Sports Lead to Success For Girls

With their most recent study, Deloitte finds that girls who play sports growing up tend to become more successful than girls that don’t play sports growing up. Sports teach characteristics like confidence, teamwork, perseverance, and problem-solving. These happen to be the same characteristics companies look for in their leadership roles.

According to Deloitte’s survey:

  • 85% of women surveyed who played sports shared that the skills they developed playing sports were important to success in their professional careers — the findings are even higher among women in leadership roles (91%) and women who make $100,000 or more (93%).
  • Of female respondents who earn $100K+ annually and are in management or leadership roles, 69% have played competitive sports.
  • Regardless of personal experience playing sports, 61% of respondents agree that girls who play sports are likely to have successful careers.
  • 75% of women surveyed who played competitive sports agree that girls who play competitive sports are more likely to be successful in their careers.
  • According to respondents who have played competitive sports, the top skills gained from competitive sports include teamwork (69%) and leadership (41%). Other skills include managing stress and pressure (36%), problem-solving (35%), and effective communication (34%).

So, how do we keep girls in sports? 

First, we have to understand why girls quit:

1. Not Enough Representation

You may hear this phrase often with little meaning, but it’s true that representation matters. If you don’t see people that look like you doing what you want to do, it’s discouraging. It becomes harder to keep the dream of playing your favorite sport if you don’t see other girls playing it. With the recent boom in women’s college and professional sports, we are finally getting more public visibility to successful women athletes for girls to look up to. But we can’t stop there. Lack of female coaches can also contribute to this. Female coaches allow young girls to have a role model that has been through the same journey they are currently experiencing.

2. Burn Out

All athletes can experience burn out from overtraining and other circumstances. Female athletes can experience this in a different way than their male counterparts. Females go through four different hormone stages every month. Males also go through a hormone cycle, but it’s much less complex as it mainly focuses on one hormone in 24 hours instead of several hormones over the course of a month.

Because of this four stage cycle, training programs for females need to follow this cycle as much as possible in order to reach optimal performance. A female’s strength will fluctuate with every stage. This means they will be super strong one week but may not be able to push as much weight the next week. This is completely normal, but if coaches and trainers don’t teach girls this as they progress in their athletic development, they very easily get discouraged during those weaker stages. Female athletes need trainers and coaches that understand this phased approach otherwise, overdoing it in the wrong stage could result in injury and mental burn out which often leads to quitting all together.

3. Lack of Access

We talk about lack of access to sport in multiple facets. From financial access to location and number of teams available. For girls, there can be a lack of access to a sport as a whole. Girls’ leagues for some sports can be hard to come by and playing with all boys can oftentimes be discouraging. Take football for example. You don’t see girls’ tackle football leagues often even though there is technically a women’s professional tackle league. Every now and then you may see a girl on the boy’s tackle team, but it’s extremely rare for them to stick with the sport and make it to college or higher.

The rise of flag football is expanding access to the sport of football for girls! Though flag football is still not offered as a school sport nationwide, it’s picking up steam in school districts and is offered in many communities recreationally. There are also girls only flag football leagues that are gaining popularity as the National Women’s Flag Football team prepares for their Olympic debut in 2028. You may see similar lack of access in golf, swimming, rugby, even softball isn’t easy to find in every community. All sports should learn from the current success of flag football and expand their access to girls as much as they can.

Create a Successful Environment

As a youth sports community, we should want girls to play sports long-term and become the successful adults Deloitte references. In order to encourage young girls, we need to create accessible, safe, and positive athletic environments for girls with female role models that understand the journey and hurdles a female athlete experiences. Youth sports organizations and education systems need to increase efforts to hire more female coaches that understand how to train female athletes to their full potential both physically and mentally. We need to expand access to girls’ leagues in different sports in different areas.

If the youth sports community can expand in these categories, we can encourage more girls to stick with sports long-term and inevitably become more successful in their careers and aspirations- something all parents want for their kids.  

Girls volleyball team huddled up with their hands in. The coach has her back toward the camera so you can read COACH on the back of her bright red shirt.