Studies have shown that most of the young girls who engage in physical activities are likely to continue participating in such activities throughout their lives (Scheerder et al., 2006). What’s more, studies have shown that when young girls get involved in physical activities, they are likely to benefit in many ways (Scottish Executive, 2003; Strong et al., 2005). This paper will review the literature associated with the reasons why girls participate in physical activities, the challenges they encounter in the process of their participation, the relationship between such participation and self-esteem, and many aspects associated with this issue. The literature review has been conducted using Google, ProQuest, and Medline among other databases. The key search words that have been used include: sport, adolescent, physical activity, teenage girls, self-esteem, and extra-curricular. The sources that were relied on are mainly e-books and peer reviewed journals from the school library and other databases. The review of this literature will help understand why girls in the teenage age experience challenges coming to terms with their rapid body changes, and review how sports and physical activities can be used to remedy this problem.
Reasons why girls participate in sports
Whitehead and Biddle (2008) have disclosed that most of the children opt to participate in sports for fun. The incentive for participating and the fun aspects have been reviewed by quite a number of researchers (Mulvihill et al., 2000b; Wang and Lui, 2006). Biddle et al. (2005) reported that 73% of the girls who participated in sports for fun. On the other hand, Inchley et al. (2008) reported that although fun was the major reason why young students engaged in sports, its significance reduced as they became older. Therefore, to increase their participation, it is important to ensure that the sport they are participating in is full of fun, and particularly foster participating at their tender ages when they are most active.
Wang and Lui (2006) examined what motivates high school girls to participate in physical education (PE) in relation to the relationship amongst achievement goal theory, beliefs in sports ability, and self-determination theory – and established a positive relationship between the variables. Elsewhere, Biddle et al. (2005) found that the students are motivated when they participate in sports with their peers. This observation was supported by Whitehead and Biddle (2008), who found that the presence of friends not only made the sports activity more enjoyable, but also made the participants to feel more secure. In fact, Biscomb et al. (2000) found that girls were likely to stop participating in sports if their friends also stopped participating. This speaks volumes about how peer pressure plays a key role in motivating girls to take part in sports. In view of this, girls need a lot of mentorship to build their interest in sports, because this also improves their ability and participation. Also, allowing girls to play with the friends of their choice is very important because as discussed friendship is very important in sports.
The other factor that promotes girls’ participation, which was found by different researchers, is the desire to look good or feel good (Daley and O’Gara, 1998; Biddle et al., 2005). Strong et al. (2005) found that being overweight discourages girls from participating in sports, but Sallis et al. (2000) found that this is not a determining factor. Overall, researchers have found that girls find it important to participate in physical activity for the purpose of looking good or as a weight control measure (Mulvihill et al., 2000b; Allender et al., 2006). Nevertheless, Biddle et al. (2005) found that being health is not in the mind of the majority of girls who participated in physical activities, while a good number of them avoided these activities because of a negative body image; a negative factor that Inchley (2008) found to be more relevant in girls than in boys. Biddle, et al. (2005) studied 15 studies in respect to activities based on age of the participants, and found that younger girls were more active in physical activities than their older counterparts. The fact that girls avoid to participate in sports due to their physique, is an aspect that can be addressed through continuous mentoring. The girls should be talked to so they accept the way they look, and what’s more, they should be explained that a sport is beneficial because it can help their bodies look better. What is most important, here, is to boost the girls’ self esteem by making them accept the way they look.
Sometimes, female adolescents are not able to continuously participate in physical activities, which expose them to the risk of being unable to develop emotionally and socially (Bunker, 1998). Jaffee and Ricker (1993) argues that the difference between males and female students is that female students are less active during adolescent years. In his study on adloscent girls, Jaffee and Ricker (1993) found that girls who are not satisfied by their body measurements and appearances are very sensitive to physical activities. Lowery, et al. (2005) says that body image of female adolescent is built from all the experiences they had from the interactions with their friends and family members, and which if not managed well can lead to negative feelings. This means that a lot of efforts will have to be made to esure that girls are motivated to participate, including giving them compliments when they perform well.
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