Teen girls who play organized sports get into a lot less trouble. According to a large body of research (http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Not_Just_Another/) conducted in the last ten years, girls who play sports have substantially lower rates of risky behavior. Girls involved in athletics are less likely to try drugs or alcohol, have fewer sexual partners, and become sexually active later. There are increases in positive behaviors as well. Girls who play sports have higher GPAs, and higher rates of graduation. They have a more positive body image and higher self-esteem.
Athletics provide a sense of structure, accountability, and a group of friends. Exercise is very good for the mind and body, and it decreases rates of depression. Girls who play on their high school sports teams have a sense of belonging to the school. They tend to have more school pride, which leads to an increase in caring about their community.
Playing sports also reduces overall anxiety. There are instances where anxiety arises because of the pressure in sports, but for the most part it is helpful for the anxious teenager. Getting exercise, going outside, being with friends, and focusing on something intensely all helps lower anxiety. Besides that, sports are fun!
If your daughter has been struggling with self-esteem or is tempted by risky behavior, consider signing her up for a sport. It can make a huge difference. It gives you both something to talk about too. If you’re discussing the most recent track meet, you’re communicating. For many parents, communicating with their teenager is difficult. Sports provide an avenue for relationship.
Be careful not to put too much pressure on your child when they are playing their sport. There are very few high school athletes good enough to compete at the collegiate level. There are very few collegiate level athletes good enough to compete at the professional level. It is okay if your 13 year old daughter isn’t on the top team. It is much more important that she is having fun and making friends. Your top priority needs to be her character development, not her athletic career.
The bottom line is, getting her involved in a sport is good for her mental health, physical health, and social health.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT