Move over, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis! Today I am talking about 3 little soccer players who treated a crowd of doting parents and friends to outstanding games last night. I love watching little kids’ games, especially the really little ones, who play like easily-distracted kittens: “Eh, there’s the ball, gotta go run and get…oh, look! A butterfly!” *Scampers off in other directions, game forgotten* The littlest ones were playing with the net, wrestling each other on the field, and intrigued by the stray soccer balls accidentally kicked onto the field by spectators. Sunflower kept turning to see if her daddy was watching her, and when Bear scored, he celebrated like a major league player, fists in the air, whipping around with a “Did you see that?” grin on his face. Wolverine didn’t seem thrilled to be playing defender, but he made a save that bounced off his leg and looked relatively painful. I broke a wrist once playing soccer, so maybe I am simply projecting my own post-traumatic stress disorder regarding soccer balls.
I was proud of all of them, but I’m especially thrilled that Sunflower is playing a sport. With all the negative and dispiriting messages girls get, even at her age, she in particular will need something to offset the “Girls don’t play sports! Don’t you wanna be a cheerleader?” nonsense.
Here are just some of the benefits for girls who play sports:
1. Sports are FUN.
2. Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image than girls and women who don’t participate.
3. Girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride in themselves.
4. Research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression among girls.
5. Playing sports teaches girls how to take risks and be aggressive.
6. Sport is where girls can learn goal-setting, strategic thinking and the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors – critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.
7. Playing sports teaches math skills.
8. Sports help girls develop leadership skills.
9. Sports teach girls team-work.
10. Regular physical activity in adolescence can reduce girls’ risk for obesity.
11. Physical activity appears to decrease the initiation of cigarette smoking in adolescents girls.
12. Research suggests that girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.
13. Teenage female athletes are less than half as likely to get pregnant as female non-athletes (5% and 11% respectively).
14. Teenage female athletes are more likely to report that they had never had sexual intercourse than non-athletes (54% and 41%).
15. Teenage female athletes are more likely to experience their first sexual intercourse later in adolescence than female non-athletes.
16. High school sports participation may help prevent osteoporosis.
*Borrowed from The Women’s Sports Foundation*
I also read somewhere that, not surprisingly, most female CEO’s of major companies had played sports as children. The ultimate dream, however, is not necessarily that all little girls end up corporate puppet masters, but that they value themselves, their minds, their abilities; trust themselves and their skills; and never, ever think “I can’t do this” simply because they are a girl.