The world isn’t always a fun place when you are a young girl. As childhood ends and adulthood looms, girls’ bodies, minds, and social lives change drastically, which tends to send girls reeling. Even if grades don’t slide or behaviors remain balanced, most young girls suffer from issues with self-esteem — that they aren’t as smart, funny, capable, or pretty as other girls and women they see.
Ultimately, everyone finds a different path to confidence and self-esteem, but for many, athletic pursuits are a fantastic way to find community, security, and purpose — all of which tend to contribute to a stronger sense of self and inner power. Parents should strongly consider getting their young girls involved in the following sports, and the sooner, the better:
Softball or Baseball
Team sports are some of the best for building confidence because they have built-in networks of other girls who can show support and care. Plus, in team sports, every teammate matters, so either girl must be confident and capable of performing their role (which leads to self-esteem), or they must be willing to let their team down. Generally, having a community is a major contributor to having strong self-esteem, and in softball or baseball, girls have a relatively large team to rely on.
Softball and baseball are also top confidence-building sports because they don’t necessarily emphasize perfection. Players have time to recover from mistakes and improve their performance during a single game. This means girls don’t put as much pressure on themselves, and they can relax, enjoy the activity, and believe in themselves. It also doesn’t require too much equipment to participate- a ball, a glove and one of the bats from this list of the best fastpitch bats are the basic things you need.
Another team sport, basketball, also offers the community that young girls crave. Basketball teams tend to be somewhat smaller and tighter-knit, which can be beneficial for girls who thrive with fewer close friends. Additionally, basketball itself is much faster-paced, meaning players don’t have time to develop or dwell on intrusive, negative thoughts about their bodies, their abilities, and other sources of insecurity. When a player is not in-the-moment, engaged with the immediate activity of the game around her, she could make a mistake that could cost her team the game. Thus, practicing and playing basketball is a good way to get out of the habit of insecurity and develop self-esteem through mindfulness.
Many girls fail to identify cheerleading as a sport — but it most certainly is. In fact, cheerleading is one of the most physically demanding sports for younger athletes, requiring strength, agility, flexibility, stamina, and balance to succeed. Unlike gymnastics, cheerleading is a team sport, again offering the community that is so important to young girls. Plus, even as the competitive nature of cheerleading drives girls to improve their skills, the feminine nature of the sport might give young girls more confidence in the real world.
It might be worthwhile to note that cheerleading is beneficial, but it is also remarkably dangerous. Studies on youth athletics have found that cheerleading accounts for 65 percent of catastrophic injuries to girl athletes at the high school level. Thus, parents and young girls should weigh the risks of the sport and prioritize safety for the duration of participation.
Tennis can be played in duos, and most junior girls’ tennis experiences occur on school or recreational teams, where girls will practice and play amongst a community. However, most tennis matches are played solo, and it is this isolation on the court that can have a significant, positive impact on self-confidence. In team sports, girls can lean on their teammates to pick up their slack, but if there is no one else but themselves, girls must learn to trust their abilities to find success.
What’s more, because of tennis’s fast-paced nature — in fact, tennis balls are the second-fastest ball in sports, after golf — tennis demands not just physical prowess but also mental speed and strength. By training her brain alongside her body, a young girl will gain self-esteem to utilize outside the sport. This is why so many adults continue to play tennis; they find physical and mental fulfillment in the sport.
Finally, not all sports need to include teams, balls, or points. Weightlifting is an athletic endeavor that allows girls to learn how to navigate a gym and how to work with their bodies to ensure the best possible performance. Though there are weightlifting competitions, where weightlifters vie to lift the most weight in different ways, for the most part, a weightlifter’s biggest competition is themselves. Weightlifters are always striving to be better versions of themselves. Thus, by practicing weightlifting, young girls gain the tools to act on their insecurities and healthfully improve themselves.
Young girls have it tough, but playing sports will almost certainly help them find a positive and beneficial path through life. The physical and mental skills, the athletic community and other rigors of sports combine to make a young girl’s lifestyle more enjoyable, now and into the future.