The report claims we have a “nation of inactive girls”, just 12% of 14 year old girls are achieving the recommended level of physical activity, yet 74% of girls say they would like to get more exercise. The report explored the views of girls and boys on sport. Boys, for what it’s worth, at 14 aren’t too hot on achieving the recommended level of physical activity either – only 24% are managing it.
The reasons why girls lose interest in physical activity range from image, 48% of girls said that “getting sweaty is not feminine”, lack of encouragement from parents or PE teachers and peer pressure, 57% of girls drop out of sports because their friends do.
The activities covered in PE classes also lacked appeal to nearly half of those girls who were still active. Can you blame them? I have yet to meet anybody who recalls the Bleep Test with dewy eyed fondness. Interestingly the answer is not to provide less competitive activities: “The research shows that contrary to popular perceptions, girls do like competitive sport… what they don’t like are the behaviours that go with it.” To have your team shout at you for missing the ball (again) during the end-of-term-just-for-fun game of rounders is miserable. But of course to win, or just participate with no consequences is fun.
In addition to allowing bad sportspersonship (sorry, but this is a feminist site) 34% of girls claim that PE teachers only pay attention to those who are good at sport. I managed to get my various PE teachers’ attention by being so shockingly rubbish at sport I was banned from tennis. Although I was invited to join the after-school dance team I didn’t because according to my peers the dance teacher was clearly a lesbian (though really I didn’t want to stay in school any longer than was necessary). Which brings us back to the idea of sport (or any activity – I for one had been unaware of the Sapphic aspect of ballet until those year 7 girls kindly informed me) being ‘unfeminine’.
The fact that dance and gymnastics were shoved to outside school hours sends the message that these activities were less important than those traditionally more popular with boys, such as football and rugby. The repeated message is that sport is, like the Yorkie bar, not for girls.
The WSFF hope that suggestions that zumba and rollerblading be introduced into the school PE curriculum and more importance placed on fitness over thinness might encourage more young women to stay active for longer.
The WSFF would like to hear from you. Any ideas or suggestions can be posted on their Twitter #changingthegame