Guest Blog by Corinne Ribbons
A few weeks ago on Twitter I shared an article about the new Always #LikeAGirl advert campaign
That got me thinking. With a similar feisty feminist message as the This Girl Can campaign tries to get across, it’s the latest in a push to empower girls to excel in sport and exercise (hallelujah!).
Whilst the infectious confidence of the young girls in the advert left me feeling emboldened and ready to head straight out to my closest sports ground, one comment in the video stuck on my mind- that over half of girls quit sport at puberty, when their confidence plummets.
Whilst shocking, this fact is only the tip of the big often ugly iceberg that is the relationship between females and sport.
Speaking to Mel in the office the next day, she told me a story about her weekend that sounded all too familiar. When a friendly football game was organised during her daughter’s class camping trip,the only two girls in the group were instantly sidelined. Mel watched on with disbelief as her daughter was excluded entirely from the game whilst the other young girl was given the honour of being made reserve (sarcasm intended).
It reminded me of the sunny day in year 5 when my own budding football career was cut short because the boys in my class decided I was no longer allowed to pay with them. Whilst they tried to argue it was ‘just the rules’ that no girls were allowed, I couldn’t help feeling that the sudden change of heart had more to do with their egos than match rules. I had just scored a hat-trick (me, a girl) against an all boy team and they couldn’t bear the humiliation. It confused me that whilst all the fiercely competitive boys could flaunt their skills on the pitch, as a girl I had to be self-effacing to be included. And why did the boy in goal get teased for letting in a ‘girl’s goal’ but not a boys?
It is exactly these often overlooked daily occurrences in the playground that eat away at little girls confidence and determination (how many times can you tell a group of boys that the dinner lady said they have to let you play?!) and build up to create the atmosphere in which it’s no surprise that half of girls quit sport by the time they hit puberty.
And the consequences of girls being turned off sport and exercise at an early age are lasting. Two million more men than women exercise or play sport regularly in the UK, and tragically the large majority of women and girls blame inactivity on issues with self-esteem and fear of judgement.
This has gotta end.
This gender gap in sports and exercise is intergenerational, and changing it requires overhauling the way girls think, and the way society thinks girls should behave.
This often starts at home. Mums facing their fears, strapping on their trainers and getting out there for a run might just be the change that breaks the cycle of sport-adversity and self-doubt that has developed in girls and women. This idea has been supported in various studies, with one claiming that children are 80% more likely to be regularly active if their mum is…80%!
It’s enough to make you run out that door right now, isn’t it?
We’ve already seen the effects of this in our community and it’s amazing. The social impact of the 4,000+ mums that have already taken up running with us stretches far beyond their own personal development. Each time we hear from one of you that your child has asked to join you on a run, or entered their first junior race TMRs heart swells a little.
With each mum we get running we’re setting an example for the next generation girls (and boys too) to get outside and get active. And if that’s not enough reason to get more mums running, I don’t know what is.