Why I want my daughter to play a team sport
Rebecca Sparrow is Suncorp’s #TeamGirls ambassador and a best-selling author, columnist, podcast host and passionate advocate for teenage girls. Rebecca regularly visits high schools to present to students, and has developed a range of resources to help girls navigate their way through their formative years.
High school can be a lonely time. Thankfully I found my tribe on the netball court.
I have a lot of good memories from high school.
Passing notes to my friend Nic in French class where we feverishly dissected last night's episode of A Country Practice or Moonlighting or Family Ties. Lunch hours rehearsing Romeo and Juliet or lining up at the tuckshop to buy stupidly small tubs of Nutella. Pretending to study in the library while hatching plans to make a boy called Brendan fall madly in love with me. Working on the school magazine. Laughing our heads off in maths class over everything and nothing.
But some of my fondest memories come from the place you'd least expect. Well, least expect when you look at me. They come from being on the netball team.
I'm not the sportiest person. But it didn't matter. And I loved it. I loved the game. The pace. The rules (Offside! Obstruction!). The half-time oranges. The after-school training. The pep talks and tactics and drills. But most of all I just loved being on a team. That feeling of being a part of something. That feeling of belonging.
Being part of a team.
High school can be tough. Ain't that the truth. And it can be lonely. There's something about being part of a team that is balm to your soul when you're a teenager who is trying desperately to fit in. And according to the 2019 Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence Research Report a whopping 32% of girls aged 11-17 say it’s that “sense of belonging” which is the best thing they get from playing sport.
"There's something about being part of a team that is balm to your soul when you're a teenager who is trying desperately to fit in."
My memories of netball aren't so much of anything that happened on court. I can't remember any specific games or goals, but what I can remember is the team spirit. The bus ride to the games when we'd be nervous and anxious and talking through tactics. The bus rides home when we'd be consoling one another or belting out our winning war cry – wildly off-key of course. The strategising and planning. I remember feeling like my teammates – even if we didn't hang out together at lunchtime – well, they had my back. They were my team.
You know what else? By grade 10, having an early Saturday morning netball game gave me the perfect excuse not to attend a few dodgy teenage parties I was (truthfully) far too terrified to attend.
So, this year when I sat down with my book-mad, art-loving, eight-year-old daughter to talk about what afterschool activities she could do – I steered her towards a team sport. Not just because I want her to be active but also because I want her to experience that feeling of being on a team. PART of a team.
I want her to understand why you have to turn up to training even on those afternoons when you'd really rather be at home reading Clementine Rose. I wanted her to experience that shared feeling of elation and yes, also disappointment. I wanted her to revel in those moments of teamwork.
This year she's chosen soccer. She's on an all-girls team who are as fierce as they come. What I can see when I watch her play is that she just loves being out there – kicking the ball to a team-mate and doing her bit to score a goal.
She's already talking about trying netball next year, which makes me smile. After all, I have just the winning war cry to teach her.
GAME ON: For advice on how to help your daughter choose the right team sport for her, download the Team Girls Toolkit here and head to the Sports Guide which outlines dozens of different sports, female sporting role models, costs and likely training requirements!: https://www.suncorp.com.au/learn-about/teamgirls/toolkit.html
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.