Periods and low confidence prevent more than a third of girls enjoying sport, finds study

A third of girls polled said that people watching them play sports put them off participating

Joanna Whitehead
Monday 11 October 2021 14:04 BST
<p>Having fun and being healthy were consistently named by girls as reasons for participating in sport</p>

Having fun and being healthy were consistently named by girls as reasons for participating in sport

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Periods, low confidence and being watched by other people are preventing around a third of girls in England enjoying sport, a new report says.

For the third year in a row, data from the Youth Sport Trust reveals that periods are the biggest barrier affecting girls’ participation in sports.

The charity asked more than 27,000 school-aged girls in England about their biggest worries when it came to PE and sport.

Of these, 37 per cent said that periods stopped them from participating in sports at school, up from 27 per cent in 2018-19.

A lack of confidence prevented 33 per cent of girls polled from getting active at school (up from 30 per cent in 2018-19), while a third (33 per cent) said people watching them take part in sports put them off (up from 27 per cent in 2018-19).

Having fun and being healthy were consistently named by girls as the top motivating factors for taking part in physical activity at school.

The charity is working to empower girls in school to support each other and help teachers remove barriers to participation.

“Our Girls Active research has revealed that girls being on their period significantly impacts their ability to feel confident, comfortable and participate in PE, sport and physical activity, particularly at school,” Wendy Taylor, development manager for Girls Active tells The Independent.

“We know the issue is multi-faceted and complex with other concerns such as poor body-image, feeling on show, and feeling self-conscious in PE kit contributing further to their confidence at this time.”

Taylor said the charity wants to understand what would make a positive difference to girls during their period that would help them feel supported to participate in sport during this time.

“As we celebrate International Day of the Girl… we need to look at the role sport can play and how we can remove barriers to encourage more young people to fulfil their potential,” she said.

In 2018, the charity warned that there is a “direct correlation” between a lack of physical activity by young British girls and them having poorer mental health and lower aspirations than their male counterparts.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures from that year revealed that boys aged between eight and 15 spent almost twice as much time doing sport activities as girls of the same age.

“There is a direct correlation between girls’ future life chances and the amount of physical activity they do in their younger years,” Chris Wright, Youth Sport Trust’s head of wellbeing told The Independent.

“Quite often high-flying businesswomen talk about being very involved in sport when they were younger. Doing sport as children appears to help girls feel empowered and able to achieve things.”

He added: “Lack of activity correlates to a greater decline in wellbeing among children and teenagers. All the evidence suggests that if you’re inactive you’re likely to be less happy.”

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