Few girls pursue an athletic career at a young age. But an even smaller percentage are able to reach their dreams of a decades-long career in their chosen sport.
Gatorade discovered that more than half of female athletes stop playing sports by the age of 17. While many young girls have love and passion for their sport, multiple factors prevent them from continuing their athletic careers.
Before more young athletes give up their dreams, it’s important to understand what causes this problem.
What’s Going on with Our Young Female Athletes?
Vox points out that young athletes risk their physical health, and even their lives, to perfect their skills at a very young age. They face constant pressure to win competitions and, despite their efforts, become subject to scrutiny when they make mistakes. Additionally, female athletes like Serena Williams also experience body-shaming, racism, and maltreatment.
Training already takes a toll on the bodies of these athletes, and this includes their mental health. This is very perilous for young female athletes, since Pew Research stated that teenage girls are three times more likely to experience depressive episodes. Raging hormones can impact one’s day-to-day mood, personal challenges, and academic responsibilities. Adding an intensive athletic career can take a huge toll on one’s overall health.
How Can Young Athletes Rise Again?
Choose the best path for them
It’s absolutely okay to stop playing sports, especially if an athlete decides it’s the healthiest choice for them. But since a big part of their life has been dedicated to training and competitions, LHH states that planning for post-athletic careers can be a bit of a struggle at first. However, it’s important to know that it’s not impossible to thrive!
In fact, retired athletes recommend planning for a future career as early as possible. This is so young athletes can get the support they need and identify the steps they should take. Careful planning will allow any young girl to shine wherever she goes.
Take good care of their mental health
Tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles are both strong enough to qualify for international competitions and win big awards. Yet, they have further proven their strength by stepping away from big sporting events to prioritize their mental health.
Biles inspires many young girls by breaking records and winning Olympic medals. Furthermore, her openness about her own mental health struggles have continued to inspire many others. It’s definitely a good reminder for young athletes struggling with their athletic career.
Uplift fellow girls in sports
Female athletes may see each other as competition during games, but it’s crucial that they support and uplift each other off the court. Since female athletes are rarely represented compared to their male counterparts, every ounce of support is important for each and every young player.
This can be done through attending more sporting events, or even talking about fellow female athletes on social media. Of course, it’s also crucial to have programs that uplift aspiring younger female athletes and help them find their own place in their sport.
Despite their youth, female athletes continue to face numerous challenges on both personal and societal levels. Thus, it’s important that we take a closer look at the treatment of young female athletes, and provide them with the tools they need to thrive in their fields.