I read with interest about a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Sport at Loughborough University that it is only around one in eight girls who reach the standard level of fitness by the age of 14 years. Competitiveness and lack of femininity were given as the main reasons for non-participation (that said, the result was not much more encouraging among boys – with only one in four reaching standard fitness levels).
With obesity levels among young people rising, most would agree that such findings should not be ignored. However I don’t think it’s as simple as pointing the finger in the direction of any one party. Many suggest that the competitive, and in some cases, humiliating experience of school PE is the main reason for declining participation and I agree that this is certainly not helpful. It has been suggested that a greater variety of physical activity in schools including non-competitive activities such as fitness classes and dance would be helpful.
Interestingly, almost half the girls who took part in the survey suggested that there was a lack of role models to encourage them to take part, however I wonder whether it is a lack of role models, or simply that young people cannot identify with the many female athletes out there? You only need to watch media coverage of athletics or tennis events to see how glamorous some sports women appear; which I suggest (like many others) might be part of a strategy to increase their appeal to potential sponsors. That’s not to berate their achievements in any way but I am simply remarking how the image of women in sport has changed, to the extent that it may be the case that young females cannot identify with them.