Empowering Teenage Girls Through Sports: Breaking Down Barriers and Building Confidence

Empowering Teenage Girls Through Sports: Breaking Down Barriers and Building Confidence
Secondary Weekly Highlights PE & Sport

Did you know that girls' participation in sports often drops significantly during the teenage years? Together, we can reverse this trend. Creating a supportive environment and celebrating the joy of movement can empower adolescent girls to develop a lifelong love of sports and physical activity.

As a parent, it's essential to encourage your teenage daughter to stay active and engaged in sports and physical education. However, many girls face significant obstacles that can hinder their participation. A recent Secondary campus Parent Empowerment Programme workshop equipped our parents with the knowledge and tools to support their daughters in overcoming these challenges and developing a lifelong love for physical activity.

Reflections on Physical Education Experiences

During the workshop, attendees were asked to reflect on their own physical education experiences, both positive and negative. The answers varied, with some participants recalling fond memories of camaraderie and personal growth while others shared stories of discomfort and embarrassment. One attendee mentioned the challenges of changing in inadequate facilities. At the same time, another spoke of the struggle to participate in sports while wearing inappropriate attire, such as shorts in the coldest of winters. These reflections highlighted the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive environment for physical education, where students feel comfortable, respected, and empowered to engage in physical activity.

Common Obstacles to Overcome

Societal Norms

Societal norms often discourage girls from participating in sports, perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes and reinforcing the idea that sports are primarily for boys. These norms can lead to a lack of confidence and self-doubt, making it difficult for girls to pursue their passion for sports.

Confidence and Body Image Issues

Teenage girls can struggle with body image and confidence issues, particularly during times of rapid physical change. These anxieties can be overwhelming and may cause them to shy away from physical activity, fearing peer ridicule or judgement.

Bodily Functions and Physical Changes

Menstruation and other bodily changes can be a significant source of anxiety for teenage girls. These changes can be uncomfortable and may lead to feelings of self-consciousness, making it challenging for girls to participate in sports.

Building Confidence and Encouraging Participation

To develop confidence, girls must feel a sense of belonging and enjoyment when they are active. This will help girls engage more regularly in physical activity, improving sports-related skills. With increased skills, girls become more confident, which then, in turn, strengthens girls' self-belief and resilience. With increased resilience, girls are more likely to be more adventurous with their choices and be willing to try new sports and activities.

Open Conversations

It's crucial to have open and supportive conversations with your daughter about body image, menstruation, and the importance of physical activity for overall health and wellbeing. By doing so, you can help her develop a positive body image and build confidence in her abilities.


Importance of Physical Activity

Physical activity is essential for overall wellbeing, and it's vital to emphasise this to your daughter. Encourage her to participate in sports and physical education to improve her physical and mental health, boost self-esteem, and develop lifelong skills.

Positive Language

Emphasise that the main goal is to have fun and enjoy being active with friends. Avoid putting too much pressure on competition or winning. Highlight the excitement and adventure of trying new activities like outdoor pursuits, dance, or exercise classes.

Give teenage girls a say in choosing the sports and activities they want to try. Initiatives designed by and for girls will help them feel valued, listened to, and empowered. There are many options to get involved beyond traditional team sports; consider badminton, tennis, dance, netball, yoga or aerobics.

Reframe competitiveness as personal challenges and goals. Celebrate achievements beyond just winning, like most improved, team spirit, or supporting others. Help girls feel proud of themselves for being active, not just for their skills or results. Celebrate your daughter and young girls for who they are and what they can achieve. Avoid phrases like 'she is fast... for a girl!'.

The Right Equipment 

Teenage girls must have the right equipment to ensure comfort, support, and overall performance as they engage in various sports and physical activities. Among the essential items for these young athletes are sports bras and specific ladies' equipment designed for their unique needs.

Sports bras minimise breast movement during exercise, providing the support and stability that active teenage girls need, which is particularly important for high-impact activities such as running, jumping, or dancing. Wearing a sports bra helps reduce discomfort, prevents chafing, and promotes a more confident and focused performance. For high-impact activities, including contact sports, it is now possible to purchase protective garments or shields to protect against breast injury.

We are also mindful of the further impact of sporty expectations for our Muslim students. It's essential to seek out and purchase inclusive and modest options for their sports attire, for example, sports hijabs that are designed for athletic activities, providing a comfortable and secure fit and leggings and long-sleeve tops which offer full-length or high-waisted options for girls who require a more covered look.

Considering these items, we can ensure that all our sporty girls feel included and supported in their athletic pursuits, allowing them to focus on their skills and enjoyment without worrying about their attire.

Be a Positive Role Model

As a parent, be an active role model yourself. Don't just watch from the sidelines - participate in activities together. Attend and watch women's sports to show girls they have inspiring female athletes to look up to.

Male Support Matters Too

It's essential to involve boys and other male role models in supporting girls' sports and activities. Dads, uncles, brothers, and friends can play a significant role in encouraging girls to participate and stay engaged. Here are some ways they can help:

  • Attend Games and Events: Show up to support the girls' teams and events. This can help create a sense of community and make the girls feel seen and valued.
  • Be a Positive Influence: Encourage boys to be positive role models by promoting a culture of respect, inclusivity, and support for girls in sports.
  • Participate Together: Engage in activities with girls, such as playing a sport together or taking a fitness class. This can help build bonds and create shared experiences.

By involving boys and other male role models in supporting girls' sports and activities, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment that encourages girls to stay active and engaged.

At Alice Smith School, we foster a culture of inclusivity and confidence in sports and physical education. Our ambition is for all students to be empowered to achieve their full potential, free from any external or intrinsic factors that may hinder their progress. Every student deserves the opportunity to develop their passions, build confidence, and cultivate a sense of limitless possibility.

An excellent site for resources is netballher - not just for netball, covers lots of helpful information for teenage girls and sports.

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The Parent Empowerment Programme workshop was presented by Anna Sheppard, Head of PE at the Secondary Campus, and Amanda Coates, Assistant Key Stage Leader - KS4 & Head of Year 10 at the Secondary Campus.