Overheard: Girls and Sports

I just overheard two of my male coworkers talking about their daughters’ involvement in sports. One of them said that his daughters do gymnastics and he likes that, because it’s good for balance and keeping healthy — but that he didn’t want them to compete because of the pressures it would put on them about their bodies, and planned to subtly discourage it. He said for guys he thinks competitive gymnastics are mostly okay, but girls get negative body image crap.
Sometimes I love the bay area. The fact that a couple of computer geeks were talking about their daughters getting negative body image from their extracurricular activities gives me hope. So many people — male and female — either aren’t aware of that kind of thing, or actively encourage it.
I do hope if their daughters do want to compete in a physical activity that they find one less likely to push them to be super-scrawny and encourage them to go for it. (One possibility would be swimming, at least at the lower levels. My poor-to-middling high school swim team included a handful of us who were darn good swimmers but not what you’d call thin, and we never got flak about our weight from the team that I can recall.)

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6 Responses to Overheard: Girls and Sports

  1. Rich says:

    I think part of the problem with gymnastics is that it is mostly a club sport. That puts pressure for every competitor to compete at an elite level or drop out. There is little to no level of Little League or High School gymnastics. In part this has to do with the hardware that is needed for gymnastics.
    This is not the total problem, but it keeps the pressure high.
    Not everyone can be an elite athlete, but that does not mean people should not take part in sports. This is a hard thing for our culture.

  2. Keith says:

    it is good to hear people worrying about body image for their girls. God knows that my biggest fear is having a daughter. Mostly for the fact that I have no clue what to do with a girl, aside from loving her maddly and cuase lethal amounts of harm to anyone who would hurt her.
    I think it mostly comes from the fact that I am a man so I know how to be a man. There for it’s easy to envision myself as a father of a son. I could get the whole thing wrong for all I know but at least I have a plan!

  3. ricky says:

    It’s not relevant, but I just wanted to say “Hi” and congratulations on getting your country back.
    It’s been a long time coming.

  4. Ealasaid says:

    Not everyone can be an elite athlete, but that does not mean people should not take part in sports. This is a hard thing for our culture.
    Rich, I think you hit the nail on the head right there. This is so true, especially sports that are geared toward competition. Sigh.
    Keith, I hear you. A definite part of why I don’t want kids is that raising them well is so incredibly difficult. But you have one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met, and I’m sure if you have a daughter you’ll do fine. :) Just don’t give her shit if she’s a tomboy like me. :D
    Ricky, Hi back! And thank you! It’s a good feeling.

  5. Junglemonkey says:

    Parents have more power than they realize to combat the body image thing. It’s true, though, that some sports (gymnastics, dance) have a lot of pressure for girls to conform to a specific body type. But by limiting your kids’ intake of media images, by talking to them about what they see and hear, by sharing with them when you hear things like how much magazine covers are Photoshopped, you can help them build a positive self-image based on reality.
    And sports for girls is the only legitimate arena they have for kicking someone else’s ass. Don’t take that away from them.

  6. Keith says:

    one more thing: body image should never be connected to how good an athlete you are. I met a bunch of Special Forces guys that have a decent paunch like myself and are kinda doughy in appearance. think Les Stroud or a chubbier Bear Grylls. Most of them looked like that.
    In my gym there is lady (sorry don’t know here name) she runs 45 miles a week 30 of them on the weekend. She’s not skinny she’s just fit.
    with that in mind i’ve met a lot of soliders who look like they could model for a muscle mag but can’t hack it in the mountians or on trails.
    looking good and perform good are two diffrent things.