In my clinical psychology work at the Smart Therapy Centre over the past 25 years I have found that girls fare much better in so many ways if they continue to play vigorous sport and are discouraged from quitting (typically) at puberty.
Sport allows girls to feel capable, coordinated and strong in their bodies and teaches them the importance of motivation and perseverance. It teaches them to push through tough times and to get up and keep going even if it hurts.
I’m not just talking here about the gains in physical attributes but also the psychological attributes like mental toughness, individuation, cooperation and resilience. Research shows that girls who play sport have higher self-esteem, do better academically, are less likely to respond to peer pressure to take drugs and have higher confidence in their abilities than girls who do not play regular sport.
Of course, men have known this for generations and sport has been a training ground and metaphor for going out into the real world where resilience and toughness are often required and where ‘collapse’ is simply not an option.
It is so wonderful to finally see girls and women learning these skills that will empower them like nothing else and help them pave the way towards true gender equality.