two girl's in Y shirts playing basketball

Girls in Sports, a group of words some may not realize can mean more than just their daughter participating in a physical activity. Girls in Sports has many benefits, no matter what age you are. To give you a little background, I have been around sports my whole life, from watching older brothers’ play every sport imaginable in the Midwest to myself playing from 6 to 23 years old. I started in local parks and recreation and ended up at the collegiate level. Sports are different both physically and mentally at the various levels, but they also have similarities.

The top 4 similarities for why Girls in Sports are more than just a game are: friendships, self-confidence, achieving goals, and health benefits.

1. Friendships
Throughout my years of playing sports, I developed many friendships. In the beginning of most seasons, it was awkward because I had no idea who these other girls were on my team, but by the end of the season these strangers developed into new friends. I was always the shy girl growing up, but sports helped me grow out of my shell more and more as the years went by. My friends to this day are the girls I played sports with throughout the years. If I had not participated in sports, there is no way a shy girl like myself would have the lifelong friendships that I have today.

2. Self-Confidence
Self-Confidence is one of the biggest reasons why to me Girls in Sports are more than just a game. I struggled being confident, always comparing myself or second guessing myself. Being around my team was always a safe place where there was no judgement. Little by little, being around the atmosphere of a team with your teammates cheering you on and giving you high fives can have a positive impact on your self-esteem and confidence. Teammates are there to help each other through good as well as bad times. The atmosphere of being a part of a team is used extensively in the corporate world. Thus, the experience of being part of a youth sports team was, in hindsight, the building blocks for my entry in the “real” world. 

3. Achieving Goals
In the development stages of playing a sport, girls will learn a lot and develop many skills. Setting and achieving goals is the cornerstone for learning and developing skills. For basketball, a goal could be as simple as calling for the ball or going after every loose ball. In volleyball it could be to get three hits each possession. Throughout my basketball career (my main sport of focus), I set a goal for myself to be able to touch the rim.  I set that goal for myself, put in the work to achieve the goal and eventually I was able to touch the rim. There is no better feeling than setting a goal for yourself and seeing all your hard work come to fruition. 

4. Health Benefits
Studies recommend that children should be active for up to 60 minutes a day. Putting your daughter into a sport is a great way for them to get active without thinking they are being forced to participate in physical activity.  For me, playing in a sport always resulted in having fun and on top of that interacting with the other girls on the team. There are a number of studies that state being active cannot only help your physical health, but also your mental health. A sport is a fun way to exercise!   
Girls, just like boys, belong in sports for the long run to learn life lessons through friendships, self-confidence, achieving goals and staying healthy.


Written by: Hillary Held, Program Director at the East Belleville YMCA