The benefits of sports for youth are well-known. Sports teach boys and girls commitment, respect for others, relaxation, concentrate under stress, set and achieve goals, accept responsibility and failure, and be gracious winners. The recent findings of a Girls & Sports survey are clear: Girls who play sports perform better at school, are more confident and lead a healthier lifestyle. Sadly, many girls don’t get the chance to participate in sports due to various financial and cultural reasons. Twice as many girls will drop out of sports than boys by the time they reach the age of 14, leaving behind athleticism’s benefits at a young age. Girls have over 1 million fewer opportunities to play high school sports than boys. This is often because of a lack of access to adequate playing facilities near their homes and limited opportunities to play sports in high school, which means girls have to look elsewhere for sports, which may not exist or cost more money. To fight the obstacles girls face in sport and to guide more adults through coaching girls in sport, Nike released the ‘Made to Play’ Coaching Girls Guide for adult leaders who lead girls through sports and retain female participation. The reasons for girls dropping out of sport can quickly be addressed or even prevented. What we do know is that when girls connect with their coaches, they’re more likely to enjoy playing and keep participating.
What challenges do young female athletes face? First, girls get 1.13 million fewer sports opportunities than boys in the United States alone. Along with the lack of access, there is also a lack of coaches, apparel, and adequate equipment that don’t meet their needs. Only 27% of youth sports coaches are female; if the number was higher, it could help make girls feel more welcome in play and sport environments.
Kids need the benefits of sports now, more than ever, but COVID-19 has made leveling the playing field even more challenging. What we need is more parents, coaches, and caring adults with the right tools to help make the sport fun for girls. And, as we look forward to what’s next following this pandemic, we hope for a future in a sport that’s inclusion-led and community-based. This starts with training coaches to be more inclusive and focused on kids’ needs, including girls, with guides like this.