There’s nothing like team spirit! It seems that more girls are kicking off on the football pitch, scrumming down like their rugby idols and hitting the netball courts with their friends. With women’s team sports such as football and rugby becoming more prominent in the mainstream media, we take a look at how more girls are adopting sports previously considered to be exclusively for boys.
We also explore the benefits of girls, and in particular teenage girls, participating in team sports and how being part of a team can help to empower and prepare girls for the future.
Finally we speak to our special guest and an expert in the know when it comes to inspiring girls of all ages to get into team sports. All will be revealed later on in our blog!
Did you know…
Back in 1920s there were around 150 women’s football teams in England (1)
Football is now officially the biggest female team sport in England. With a reported 1.1 million girls playing ‘kickabout’ football. (2)
The England rugby team won the Rugby World Cup in 2014. This victory followed a record-breaking seventh consecutive 6 Nations crown in 2012 as well as the Grand Slam. (3)
More than 18,000 women and girls play rugby regularly in England (3)
These are inspiring facts and figures that are certain to inspire young women and girls across the nation. In fact a recent report by Childwise found that “three in four girls aged 15 and 16 are now playing more sport in school, compared with one in two back in 2015” (4). It’s not just at school where more teenage girls are playing sport. The report also discovered that “half of all teenage girls are now participating in sport at home (or in school) compared to only two in five in 2015” (4).
Despite these encouraging figures, there are some challenges that girls of all ages face when it comes to their involvement in sport. According to a report from the Youth Sport Trust ‘physical activity levels start to decrease in children as young as 7 years of age.” They also note that this marks a ‘tipping point’ for confidence and attitude in girls. (5) Along with this, changes in body image, particularly around puberty can have a negative effect on girls involvement in physical exercise and indeed playing sport.
The fantastic #LikeAGirl campaign seeks to tackle these confidence issues around puberty head on. The campaign acknowledges that more girls should be taking part in sport but understand that puberty can be a tricky time in a female’s life to capture their imagination when it comes to participating in sport and activities. Their strong campaign mantra #LikeAGirl invites everyone to actively “rewrite the rules and keep girls in sport”. They describe their campaign as an “epic battle to stop the drop in confidence girls experience in puberty by encouraging all girls to Keep Playing #LikeAGirl.” (6)
As parents and carers of girls what can we do to encourage our children to be more pro-active in sport and to take on some of these hurdles that girls feel they face? Definitely confidence plays a huge role here. We should be aspiring to change the familiar “I can’t do it” attitude to ‘Maybe I can” or ‘I can do it’; a sentiment heavily adopted by the hugely popular ThisGirlCan campaign. (7)
The message is starting to come through to the next generation of girls and young women. There is a shift of focus on highlighting more women in sport in the mainstream media. Sports such as Women’s football, hockey, rugby and more recently netball receiving more TV coverage than ever before. Female sports stars who play team sports are becoming more recognised in their own right. These are all positive actions it is hoped will inspire our women sport stars of the future.
Using these amazing successes of women’s team sport comes a new initiative called ‘Team Up’. The next three years will be an incredible time for women’s team sports with England hosting three consecutive Women’s World Cups - 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup; 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup and 2019 Netball World Cup. Team Up aims to “ensure all 7 - 13 year old girls across the country have the opportunity to experience the benefit of team sport.” (8)
Benefits of Team Sports for girls
Probably the most obvious benefit but an important one. Being active from an early age has a positive effect on health. Regular exercise helps to build and maintain strong healthy muscles, bones and joints. It is also fantastic way of increasing cardiovascular fitness.
Sisters are doing it for themselves
Being part of a team gives girls and young women a sense of ‘sisterhood’ which in part can strengthen their emotional wellbeing. It also encourages and teaches them teamwork and how to be a key member of a team both on the pitch and off of it.
All about the confidence
Being part of a team can help towards building confidence in girls and young women. It is that feeling of camaraderie and that they are part of a bigger identity that can have a real positive impact on how they view themselves as individuals and increases self esteem.
One local activity provider that is championing sisterhood in Sport are Sisters n Sport. Founded in 2012 by sisters Jen and Victoria, they decided that they too wanted to inspire girls to play sport like they had been inspired, and Sisters n Sport was born.
We recently caught up with co-founder Victoria to discuss her experiences and views on netball and how girls should be encouraged to be more involved in team sports.
What are your very first memories of playing netball or any team sport?
My teacher at Primary school Mrs Smith played netball and so she started a netball club. I was 9 years old and played GA - I loved it! It was so much more fun to play a sport with my friends - encouraging each other and celebrating together. From here I joined a club team and completely fell in love with the sport (the only problem was the HUGE pleated skirts which weren’t easy to play in!)
How does netball contribute towards child development; for example, how does it help to build self esteem, team spirit especially amongst teenage girls?
Netball is a great team sport as no one player can dominate. Each player is given an area to play in and a job to do - therefore everyone has to play a part in the team. All of the positions value different skills and talents - you need strong defenders, sharp shooters and fast mid-court players, which often means you bring together lots of people with different attributes and talents - you appreciate the skills of your teammates, especially as they can do something that you can’t!
We love the fact the #NetballOnTheRise was recently trending on Twitter, why do you think the game is having a bit of a ‘revival’ at the moment?
Due to a huge investment of time and money from England Netball with their ‘Back to Netball’ programme and an inspiring #thisgirlcan campaign from Sport England - women feel more confident to play sports rather than exercising at home or the gym. More and more women are coming back to the sport they played at school, with more leagues launched and teams started. Netball has made a huge comeback.
Name your ultimate netball hero.
I would probably say my sister. Not only has Jen achieved so much as a player (playing Superleague Netball and also GB Basketball) she now wants to coach girls to achieve their netball goals. I also love watching the Australian Netball League - my favourite player is probably Kim Green (as a WA I love her speed and feeding into the circle).
What do you see for the future of the sport?
Netball is definitely on the rise! From more investment by England Netball into a centralised programme, to the expansion of the Superleague - there is now the opportunity for girls to make a career out of being a professional netball player. This will mean more inspirational role models for young girls - encouraging more to take up the sport. Netball is creating a strong sisterhood of sports women and girls - all celebrating this fantastic team sport.
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