Girls and Women in Sports: Instilling Confidence in Young Girls in Sports
By Melissa Wickes
February 1, 2023
As girls enter adolescence, they often become self-conscious and, because of that, stop playing sports. While it’s a tough sell to a tween or early teenager, sports are a way for girls to gain, build, and maintain their confidence, both on the field and off. It’s crucial we encourage them to continue to play.
In honor of Girls and Women in Sports month, we sat down with Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley—Vice President of Community and Impact at LeagueApps, President of FundPlay, and Olympic Gold Medalist—to discuss the lessons she has learned throughout the years from being a Black woman in sports, in life, and in career. She discusses how these lessons can be applied when lifting up young girls in sports.
Benita discusses the importance of continuing to play, even at an age where girls might not feel entirely motivated. She also discusses how being involved in sports has opened up so many doors for her, which has been especially important for her as a Black woman who may not have been given the opportunities otherwise.
Read on for some important lessons that young girls can learn from playing sports and how to lift them up in their sports careers.
Keep on Playing
Benita describes the “keep on playing” advice as “the single best thing parents can do to prepare girls for even greater challenges they’re going to face into high school and beyond.”
It can be difficult for young girls to feel motivated to keep at it in sports, especially if they’ve experienced a form of rejection such as being cut from a team. Girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys in middle school, and when they do so, they miss out on lessons that can instill confidence in all walks of life.
There are many ways for girls to get and stay involved in sports at this age, whether they make the school team or not—such as a recreational league, the Boys and Girls Club, and CYO teams. Keeping at it not only teaches girls the importance of hard work and perseverance, it allows them to experience all of the physical, mental health, social, and emotional benefits sports can have.
“I learned lessons both in sports that I wasn’t very good at—such as softball and gymnastics—and sports that I was really good at. I learned how to be part of a team, how to dig deep, and how to pull out of me what’s needed in order to perform at my best,” says Benita. “I understood the value of personal best so as not to compare myself to anyone else. It’s just knowing I put forth the best effort I can to put myself in the best position to succeed.”
Girls in Sports and Their Careers
According to The Girls’ Index, “…girls who are involved in sports are 14 percent more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream career and 13 percent more likely to be considering a career in math and/or science.”
When Benita looks back at her career, most of what she’s been able to accomplish has in some way been traced back to her athletic career. That doesn’t mean her career hasn’t come with its own challenges, however. There have been multiple instances where Benita has come down to the final stages of an interview process for a role, only to have a white man chosen over her. These situations have never diminished her confidence or wherewithal to keep at it, though.
“People like me have to keep at it. We can’t get discouraged, we can’t get disappointed, we can’t stop putting ourselves out there,” says Benita. “We have to keep putting ourselves out there as women, particularly Women of Color. The breakthrough is going to happen.”
Why Not Me?
Imposter syndrome is a real problem, especially for girls. In fact, Black and Latina women are even more likely to doubt their abilities. Young girls often find themselves second-guessing their successes or ability to accomplish something great, both in sports and in careers. When Benita encourages her daughter to push past a plateau in her sports career, she reminds her to ask herself “why not me?”
Why can’t I be the one to run 38 seconds? Why can’t I be the state champion? Why shouldn’t it be me with more schools recruitingme? Why can’t I apply for this position I saw on LinkedIn?
Why not me?
“I deserve to be here, I work as hard as they do, I’m as fast as they are. These things are not out of my reach,” Benita suggests as an affirmation for her daughter. And for every girl and woman in your life.