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Why Do Girls Quit Sport?

Why Do Girls Quit Sport?

Hannah Feeney

Why do more girls quit sport than boys?

The question that has been asked for decades, but never fully answered.

Current statistics show that teenage girls are three times more likely than boys to drop out of sports. But why? The benefits of physical activity are obvious; both for one’s mental and physical health. Team sports unite communities and enable players to form lifelong friendships. Research has been released to prove that students who take part in sports do better in the Leaving Cert than those that don’t.

Yet still, thousands of young girls drop out of sports each year.  I surveyed 60 teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 18 to put some answers to this long-asked question.

Shocking Survey Statistics

I was surprised to discover that 96% of the girls that I surveyed had quit a sport at some stage in their lives. I was also surprised that 58% of them cited a lack of support or their sport not being taken seriously in comparison to men as the main reason why they quit. This came above exam pressure and a mere disinterest. In other words, girls are not quitting sports because they don’t like IT anymore; they are quitting because they feel society doesn’t like THEM anymore. 

Can’t See It, Can’t Be It

This made me think, how often do we see women’s matches on the main TV channels? Rarely is the answer. And most certainly never, when there is a male match also taking place on the same day.

Last March, it was announced that RTE had agreed to broadcast a minimum of nine camogie matches on its channel each year up until 2027. While the agreement was certainly progressive, it pales when you consider that there were seventeen hurling matches covered by the broadcasting service in 2022, almost double what is promised to women.

Furthermore, the broadcasting service fails to broadcast special episodes such as their “Up to the Match” special that takes place for both the men’s football and hurling championship, but not for women’s GAA.

However, this lack of coverage isn’t exclusive to the GAA. Women’s rugby and soccer matches are also broadcasted less than their male counterparts. There are excuses made that female sport is less popular for viewers and hence are not broadcasted, but are they not broadcasted because of their lack of popularity or is their lack of popularity because they’re not broadcasted?

Our Achievements Aren’t Recognised

My friend recently sent me a video from “Correct the Internet”, an initiative striving to acknowledge the sporting efforts made by women. In the video, a young girl is standing in an empty stadium, as she asks the internet who has scored the most goals in International football. The internet responds by telling her that Cristiano Ronaldo has scored the most goals, with 118. She then questions how many goals Christine Sinclair has scored and the stadium responds by telling her that Sinclair has scored 190. The video concludes with the tagline that “The internet has learned our bias.”

I was moved by the video, not just by the sentiment that Sinclair is being denied recognition for her achievement of scoring the most goals in International football, but also because I had never heard her name before watching the campaign. It made me wonder how many other women have broken records without achieving the recognition that they deserve in comparison to their male counterparts.

It also made me wonder what example we are setting to young girls around the world by not recognising the achievements of women around them and providing role models for them to follow. How are young girls expected to continue playing sports when the records and achievements that they make are not just celebrated less than men, but are not even acknowledged? 

We’re Not Valued In Our Own Communities

However, we don’t have to look at international sports to see this lack of acknowledgement and support. Women’s sport is also disregarded on a local level. In many local clubs, including my own, the women’s team is allocated one training session a week while the senior men’s team is given three or four.

The same issue arises when men’s teams are provided with training gear such as hoodies, gear bags, and T-shirts that are funded by the club, while the women’s team has to gain sponsorship for the same equipment. This lack of care put into women’s sport gives young girls the impression that they are inferior to their local men’s team and that their hard work and training is merely a filler until the more important men’s team is ready to play, leaving girls wondering what is the point in continuing?

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What Needs To Change?

But what can be done to encourage women to return to sport? The girls I surveyed put it simply- to be acknowledged.

Girls want to have equal training opportunities and equal equipment. They want to see other women on their TVs and in the newspapers. They want to aspire to sporting greatness and be recognised for it. These aspirations aren’t difficult, but they can only come to fruition if everyone makes an effort to let this generation be the first of equal recognition in sport.

Why do you think that girls are more likely to quit sport? Have you ever quit a sport?

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