Take a teenage girl and tell her that she can enter an environment where no-one cares what she looks like. Where it doesn’t matter if she’s tall or short, fat or thin. Her hair colour is irrelevant – no-one is judging. She doesn’t need to wear make up, or put on any mask.
She may be tempted; it sounds so liberating compared with the stifling, judgemental arena of school.
The environment is sport.
Tell a teenage girl that she can enter into sport and statistically she will back away.
I teach Taekwon-do. It’s a Korean martial art and it’s an Olympic sport. Every time we get a teenage girl joining our club, I whoop with joy. I’d do a dance if I could, because the majority of teenage girls in the UK don’t do sport.
The reasons are varied. I can tell you from my years of experience teaching, that sweat plays a big part: girls don’t want to sweat. They see sport as unfeminine and this, coupled with a drop in self esteem as they hit puberty, makes the drop out rate high.
Do you remember the campaign: Like a Girl? When asked to run or throw like a girl, adults responded meekly, but young girls did it with athletic vigour – they had yet to be conditioned.
We need female role models. We need varied PE lessons. We need to ensure that as parents we’re not favouring the boys when it comes to encouraging sports.
Quite often girls feel that it is the most athletic girls in the school who get all the attention and I would really agree that this is so often the case. In addition to this it has been suggested that girls like to connect with other girls and to form relationships, that they then don’t want to jeopardise with ruthless competition.
I have 4 daughters and a step daughter who are all black belts in Taekwon-do. One of the 5 plays every sport going, the others are less sporty. This is why Taekwon-do is so good for teenage girls. They don’t have to conform to any athletic stereotype – they can be themselves. They can perform like the girl that they are. This is empowering in itself. Their self confidence grows, while at the same time they are learning skills in self defence.
There is no ‘like a girl’ negativity associated with Taekwon-do. Males and females are equal: both face the same personal challenges. Our challenge as coaches and parents is to do everything we can to encourage girls to ignore the stereotypes, embrace the sweat and smash it like a girl!
Step daughter smashing it like a girl