A recent study, commissioned by Always, found that girls who played sports during puberty built confidence and critical life skills, like teamwork and resilience. Yet nearly half drop out during puberty, according to the nationally representative survey, conducted by OnePoll in 2021.
Parents and caregivers can help tackle that. Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that girls, and other underrepresented youth in sports, find it beneficial to have multiple champions in their lives. These champions can help counter the cultural and societal barriers that young people face playing sports (e.g., teasing, exclusion, inequality and feeling less valued). Ultimately, parents and caregivers who encourage and support girls’ sport participation will help reduce the dropout rates.
The following five top tips, based on the Foundation’s research, can help you engage the girl athletes in your life and keep them motivated in the long run.
- Create a community of support: Invite your daughter’s friends and family to her games and broaden her cheer team. For remote kudos, keep people regularly updated with her game schedule, photos and stories. For example: Maintain a group text or email thread to share highlights in real time and record a video compilation of support from her champions that she can treasure at the end of the season.
- Diversify how you show up: There’s no rulebook on what parental support can look like. Realistically, scheduling can make it tough to go to every practice and competition, so think about all the creative ways you can be there for her that work for both of you. For example: Make time to watch women’s sporting events together when you can. Buy her books by female athletes and have regular conversations about the women’s sports figures she admires. You can also cater team outings to show your love and support.
- Be her champion, not her coach: Parents who step into automatic coach mode can diminish her confidence and leave her with a negative experience. It can be tempting to review the game in detail as a way of “helping” her improve but it’s always better to support, not instruct. Words of encouragement and positive affirmation go a long way. For example: Instead of focusing on what went wrong, talk through her overall feelings about the game and have her lead the conversation on what she feels she’s learned from the experience.
- Encourage exploration: Not everyone knows what they want to do right away. Give her the space and opportunity to try different types of sports and find her true passion on her own time. For example: Make it a bonding activity by watching new sports together or by introducing her to another sport in a more casual setting, such as a local community center.
- Help her set her own goals: Many girls will compete to please their parents, not themselves. Avoid pressuring her with unrealistic expectations or playing a comparison game. For example: Ask her what “success” looks like for her and help her build personal goals to get there. These could be different qualifiers such as the confidence she’s building or the friends she’s making.
This year, in partnership with the Women’s Sports Foundation, Always and Walmart have donated $500,000 in #KeepHerPlaying Youth Grants to help schools and organizations across the country provide access and opportunity to puberty-aged girls in sports. Visit www.walmart.com/always to read and share the stories of the girls receiving these grants and learn more about the campaign.