Studies show that almost 50% of girls will give up playing sports between the ages of 13-17. We spoke to physiotherapist and sports journalist Lauren Guilfoyle all about the importance of sport as a way of encouraging young girls to stick with sport throughout this period of their lives.
Did you play sports in school? If so, what sports?
I am from a very GAA-loving part of Clare, hurling specifically – so most of my sporting involvement centred around Camogie both with the club here, Feakle, or with my various schools. In secondary school I did play a bit of basketball – being 5″11 had its perks! On reflection, I didn’t have as good a relationship with sport and exercise then as I do now. My sporting involvement then slowed down through college despite attending one of the best sporting Universities in Ireland – UL, but once I graduated and got into a routine with work – I fell in love with running, the gym and yoga.
What do you love about sports?
I favour the mental health benefits over the physical health benefits. I am guilty of always being on my phone or laptop – scrolling on instagram or checking my emails – so I really like how exercise and sport pushes all that to the side in favour of being present and mindful. Be it a hurling match or a yoga session – I spend that time fully engrossed in that activity – leaving no time or space to worry about other things.The acute benefits to my mood is an outcome I always go chasing too – it’s a sure-fix if I’m having a down day.
On a separate note, I also really value the social aspect to sport and it’s one element I really missed over lockdown. I am not a huge party girl – my social outlet is meeting people at games! The GAA in particular has fostered plenty of personal connections for me, where I can seem to go anywhere in Ireland and meet someone I know from some sort of GAA activity or involvement.
Do you think sport is an important part of young people’s lives? Why?
Sport should be viewed as an important part of young people’s lives. The benefits are endless! From a physical perspective – it keeps young people healthy in a broader sense, reducing the risk of different issues as they progress to adulthood. From a psychological and social perspective it can be hugely influential in mental wellbeing, resilience, emotional intelligence, a sense of belonging – as well as being brilliant at developing social and communication skills which can transfer into other environments. Simply put – it’s a great way to stay fit and healthy while also being a fantastic way to meet friends and learn some great life skills!
Did you or were you ever tempted to give up sport? If so, why?
Yes – I did in fact give up sport at the age of 21. Ironic, isn’t it? I wasn’t loving team sport at this time. On reflection, my introversion probably had something to do with this! This time also coincided with graduation from college and a big move to Dublin – where I started to work in both sports media and sports physio thereby essentially replacing my time training and playing sport with working in sport! I have a happy medium now – I have the social aspect of sport that I really enjoy, I also adhere to the commitment demanded of athletes in being present at training etc – I just don’t have to do the preseason running!
What would you say to a girl who is thinking about giving up sport?
I would encourage girls to sit and reflect on WHY they are thinking about giving up sport. I wouldn’t necessarily throw out a cliche “stay – it’s great”, but on identifying the reasons behind why you may be considering leaving – I would look at alternatives.
To read more about Lauren’s advice to girls on sport, dealing with the pressures to win and how to get involved in sport in Secondary School get your copy of Missy’s new Digital Magazine, on sale now.