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The ultimate guide to empowering teen girls through sport

Team Girls is dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport. It’s about girls supporting girls, building up their confidence, and knowing they’re stronger when they stand together – on and off the court.

Sport can have a really positive impact on teenage girls going through puberty, but many lose interest in doing it. We want to encourage young girls to embrace sport as an important factor in their mental and physical wellbeing.

We know that moving our bodies is a great way to keep on top of our physical health and mental wellbeing. And, this is especially important for young people going through puberty. Teen girls, in particular, struggle during this time as changes to their body leave them feeling self-conscious and vulnerable. They may become fixated on the way they look, how much they weigh or on comparing themselves to their friends. As this happens it is critical that parents encourage and foster a healthy relationship between a young girl and her body.

Ashley De Silva, CEO of ReachOut, suggests empowering girls to get involved with sport is an important part of supporting young women at this age.

“The teen years are a critical time for young women as they become more conscious of their body, its changes and how they fit in with the people around them. It can be concerning for parents to watch their daughter begin to grow up and to witness her relationship with her body evolve. It’s important to remember that this is all a natural part of growing up and there are ways for you to support her during this transitional time.

Encouraging a healthy relationship with her body and helping her to understand how to take care of it will set her up for life as a happy and healthy adult. Playing sport is a great way to support your daughter’s journey with her body. Moving her body has a multitude of benefits for her physical and mental health and sport will help her connect with her body and learn to nurture it.”

Along with the health benefits, sport can actually provide other positive opportunities for young girls. Spending time with friends, taking a break from the stresses of everyday life, learning about the importance of fitness, goal setting, dealing with failure and celebrating simple wins are all important life skills girls can learn from playing sport.

Beneficial fun with friends

In our recent TeamGirls research study 69% of the girls surveyed said sport helps them connect with friends. So, whether it’s joining a sporting team, visiting a gym with their best friend or taking a yoga class together, getting teen girls to combine physical and social activities has serious benefits. Encouraging girls to go out on their own, make friends and have an interest outside school and the home can give them the confidence they need at this time of their lives.

Ashley says “encouraging girls to incorporate aspects of mental and physical wellness into their friendships sets a solid foundation for a healthy adulthood”. There’s nothing more empowering than feeling good about your body, your health and doing it all with friends who leave you feeling great.

Taking a break from stress

In the same study, 60% of the girls said that sport helps them to forget their worries. Young girls benefit from having an activity that allows them to switch off from the pressures of school, friends and family. The mental health benefits of physical activity are myriad and encouraging young girls to use sport as a tool for managing their mental wellness is a great skill to learn.

Fitness not thinness

When teenage girls start to become more self-conscious about their bodies, sport can have a really positive impact on their confidence. Ashley points out that this is largely because “sport emphasises worth through physical capabilities, not through looks.”

By focusing, for example, on wins like beating their own personal best, rather than on how many calories they’ve burned or kilos they’ve lost, girls are practising positive reinforcement that improves their mental wellbeing. At whatever level of fitness they are, goals that prioritise becoming stronger and healthier are much more rewarding to measure.

The power of goal setting

According to ReachOut, goal setting is one of the most valuable skills parents can teach young people. Sport is a great way to help them learn about the benefits of setting goals, and the best ways to go about it.

Encourage your daughter to focus on setting goals that are measurable, tangible and realistic. By tracking her progress and performance, rather than simply focussing on results, she can learn the benefits of setting and achieving goals. Combining this with sport is a simple way to instil these lessons and encourage healthy lifestyle habits in the process.

Celebrate and encourage

Whatever activity your daughter is interested in, remember to encourage and celebrate her progress. Learning that losing doesn’t have to be a miserable experience is an invaluable life skill for all young people. It’s not just about being a good sport, but understanding that even in failure the experiences and practice she gains are achievements of their own.

So whether it’s netball or athletics, walking or taekwondo, AFL or zumba - encouraging young women to get moving is an important part of empowering teens on their journey into adulthood.

Reach out logo

ReachOut is Australia's leading online health website for young people and their parents. Working with registered counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals ReachOut provides online self-help tools that are used by over 1.5 million Australians each year. A valuable resource for many parents, teens and young adults.

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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