New research released this week from leading UK charity Women in Sport puts the spotlight on teenage girls and asks sports organisations to help in preventing girls from dropping out of sport and physical activity in their teenage years.

As girls go through their teenage years, habits and attitudes are formed which have a critical impact on their future engagement in sport and physical activity. Barriers to exercise created at this age can end up inhibiting participation throughout their life, with girls missing out on the lifelong benefits of sport. Shockingly, studies have shown that teenage girls are significantly less active than teenage boys, with only 10% of girls aged 13-16 meeting the recommended daily guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity per day (Sport England, 2018).

Reframing sport for Teenage girls: building strong foundations for their future

Women in Sport’s ‘Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls’ study puts the world of teenage girls at the heart of its research to understand what motivates them in their wider lives and looks at how sport can be reframed to be more relevant to girls’ lives, particularly for those deemed ‘not sporty’. With girls’ voices leading the way in the development of strategies that keep them involved in sport, organisations can help teenage girls become healthy, happy, active women of the future.

Women in Sport launched this new approach to sport and physical activity at an event held at the AKQA Farringdon offices in London today. The charity was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the research, including Emily Matheson (Research Fellow at the Centre for Appearance Research), Mel Bound (founder of the award-winning This Mum Runs), Wendy Taylor (Development Manager at Girls Active) and Kate Dale (This Girl Can Digital Strategy and Brand Manager), as well as social media influencer and plus-size model Sophia Tassew.

The ‘Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls’ report shares Women in Sport’s Eight Principles of Success that were identified as key in developing initiatives that engage girls. The research highlights the need to reframe sport in the mind of girls as something that inspires and motivates, redefine their experience as broader and better than previously, and reinforce the enjoyment of physical activity and sport and how it adds real value to their lives.

The Eight Principles of Success

  1. No judgement – take the pressure off performance and give girls the freedom to play
  2. Invoke excitement – bring a sense of adventure and discovery to sport
  3. Give purpose and value – reframe achievement as ‘moments of pride’ not just winning
  4. Open their eyes – redefine sport as more than just PE at school
  5. Build into existing habits – tap into behaviours in other spheres of girls’ lives
  6. Give girls a voice – allow girls the choice and control to feel empowered
  7. Champion what’s in it for them – sport is about more than just health
  8. Expand the image of what is ‘sporty’ – create relatable role models which inspire girls

Ruth Holdaway, Chief Executive of Women in Sport said:

“There are so many pressures on girls today that even the most active are at risk of stopping playing sport as they hit the teenage years. Sports organisations need to get to grips with the way teenage girls live their lives; their hopes, fears and aspirations. Sport must be relevant to the complex and busy lives these girls lead.

“Women in Sport’s latest research has been designed to help sports’ organisations lead the way in understanding girls’ lives. This is the start of a long-term programme putting girls front and centre to reframe sport, making sure it plays a part in their everyday lives.”

Reframing sport for Teenage girls: building strong foundations for their future

Women in Sport are calling for organisations to apply the principles of success in developing and evaluating initiatives that meet all girls’ needs and create sports opportunities that are truly hard to resist for teenage girls. What is also clear from the research is that collaboration is vital in building solutions that have a wider, sustainable impact on girls’ lives, both within and beyond the sports sector and between organisations and the girls themselves.

The Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls research is funded by Sport England. Read the full report here.