You Go Girls!

Positive self-esteem is about how happy you are with just being you. It can be developed through physical activity, especially team sports.

Feelings of self-esteem contribute to a person’s confidence and competence. These feelings of worthiness and proficiency can influence a person’s life in regard to aspirations, motivation, achievement and relationships.

Many studies have investigated the self-esteem of young girls and have concluded that as they move through school their self-esteem levels drop. One study found that 46 percent of high school boys, compared to only 29 percent of high schools girls, reported being ‘happy the way I am’.

Girls with low self-esteem often grow to be women with low self-esteem. These are linked to increased rates of depression, substance abuse, suicide and eating disorders in both adolescents and adults.

What can be done?
One important difference to consider is the rate of sports participation among boys and girls. As girls move through school, they tend to drop out of sports at a rate six times higher than boys.

Participating in sports is one way that girls can develop physical competence. Girls learn to appreciate their bodies for what they can do, instead of the perceived appearance by oneself or by others. In a sport environment, girls learn to control their bodies and to rely on acquired physical skills and knowledge. It helps girls to trust and rely on themselves and team mates while working toward common goals.

They become aware of the feeling of achieving, make new friends out of their normal circle and see what might be possible whilst target setting. For some, being liked by other girls is sometimes more important than having others see them as smart or independent.

A sport can develop leadership, citizenship and involvement when coached by a qualified and experienced professional. They are provided with adult role models, from whom they can draw guidance and support.

Put it in practice

It’s important to ensure that your daughters understand the health benefits of life-long exercise. A study published by the Women’s Sport Foundation on over 30,000 girls compared athletes to non-athletes. It stated that athletes were more likely than non-athletes to stay involved in sports as an adult and take on other extra-curricular activities.

Deena Rahman, senior coach at Arsenal Soccer School, reiterated the benefits of girls participating in sports. She played football professionally in the UK for Arsenal and Fulham and represented England before moving to Bahrain, where she now plays for the national team.

“Playing any sport at any level can teach a young girl many skills, such as teamwork, communication and commitment, while they are having fun and keeping healthy. Talented girls also have the possibility of achieving scholarships to US universities and/or professional contracts,” Deena says.

“At our soccer school, we coach the girls in their sessions and their match days, as well as organise friendly and competitive games against other teams. Girls have represented us in matches, both girls only and mixed sexes, against teams from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, when we toured to London, Barcelona, Lebanon, Florida and Dubai.”

This teaches the girls how to be part of a team and gives them confidence from travelling and gaining a new experience. The coaching style at the Arsenal Soccer School is one of encouragement, emphasising the positives, while developing the girls to be as good as they can be. The students are of various nationalities; so they interact with children from different cultures.

“We encourage mutual respect. In this region, there can be cultural issues, which make it difficult for young ladies to play sports,” Deena adds. “We aim to make the experience encouraging for the families as well, so that the girls are allowed to play for as long as they wish to into their teenage years and beyond.”

A part of the game
Supporting and encouraging your daughters to play sports is not only showing them that you value exercise, but it is a great way for them to develop their talent and can benefit them in the long term in many ways.

“We have seen many examples, where young girls have grown in confidence by playing football with us. From a personal point of view, playing for the national team here in Bahrain is a testament to having high ambitions and embracing opportunities when they come along, having enjoyed a life and career out of sport. It is great to think that what I am doing now might inspire someone to do something similar,” Deena states.

Self-esteem is influenced by:
• parental expectations, encouragement and influence
• degree of peer expectations, encouragement and influence
• involvement in making of decisions
• development of talents, hobbies or interests
• importance of role models
• extent of emphasis on body image
• experiences and interactions
during education

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