Girls’ mental health benefits from playing sports

Girls’ mental health benefits from playing sports

A new Canadian study finds sport has a remarkable impact on mental health, particularly among girls.

For an all-female hockey association in Sydney, enrollment has been steadily increasing since they dropped the puck in their inaugural year in the fall of 2018.

“I’m not sure what the magic of it is, but we’ve grown from about three local girls’ hockey teams in 2014, 2015, to ’23,” said Christina Lamey, Female Blizzard Association president.

The association will soon be the first in Canada to have their own arena dedicated to female hockey teams when renovations to the CBU Canada Games complex are complete.

It’s an important project, and one that is having benefits from the ice as well.

“I think there’s some statistics that show that most women who are CEOs have a history in sports,” said Lamey.

According to a recent study, 78 per cent of girls who participate in sports report positive mental health, compared to 68 per cent who did not.

The Canadian Women & Sport Rally report also found sports help build confidence, lower anxiety and improve emotional health.

“Emotions need motion, so getting out and being in community with other people, our bodies move. The physical health and mental health do have a connection,” said Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, Canadian Women & Sport CEO.

While there’s no one sport that is more beneficial than others, researchers say keeping girls together on all-female teams can have advantages.

“I think what’s important for any coach or any parent who has a daughter playing in any scenario, but especially if they’re in a minority on a boys team, is to really pay attention to how that girl is being included because inclusion and belonging are really critical factors,” said Sandmeyer-Graves.

The report also says sports improve academic performance for girls, as well as body image and self-acceptance.

“We all look the same in hockey gear, so I think it allows girls when they’re at their hockey activities to let go of all their social pressures,” said Lamey.

According to the study, data also points to a clear need for sport leaders to receive education on how to build trusting and healthy environments where girls feel comfortable seeking support.