Making the Case for Women’s Sports Part 1: The Value of Girls and Women Playing Sports

The most valuable reason to participate in sports is the amount of health benefits that come with regular exercise. You don’t have to play a sport to exercise regularly, but organized sports are a fun and often more interesting way to exercise on a consistent basis. Furthermore, sports offer the opportunity to learn a number of life skills. Sports combine aspects of teamwork, personal character building, communication, and perseverance. Playing sports can increase self-esteem and improve academic performance. Along with a number of other benefits.

Health Benefits

Playing sports in youth is one of the best ways to develop an attitude towards maintaining a healthy body, an attitude that becomes more important as more people grow older and as a society transitions into life that is more urban and sedentary. Sports can improve both physical and mental health.

Physical inactivity and obesity place you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of other health problems. Regular exercise will lower your risk for those problems, and increase your heart’s strength and endurance. A 1981 study from Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Health, showed that young women who participated in college sports, or who exercised regularly in college, were at much lower risk for breast cancer and other reproductive cancers. Sports can lessen the prevalence of eating disorders and improve body image.

There is always a risk of injury from sports, which can be said about exercising in general, but sprains and bruises can heal. Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are life threatening.

According to the United Nations, sports and physical activity improves mental health for girls and women. It psychologically boosts confidence, self-esteem, and social integration, while lowering loneliness, anxiety, stress, and depression. Women have depression at nearly double the rate as men, and it may be of greater importance to encourage girls to play sports and be physically active.

Life Skills

In addition to health benefits, there are educational and personal benefits to participating in sports. Studies indicate that students that play sport perform better academically, earning higher grades on average than their peers. Students that participate in sports have higher self-esteem, including better self body image among girls. Students that participate in sports are also more likely to pursue leadership roles.

The skills that you can learn and improve by playing sports: communication, risk-assessment, diligence, perseverance, focusing in high-stress/high-adrenaline situations, personal responsibility, constantly improving yourself; each of these are directly applicable academic and business life. Much has been said about the lack of women in leadership roles throughout society; a simple way to help girls to gain and improve leadership skills such as decision-making, negotiation, and management, is through participation in team sports where communication is vital to a team’s success.

Team sports also provide people with a network from which they can build friendships and build interpersonal relationships. These networks can grow and expand to provide valuable emotional support or career support throughout life. Sports can also be an avenue to develop interaction and relationships with the greater community, and to provide opportunities to travel outside the local community and receive a sense of what opportunities are available in the wider world.

Encouraging Participation

Given the health, educational, and personal benefits of playing sports, what are some of the ways we can encourage girls to play sports? First, we can support collegiate and professional women’s sports. Kids naturally emulate the things they see adults giving time and attention to. If we don’t give any time and attention to women athletes, it’s more difficult for girls to view themselves as playing sports. Second, we can directly encourage girls to participate in sports and to find a sport they enjoy most. Third, we can encourage business companies and media publications that provide support and give more attention to women’s sports.

A common view in more traditional countries is that sports are unfeminine. Exerting yourself and sweating is unladylike and should be avoided. However, it should be noted that the women considered most feminine, models, actresses, beauty queens, they exercise frequently to maintain their body shapes and health. The women considered most feminine exert and sweat frequently to achieve their level of femininity. This can be highlighted by simply visiting the Instagram and Twitter accounts of these popular women, and make note of the numerous posts about their exercise routines. Playing sports is just another way of exerting yourself in a healthy way and maintaining a healthy body. In any case, I personally believe that health should come before notions of ladylike/feminine/masculine/macho or any such labels. One way to help encourage girls to play sports is to dispel the notion that femininity depends on whether you play sports or not.

These are just a few suggestions, but there are very simple ways to encourage girls and women to play sports and to earn the myriad of benefits.

This is part 1 of a 6 part articles series. You can view the rest of the series “Making the Case for Women’s Sports” here:
Part 1: The value of girls and women playing sports
Part 2: Being a fan of women’s sports
Part 3: Financing women’s sports
Part 4: Media coverage of women’s sports
Part 5: Women’s sports in the Philippines
Part 6: Personal note “It’s just a game”


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