress balls; seretonin is where it’s at). Unlike too many uninspired, uninterested girls I never turn down sporting opportunities thrust in my direction, particularly during predominantly static school days. You can believe me when I claim to spend the majority of my time in sports kit whilst at school and the PE changing rooms triple as a social area, homework space and cantine.
Rewind back to my 10 year-old self and I discovered (to my horror) that I too was once a non-sporty person. An entry in my diary after a primary school PE lesson read: “Had to run round a muddy field today. Why? I hate running!”…Oh how things have changed. What happened? How did I flip from one extreme to another? I gave it a go. I found I could actually do some elements of specific sports. I began to enjoy it, then accepted the idea that maybe I might just like sport after all. Hooked on endorphins, I embraced this new-found love which has brought me to my most recent notable accolade: being awarded Sportswoman of the Year at school. Who’d have thought?! The dedication of a handful of coaches, PE teachers and my parents’ willingness to spend long, airless hours in sports halls most weekends has undoubtedly been a defining feature. Their spurring on really does tip the scales in favour of a lifelong love of sport.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, as a girl who’s big into sport, I struggle to comprehend why so many aren’t and am frustrated at some people’s dismissive attitudes towards sport. Advice to anyone not yet addicted to endorphins? Make friends with the sporty ones, give your PE teacher a chance and whip up the support of the family taxi-driver (aka Mum and Dad) – declare your intentions and give it go. Sweat is a thing, deal with it. Accept that you’ll be out of breath and in pain (making it sound delightful aren’t I?!) BUT the pain is temporary, and that rush you earn from it really cannot be beaten. Hands down.