Girls drop out of sports by the age of 14 at twice the rate of boys.
According to the National Women’s Law Center’s report: Girls, Sports, and Equality: A State-by-State Ranking on Title IX, West Virginia is ranked 21st in the nation in providing girls with their fair share of sports options at school. Twenty percent of high schools in West Virginia still have a large gender equity gap in sports.
We already know that West Virginia has been falling short on other health related statistics like obesity and leisure time activity. And this ranking isn’t really ‘that bad’ in comparison to the rest of the nation; behind Kentucky, West Virginia has the highest rank in the south.
So let’s go ahead and give ourselves a quick pat on the back and then we’ll all roll up our sleeves, dig deep, and continue to look into this.
Let’s look at one more important statistic before we start problem-solving.
According to a study on the Decline in physical activity in Black girls and White girls during adolescence, starting around the age of 10 girls activity levels start to drop by as much as 83 percent. By the age of 18-19 the majority of girls participate in almost no form of physical activity outside of scheduled gym class.
Why is it so important to not just focus on attaining gender equity in sports, but really to pay attention to our adolescent girls and empower them to be physically active?
Being physically active has many long term health benefits, and instilling a habit of physical activity early and often can no doubt lead to a decreased risk for obesity and the metabolic diseases associated with obesity.
But even more directly, and of equal importance, is the level of confidence that comes with being physically active. The skills learned in breaking down barriers and working through challenges can be translated to the work and school environment, leadership characteristics are achieved, and risk behaviors for unsafe sex and drug abuse are decreased.
In short, more participation in sports and physical activity creates healthier, more confident, and empowered (physically, mentally, and emotionally) women in school, in the workforce, and in communities.
I think we could always use a little more of that, don’t you?
More directly, empower the young ladies in your life by modeling a physically active lifestyle yourself and involving them as often as you can.
Encourage, and step in at those pivotal moments when things get shaky and social stigma tells them that girls can’t play sports. Show them they deserve every opportunity at a full, happy, healthy and confident life.
If you are interested in digging even deeper and maybe starting a club for female athletes at your school, or implementing some of the programs mentioned or referenced in the sources like GoGirlGo!, please contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
Here’s some other useful sources of information:
- Her Life Depends On It III,
- Women’s Sports Foundation,
- The Importance of Retaining Girls in Sports,
- Society for the Psychology of Women.