Any parent who has a daughter at some point wonders what is an acceptable sport and what is not. Should they sign their daughter up for a co-ed team, or girls only team? Should they even allow their daughter to play sports, or stick to the “girly” sports of gymnastics, dance, and cheerleading? These are questions that most parents of girls will experience at one point or another. Let me help you clear the air about some questions so you can make the best decision for your child as possible.
More and more girls are playing sports now than before, not the “girly” sports either, the hardcore sports that typically in the past boys dominated. It is not uncommon to find a girls soccer team, softball team, swimming team, basketball team, or even wresting team! More and more activities are starting to openly accept girls, something that many parents can remember only being a dream when they were younger.
Remember for the purposes of college that Title IX sports are where the scholarship and grant money is. All schools that receive any federal funding are required to offer equal sports activities for girls as boys; this means that there is so much more money available to girls now than there was before. Especially since many schools are struggling to recruit highly motivated and talented girls. This is not to say that you should pick your child’s activities around a Title IX sport, however there is no reason to discourage it if your daughter picks it out.
Girls who participate in an extra-curricular activity have a better self-image, self-esteem, and higher confidence. Studies have also indicated that they are likely to do better in school, have less depression, and be generally happier than girls without some form of activity. Consider as well, children who are heavy into activities and who lack huge amounts of idle free time are less likely to get into legal trouble, or experiment with drugs and alcohol. This includes girls as well as boys; many sports are difficult to do if the athlete abuses drugs, which acts as a great deterrent to keep your child off drugs. Remember though, activities should never replace good old parenting your child yourself, you should never occupy your child’s time so much that your job as a parent is no longer needed.
More girls today are experimenting with sports such as wrestling, football, and hockey. Which is wonderful, these have typically been male only sports, but times are changing. Just as it is becoming more common to see a girl on a football field, it is also becoming more common to find a boy taking ballet or ice-skating. There are few gender boundaries that exist in terms of sports events. Use this to your advantage, encourage your daughter to experience everything her heart desires until she finds what she loves.
When it comes to determining a co-ed team verses a single gender team you need to look at the sport as well as your daughters age. Remember that typically when a boy reaches puberty they start to become much stronger, which in some sports could give the boy an unsafe advantage over the girl. No this does not mean that your daughter is not talented, but it does mean she could get hurt potentially and the boys would not be doing it on purpose. This is the biggest consideration that must be acknowledged. When the children are younger, it does not matter if the team is co-ed; it will actually help them learn to be more competitive, especially since most girls hate to be beaten by a boy. I personally played basketball on a boy’s team for 2 years as a young girl; I was the only girl on the team and enjoyed it highly.
Keep a close eye on the way your daughter is treated if she and you do choose to go the co-ed route, some boys do not want to share the spotlight with a girl. You do not want your child to become the one bullied all through practice, so you need to make sure she is not being overly picked on. With that said, it is likely to take some time for an adjustment; you cannot expect everything to be smooth sailing from the very beginning. However, if your daughter seems very uncomfortable after a few days with being the only girl, or one of a very few girls then perhaps she would be more comfortable being on a different team.
There are many choices for the parent of a girl, as they do tend to be a bit more “fragile” however, with the correct safety equipment and training in their chosen activity, a girl can be just as talented and skilled as a boy. Remember to show your daughter support, and take a lot of pictures so you can remember the days of her glory, just make sure it is her dream she is living and not yours.