This past Sunday, March 2, 2014, Canadian Olympic speedskater and Winnipeg native Cindy Klassen opened an indoor sports and fitness facility for Palestinian women -Dar Al Kalima Sports Hall, the largest indoor sports facility in the West Bank. The $1.2-million US indoor gym will host a women’s sports program — the first of its kind in the region — and serve Palestinian girls and women.
This opening and Klassen brings attention to the importance of sport for girls and women. There are so many reasons that girls should participate in sports. They could become professional athletes, win a gold medal at the Olympics or receive scholarships to colleges and universities. Even if any of these do not happen for the girls in your life, the benefits to having them participate in sports far outweigh any associated costs.
Scholastic. Exercise improves learning, memory, and concentration, which can give active girls an advantage in the classroom. They are also more likely to graduate high school than those not involved in sport. Statistics squash any notion that playing sports will take time away from studying and academics will suffer. Athletes learn the valuable skill of time management.
Life skills. Sports teach valuable life skills including teamwork. When girls work with coaches and teammates to win games and set and achieve goals, they learn how to be successful. In fact, 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys”—having played sports. Athletes learn commitment, dedication and work ethic.
Health. In addition to being fit and maintaining a healthy weight, girls who play sports are also less likely to smoke. They are also less likely to have an unintended pregnancy. Girls and women who exercise are less likely to get breast cancer or osteoporosis later in life.
Self-confidence. Sports build confidence because they know they can practice, improve, and achieve goals. Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. In addition, girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports
Reduce Stress. Playing sports can reduce stress as the brain chemicals released during exercise improve a person’s mood. Friends are another mood-lifter. And being on a team creates tight bonds between friends. It’s good to know your teammates will support you — both on and off the field.
Fun. Playing and participating in sports is fun! This should be reason enough to get girls into sports.
For those of us that were involved in sports growing up, we do not need to be convinced why girls should be in sports. This blog confirms what we already know to be true. My hope is that everyone knows this and that all of the girls and young women in our lives and across the world are given the opportunity to participate and reap the rewards!