On Sunday, March 19th, Toronto Raptors Development Team staff held an all-girls clinic focused on teaching on-court skills and nutrition to young ball players. Fifty girls, age 8 - 14, were invited out to Toronto's Air Canada Centre to participate.
Three-shots and layups are far from the only benefit the organizers were aiming at for these girls, however.
Emphasis on women and young girls in sports aims to give them the psychological, physiological and sociological benefits of sports participation - benefits that will help in every sphere of their lives.
According to the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF), women and girls who play sports:
- report higher levels of confidence, self-esteem and struggle less with depression.
- experience a greater level of positive body-image and higher states of psychological wellbeing than women and girls who do not play sports.
- increase the likelihood of good grades in school and - subsequently - graduation as well as decrease their odds of unwanted pregnancy.
- decrease their likelihood of breast cancer and osteoporosis.
- learn about teamwork, pursuit of excellence, goal-setting and other achievement-oriented behaviours - critical skills for success in the workplace.
WSF research revealed that boys and girls aged 6 - 9 are equally interested in sports participation, but that by the age of 14, girls drop out of sport at a rate that is six times greater than boys. They concluded that girls and women are not receiving the same positive reinforcement about sports participation.
Their research also posited that because of this lack of social reinforcement, women and young girls miss out on the many benefits that sport participation has outside of physical conditioning. Traditional teamwork skills, the strive for excellence both as an individual and as part of a larger unit and the idea that a particularly poor performance during one practice or game doesn't forever make someone a bad player are things that sports teach young people. The WSF posits that since so many more young men than women pursue sport for a greater period of time, they therefore benefit more from these learnings and carry them into adulthood, in business, school, etc, putting them at an advantage to anyone who steps back from sports in their youth.
Clinics like the one at the Air Canada Centre are a step towards giving young female athletes that positive reinforcement and helping them build better skills for the future.