Friday, October 10, 2008

Women's Sports Foundation Studies Gender Gap in Youth Sports

The Women's Sports Foundation released a new report today about youth sports, examining participation rates and trends across class, race, and geographic regions. Nationally, boys participate in youth sports at higher rates than girls. However, this gap is widest in urban, immigrant, and nonwhite communities. Though Title IX does not directly govern youth sports opportunities outside the context of schools, the statute's affect on culture has created a wide range of opportunities for girls. But, the report's lead author, Professor Don Sabo told the New York Times, "Title IX has left a favorable footprint on the soil of suburban communities...[but] it has yet to produce any semblance of equity within urban communities throughout the United States.”

The report also documents the benefits of youth sports participation on children’s general health and body esteem, healthy weight, popularity, quality of life and educational achievement. It also finds a positive correlation between children's participation in youth sports and strong families because it encourages intrafamily communication and time spent together.

In light of the social significance and benefits of youth sport participation, the WSF argues that policymakers should address the gender gap, especially in urban and minority communities. Schools, community organizations, churches and other nonprofits should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to provide more "girl-centered sports and exercise programs that emphasize 'fun and friendships'" that are likely to attract girls of elementary school age. It is also important to lower the barriers to entry to middle school sports, as the increasingly competitive nature of sports deters girls who have not played before.