Last week I was courtside watching my younger daughter’s netball match, as you do on a Friday night (it doubles as my social life.) The parents were huddled together, bouncing in our puffer jackets to keep warm while we watched our girls tear up the court, oblivious to the cold in their netball uniforms, lost in the thrill of the game.
I overheard two mums behind me discussing the action on the next court, where their team was getting what could only be described as a solid thrashing. “They’re going to lose again, and it’ll wreck her whole weekend,” said one about her daughter. “She wants to give it up because she says she’s not good enough. But she loves to play – I don’t get it.”
I wanted to turn around and give this woman a hug. Her 11-year-old who was probably a bundle of energy and sparkly headbands not too long ago, had lost her self-confidence and wanted to give up something she did for fun. My heart ached for both of them.
A recent study, the Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence 2017 Research Report, found that while sport has a highly positive impact on Australian girls’ self-esteem and friendships, as they get older fewer girls play. As they withdraw from their teams and the peer support team sports offer, girls also do less physical activity, which can impact their mental health, too.
I have two daughters in the thick of early adolescence and all its awkward, spotty glory. As a wise woman once told me: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. School can be tough, friendships can be tricky and hormones are brutal. It’s little wonder low self-esteem tends to seed itself in adolescence. Just when our girls need their confidence the most - up pops a mean girl in their own head.
How do we nix the negativity and reinforce to girls just how great they really are – or at least remind them to hang in there when things are hard? I’ve realised they need to know they’re enough. That they don’t have to be the best at everything. I think we owe it to our tweens and teens to teach them this, to build them up and help them find a positive inner voice by turning up the good stuff they hear and turning down their mean girl.
So I’ve come up with six things I want my girls to know. Not just my girls - their friends and every girl who’s going through times of self-doubt. They might not believe me, or even listen, but every one of them deserves to hear it.
You are a good sport and you are kind.
Being a good sport counts in every facet of life. And kindness gets bonus points. When the girl on the other team took a tumble on the court last week, you helped her up and asked if she was OK. You helped her over to the side because she had a bleeding knee. And you did that without thinking. That’s good sportsmanship and it’s kindness and why #TeamGirls are there for each other. Keep it up.
You are capable.
You can run, you can sing and you would wipe the floor with me at long division. You’re good at problem solving and strategy. You use strategy every day in sport, in class and in life – it’s a skill. (You probably also have the equivalent tech knowledge of an Apple geek considering the amount of time you spend on your phone.)
You are NOT a failure.
Your team lost three games in a row? It’s OK. You win some, you lose some and sometimes you lose lots, but you do it together as a team. You’re good for your team, and they’re good for you. Yes, you might do things that don’t work out. You might try something new and it fails. It doesn’t matter. You had a go. Having a go is what counts. Failure is how we learn to do things differently with a better outcome. But that doesn’t make YOU a failure. It makes you smarter.
You are strong.
All those team training sessions have improved your fitness, so you know you’re strong on the outside. And you know what? You’re strong on the inside, too. Your strength of character lies in who you are, not the team level you play at, or the group you hang out with.
You’ve got this.
Back yourself. You know more than you think about friendship and life in general. You don’t know everything, you never will, but you DO know what’s right and wrong. And if you don’t make the right decision the first time, learn from that. Think through your decisions. You’ve got a good head. Use it.
You are enough.
Darling girls, you don’t have to win everything. You don’t have to be in the A team. It’s ok that your friends made a higher graded team and you didn’t. You don’t have to even make the team. It’s the things you ARE that make you enough, not the things you do. You ARE smart, and funny, and kind, and a good sister and a caring friend. You are loved and you are enough.
What do you tell your girls? Or were you given an amazing piece of advice from your parents when you were younger? Share with us in the comments section below.
For a great resource with useful advice to parents of teenage girls,head to the Suncorp #TeamGirls website. Here you can access the #Teamgirls Toolkit a great downloadable resource that helps parents navigate those difficult conversations with their daughters when they say they want to quit playing sport, as well as articles about self-esteem, sport, social media, body image and other issues affecting teenage girls today. Sport builds confidence for life. Start playing, keep playing.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Suncorp #TeamGirls.
With the support of Netball Australia and ReachOut, Suncorp’s #TeamGirls initiative aims to encourage girls to start playing and keep playing sport, especially during their teenage years. Designed to promote the benefits of sport participation and the positive impact it can have on girls confidence, on and off the court, the program provides a range of resources and tools to help parents champion sport participation with their daughters. Learn more at suncorp.com.au/teamgirls