A girl’s perception of her own body and her relationship with her body image can influence if she feels confident or comfortable enough to play sport. In many societies, beauty is often considered the opposite of what a girl’s body looks like when she plays sport. Therefore, many girls are apprehensive to join sport programmes, out of fear that they will not look attractive and their bodies will become less “feminine” because of the muscles, and therefore they will not have a boyfriend or ever get married. Also, girls are sometimes not confident enough with their own bodies to participate without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
- Discuss with girls alternative ideas of beauty. Ask girls what the ideal “woman” looks like in their opinion and then ask them to look around and see who in that room has all those characteristics. Point out that this “ideal woman” does not exist and that beauty is not one thing but different things to different people.
- Expose girls to strong women athletes who have gotten married and have families of their own. If these women are accessible in your community, have them talk to girls through visits to schools and youth centres.
- Promote the health benefits of sport and exercise or how sport can give them the opportunity to play in tournaments, travel and gain other types of stature within their community and among their peers.
- Be patient. Sometimes it takes girls time to develop confidence in their bodies or develop positive self-image. What they need is a positive and encouraging environment free from judgemental comments, teasing or harassing.