A new study has shown that over 40% of them have opted out of sports or physical activities due to concerns about their appearance
When we send our daughters, nieces or granddaughters off to a summer sports camp or weekly football training at the age of six or seven, we’re thinking about how the exercise will be good for them, how they’ll meet and socialise with people their own age and how they’ll learn to work as a team.
And while it’s important to focus on the positives that sports can provide in a young girls’ lives, it would be naive to assume that they will always feel the same way about it as they get older and their bodies develop.
Dove conducted an in-depth research study in September of 300 young girls in Ireland aged 10-17, to uncover how self-esteem and body confidence impacts their relationship with sport as they grow up, and the role that coaches and mentors play in creating a positive environment that encourages young girls to stay in sport.
The research revealed that 1 in 3 young girls in Ireland have considered quitting sports due to low self-esteem and body confidence.
The facts behind the figures
Half of the girls surveyed claim to compare themselves to others during exercise, while an equal number feel self-conscious while getting dressed in the changing rooms.
During this phase of young girls’ lives, coaches and mentors serve as crucial influencers, with the capacity to foster an environment that values self-esteem over performance and ability. In Ireland, the promotion of body positivity and self-assurance has gained momentum across various social media platforms and the broader media landscape.
Encouragingly, young girls are being empowered to establish a positive connection with their appearance when exercising. However, these positive developments are met with a significant challenge for coaches and mentors, stemming from a lack of crucial resources.
- Nearly half of the girls aged 10-17 expressed that while their coaches possess some tools, they could benefit from additional support in cultivating body confidence during their participation in sports.
- Moreover, a striking 8 in 10 girls in Ireland showed a keen interest in learning more about body confidence and self-esteem from their coach or mentor, significantly surpassing the global average of 6 in 10.
This highlights the importance young girls in Ireland place on being part of supportive environments that promote the development of a positive relationship with their bodies and sport.
Body confidence in sport
As the biggest provider of self-esteem education in the world, Dove believes that no young person should be held back from reaching their full potential. The company has teamed up with Nike to launch the Body Confident Sport programme, a first-of-its-kind evidence-based set of tools to build girls’ body confidence through tailored coaching for those aged 10-17 that encourages them to stay in sport.
The programme is designed to educate about harmful gender stereotypes, appearance, and athletic ideals and how these can negatively impact the sports environment. It also equips girls with knowledge and strategies to connect with their bodies in a positive way. The programme will be delivered by coaches and mentors to adolescent girls and individuals across the full gender spectrum.
The importance of support
Speaking about the launch, Dove ambassador and amateur boxer Amy Broadhurst said: “Coming from a family deeply involved in boxing, my aspirations of becoming a champion boxer were ingrained in me from an early age.” The Dundalk native credited her dad for his support and always being by her side, “not just as a parent but also as my coach.”
She added: “My hope is that the Dove Body Confident Sport programme will do the same, helping other coaches and mentors to create an environment where girls can pursue their dreams with confidence and determination.”
Dove Ambassador and Paralympic Swimmer Ellen Keane was also loud in her praise adding that it was one of her coaches in particular, Hayley, who provided her with invaluable support when her body was changing.
Ellen stated: “I hope the resources now available from Dove and Nike will encourage more coaches and mentors approach this topic using the tools they may not already have access to.”
A change for the future
Across a 10-year partnership between Dove and Nike, the Body Confidence Sport programme will be delivered to young people via a network of organisations in schools and sports clubs in markets all over the world, aiming to reach 10 million girls and train 1 million coaches in body confidence.
Resources are now available for coaches, teachers, mentors, and youth leaders across Ireland. To gain access to the tools or to register your school or sports club, check out our online learning hub bodyconfidentsport.com.