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How can we prevent girls from quitting sport when they hit Year 12?

Toorak College
Jul 19, 2019, 11:22:25 AM

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Studies show that nearly 50 percent of all girls stop playing sport by the time they reach 17-years-old, which will not only decrease their physical fitness but also their confidence, resilience and team spirit.  

In 2019, Australia witnessed back-to-back success stories featuring our women in sport. In 24-hours, Tennis sensation Ash Barty and surfer Sally Fitzgibbons both ranked world number one. Ash Barty is only the second Australian woman to be ranked number one, succeeding Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Adding to the list on the same day was 22-year-old Hannah Green who won the Women’s PGA in her first major title. 

Ash Barty female tennis sport playerImage: Carine06 from UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Even though, Ash Barty - A Wimbledon junior champion at just 15 - took time out from tennis and offered no promises of a return, she made a huge comeback with immense training and resilience developed during her time off the professional court. 

Year 12 is full of exams, tests and study. Many students believe the best way to get the ATAR they aspire to reach is by quitting all their extra-curricular activities to focus on that perfect academic result. Even though students are choosing to prioritise their academic studies, which is a positive outcome, these students are also putting themselves at risk of having an imbalanced lifestyle that favours minimal exercise and a lack of social engagement. 

So what is the answer?  If a student shows passion and promise in a particular activity outside their normal academic program, that passion will be what drives their resilience, dedication, tenacity and hard work in all their endeavours, including their studies and exam preparation. 

Here are the benefits of playing sport during Year 12:

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Sport is a proven de-stressor and keeps your health in check

Sport has proven to boost social aspects in a person’s life, de-stresses any tension in the body or brain, helps to give a better night’s sleep and releases endorphins to make you happier and healthier. Sport also reduces any health risks associated with, but not limited to, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and heart disease. 

Playing sport helps to relieve the brain from stress because it forces a student to commit 100 percent to the activity and helps to distract them from concerns. When they return to their studies, they have a heightened sense of focus and can readily identify effective strategies to boost their knowledge absorption. 

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Sport develops leadership, direction and organisation

Students about to enter the world beyond school need to have a sense of direction and leadership. Sport awakens self-confidence and character within young people, especially when they have the opportunity to be in a leadership position. They discover their own sense of belonging, identity and passion about who they wish to be when they enter the workforce. Students can explore their own boundaries of how they want to be pushed and how they can manage and motivate others. By allowing young females to step up into a leadership role, they can feel more capable to juggle multiple tasks and have a stronger sense of organisational skills. 

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Sport increases their resilience and grit

Sport tackles both success and failure, competing against individuals or teams who are striving for the same goal. When they experience a failure in a game or poor performance and continue to train harder the next week, that is building resilience. When they fall over and decide to get back up and keep going, that is building resilience.

The more resilience a young person has, the more self-confidence and positivity they will have when faced with any kind of adversity - social, emotional, mental, physical or spiritual. If students elect to quit a sport during arguably their most mentally exhaustive year of education, then they are missing out on building those vital soft skills such as grit and resilience, which is required on a daily basis in life beyond school. These are also the students who possess a growth mindset, which is the mentality that everything can be learned and developed. This is what helps to develop grit so that every new experience and each time they go outside their comfort zone, they never shy away from the challenge. 

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Improves wellbeing and sleep 

When a Year 12 student is constantly studying and never able to exert any energy in a physical activity such as sport, their wellbeing can become compromised. Sleep patterns can become irregular, lethargy can kick in, motivation can dissolve and many other facets to a female’s wellbeing will also be sacrificed. Playing sport helps with providing a better night’s sleep because training and competing forces the brain and body to utilise as much energy as possible. The body has no other way to re-energise itself but with a decent night’s sleep and fuelling food. The idea of working with others and being a team player helps to engage in developing friendships and being social. It is vital to have a balance between study, physical activity and social interaction in order to stay healthy and happy. 

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The bottom line? Sport has so many benefits that outweigh any negatives. If your child struggles to fit study in then prioritise workloads and wake up a bit earlier. There are ways to make the day run more effectively, rather than cutting out the sporting activities that are actually helping them in ways we do not consider. 

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