Every girl and woman should have the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of sports. The road to equal acceptance for females in sports has been a long and bumpy one, so how close is that pigtailed-girl goal?
The Long and Winding Road
Early on, girls were thought to be simply too delicate for sports. Then, there was a phase in which girls were perceived to be incompetent at physical activity. They couldn’t possibly compete like boys do. Then the pendulum shifted and the thought was that equal meant girls had to be exactly like boys, matching their strength, competitiveness, drive and goals. Then, another shift brought society to celebrate differences between the sexes after all. Whew.
These seemingly disconnected phases built upon each other. They led to continuous positive motion in the collective attitude towards girls and women in sports and fitness.
The Critical Factor
Proponents have long considered organized sports an effective medium for psychosocial development such areas as cooperativeness, responsibility and leadership. But critics worried about the stress of competition and expectations of perfection.
Today’s attitude is all about self-esteem.
Sports psychologists and studies agree that the critical factor in sports for young women and girls is the quality of the adult leader. Parents, teachers, coaches and others contribute to self-confidence and self-worth by communicating positive feelings and respect to young women in their endeavors.
Creating a Positive Cycle
The common cycle of low self-esteem in girls is directly related to exposure to discrimination and sexism and the lack of positive female role models. The downward cycle leads to negative body image, high-risk behavior and problems in relationships at home and in school.
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