GEORGE HOLLINGBERY: It's great to know girls enjoy sport but more needs to be done

Increasing numbers of women are taking part in an ever-wider range of sports and this is good news when girls can be put off taking part in games through lack of confidence or embarrassment.

Tuesday, 7th March 2017, 6:24 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:59 am
MP George Hollingbery wants to see more support for women and girls playing sport

The physical benefits of doing so for everyone are obvious and don’t need a recap here, but what does need exploring is why and how women can continue to get more involved and the psychological benefits of doing so, when historically many have been put off.

My own two daughters have luckily really never been bothered by fears of how they look or suffered abuse from others when they have taken part in sport.

They are keen netball players and one is now running half-marathons. Both get a great deal of enjoyment from their activities and they meet new friends doing it.

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But I do know this is not always the case and I very much applaud Sport England’s continuing This Girl Can initiative which has done a tremendous amount to make sport more accessible to women and girls by simply making it obvious what the possibilities are and that all women can take part whatever their age, looks or disability.

And if we want to cheer on the next Jessica Ennis-Hill, Laura Kenny and Ellie Simmonds in future Olympics and Paralympics then this sort of attitude needs to prevail more because research shows sport is a great confidence-booster for girls and the rewards can be enormous.

Studies from all over the world show girls lose their self-esteem far more than boys as they reach adolescence, and participation in sport suffers when the opposite would do much good.

Research from UN Women found 49 per cent of girls drop out of sports altogether – six times more than the rate of boys. Other studies show this drop-out rate is due to fears over self-confidence, the start of having periods and embarrassment over their bodies or, even worse, comments about their appearance or sexuality.

This is clearly unacceptable and more must be done in schools and communities to counter such abuse.

No-one should have to worry about the consequences of doing something they enjoy.

The need for more sport for girls is also on the political agenda. A Department of Education Study of 30,000 pupils from August last year showed more than a third of teenage girls are suffering from depression and anxiety.

The government is quite rightly spending significant sums to help combat this important problem, but a major way to counter these figures is to encourage girls to take part in sport. All research shows it raises their self-confidence, their physical and mental health and it enables them to make friends.

Everything must be done to make this possible.

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