Factors Affecting Participation of Female Adolescents in Sports

Participation in sports can decline as girls become teenagers, decreasing opportunities for physical fitness and socialization. The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that if a girl does not participate in sports by the time she is 10, there is less than a 10 percent chance that she will be participating when she is 25 3. Overcoming barriers to sports participation can increase the number of teenage girls active in individual and team sports.

Safety and Opportunity

Safe places to play sports are non-existent in some communities. Sports fields might be absent or in poor repair, or fields or courts could be located in high crime areas. Teen girls who live in areas with no safe access to sports venues might not be able to travel to other areas due to lack of funds or lack of public transportation. Girls who rely on bus transportation to school and have no after-hours transportation available might be unable to stay after school for practices and games, even if they are interested in participating. As children reach the teen years and sports become more competitive, some children don’t possess the skills necessary to join high school varsity sports teams, leaving them with no outlet for physical activity.

Opinions of Others

Girls are influenced by the opinions of friends, parents and teachers. If a teen’s parents don’t value physical activity, the attitude can be unwittingly passed on to the teen. Associating with a group of girls that doesn’t view sports positively might also discourage a girl from sports participation, particularly if a girl’s friends think sports participation is not feminine. Television, movies and books can influence a girl’s desire to play sports. The Women’s Sports Foundation notes that young girls have at least two-thirds fewer same-sex literary role models for their participation in sports than young boys 13.

Time and Energy

Teen girls might feel that they don’t have the time or energy to participate in sports, even if they were involved in team or individual sports in the past. The demands of academic work, part-time jobs and a social life may take priority over sports. A study published in the March 2006 edition of “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that teenage girls frequently reported lack of time and fatigue as primary reasons that they avoided sports participation.

Overcoming Barriers

Encouraging a positive attitude toward sports at any age can be helpful, although it is particularly beneficial in younger girls. Exposing girls to a wide range of individual and team sports, either as an organized activity or a family activity, can spur an interest in sports. Taking younger girls to watch high school or college female teams can be helpful. Community initiatives to repair sports fields and improve safety can play a key role in making sports attractive to girls. Promoting individual sports or activities if a girl is uninterested in team sports can help to ensure that she stays healthy and active throughout her life. Jogging, rollerblading, walking and other physical activities promote physical fitness in a more casual setting.