Women In Sport: Why Aren’t We Encouraging Participation?

With the 2016 Olympics less than two weeks away it is disheartening to hear news that female participation in sport still doesn’t match that of the opposite sex.

The 2012 London Olympics were such a triumph for Britain’s female athletes, with first ever golds in rowing, stunning performances in cycling and several riders in the equestrian events. Not to mention Nicola Adams, who won the very first women’s boxing gold, and Jessica Ennis, who stole the heart of the nation.

But their valiant efforts don’t seem to have had the desired trickle-down effect.

According to new research, ‘sweet sixteen’ spells the end of sport for more than half of teenage girls who stop participating once they finish school and compulsory PE lessons.

Losing interest or no longer finding it fun is the most common reason for girls not continuing sports past their teenage years, followed by a lack of time and becoming more self-conscious of their body during and after puberty. Needing to focus more on their school work, job or other areas of their lives, lacking the confidence to believe they could succeed at sports and thinking there was no career or profession in it for them also feature in the top ten.

British cycling star and Olympic gold medallist Laura Trott, who is partnering with Always for their #LikeAGirl campaign, said: “We all go through it, but puberty can be such a challenging time for girls, you suddenly feel really self-conscious about lots of things and start thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do certain activities.

“I remember kids making fun of me for cycling and wearing a helmet and that would really knock my confidence. But playing sport taught me that by believing in myself, and never quitting, you can achieve great things.”

It also emerged that while 88 per cent believe society encourages boys and men to take part in sport, just 35 per cent believe the same is true of girls and women. Worryingly, more than one in twenty young girls even claimed they were teased by others for their interest in sport, leading them to quit rather than continuing into later life.

Half of young girls believe becoming more self-conscious about their body during puberty prevents young women from playing sports once they finish school. And almost a third put girls’ dwindling participation in sports as they get older down to the fact there is little or no respect for females in sports.

Other factors behind the lack of girls playing sports are that they are being encouraged to do other things instead, the belief that there is no career path for women in sports and the lack of availability of sports for women in schools and communities.

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