15 Important Life Lessons Girls Learn From Playing Sports

Wendy Robinson | Aug 11, 2017 Big Kid
15 Important Life Lessons Girls Learn From Playing Sports
Image: iStock.com/as I see it

girls soccer
iStock.com/as I see it

When I was a young girl, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a part of a team. I really wanted to play soccer or volleyball, but tight family finances made that impossible, and I still feel a little sad about not getting that chance. 

I did finally get to join a team in high school. Being on the swim team helped me make great friends and learn how to work harder than I thought was possible. 

Today, my daughter is 5, and she's eager to start her sports career with soccer this fall. I'm pumped to be a soccer mom, and I think being part of a team is going to be great for her. I'm even more convinced of that after talking to 15 moms who played sports as kids; they shared the lessons they learned along the way. Sports seriously can change lives, especially for girls.

  • Academic Advantage

    girls track

    "I'm a mom, a runner, and a scientist. I grew up doing volleyball and track, and I believe the discipline required to balance school, sports, and the rest of my life actually helped prepare me to handle the rigors of grad school. When I was in grad school, I did research on the effects of sports on girls and found evidence that doing team sports is correlated with lots of positive things, including better GPAs and a reduced chance of teen pregnancy. Do I want that for my girl? Heck yes!

    "My daughter is doing track now and soccer in the fall." -- Katie R., Los Gatos, California 

  • Girls Have Power

    girls sports huddle

    "I did softball, swimming, competitive cheerleading, and rugby. The camaraderie, discipline, and sense of responsibility to others (like, if you don't show up or don't try, etc.) are things I think I got from doing team sports. I also just really dig the vibe of groups of girls and women. As an adult, I'm in women-only run groups and soccer. Super duper girl power vibes." -- Tracy M., Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • Confidence for the Future

    girl playing sports

    "I was on my high school dance team and held a leadership position. Sophie tried soccer, and has played volleyball for the last three years. I think it's good to learn how to take feedback, and work with others. I also think it builds her confidence, which I hope will carry her through the teen years to come." -- Sonja J., San Antonio, Texas

    More from CafeMom: 15 Fun Non-Sport Activities for Kids Who Don't Love Team Sports

  • Feeling of Belonging

    chearleeding pom poms

    "I wanted to play team sports, just to be like other kids, but I wasn't allowed, because my mom declared sports to be 'unladylike.' In private Christian high school, I cheered, played volleyball, and marched in the band. Of those, band had the most positive effect on me, and I felt I belonged. If my kids want to do team sports, they can. I would like them to do something physical." -- Sheila T., Little Rock, Arkansas 

  • Physical Fitness

    kids basketball gym

    "I didn't play team sports after about third grade (because there wasn't one I loved), but I did dance, and the team and fitness aspects were just as relevant AND I loved it, so I stuck with it, which is equally important. I wouldn't force a kid into team sports who didn't want to be there, but I'd encourage finding something involving teamwork and something involving fitness." -- Leah B., Oakland, California 

  • Self-Discipline

    marching band

    "I ran cross-country, and I was a band geek! Both activities taught me about discipline, team work, and finding your passion. 

    "I think sports can build a community and empower girls to believe in themselves, so I am for sure going to have my daughters find their passion in a sport they love." -- Kirsten R., Bangor, Maine

  • Body Positivity

    sports girls team huddle

    "I grew up as a bigger girl. I was six feet tall by the time I was in junior high! I never felt like I fit in anywhere, other than on my basketball team. Those girls were my family and my best friends. I finally felt as if my size was an advantage. 

    "My husband was a college football player and is a BIG guy. My daughter is the biggest in her class, so I'm happy she has discovered rugby. I want her to feel that same happiness I did doing sports." -- Michelle D., Norman, Oklahoma

  • Communication and Problem-Solving

    synchronized swimming girls

    "My daughter is the fourth generation of my family to compete in synchronized swimming. Synchro is such a great sport. It's beautiful but requires so much work. You have to be so connected to your team. It forces you to communicate, to problem-solve, and to really trust each other. Those are all skills I want her to keep growing in!" -- Madeline R., Dallas, Texas

    More from CafeMom: The Unspoken Rules of Being a Soccer (or Any Other Sport) Parent

  • Sense of Strength

    kids lacrosse sports on field

    "I did play [sports] as a girl and in high school and those are some of my favorite memories of growing up. I loved being part of a team and I loved feeling strong and fit. I also think it was important to my developing a sense that women are as strong and athletic as guys.

    "My daughter wants to do lacrosse and all I can say is 'Get it, girl!' I'm psyched to see her learn this sport." -- Heather S., Provo, Utah

  • Valuing Other Cultures

    girls playing soccer

    "One of the things I liked most about playing soccer when I was growing up -- and what I like about it for my girls -- is that soccer is universal. I like the diversity of their being on teams with kids from all over town and knowing that they are doing one of the most popular sports in the world. Sports is a part of culture but also a way to learn another cultures and I love that. Diversity is an important value for our family and soccer is one of the ways we honor that." -- Amy Q., Saint Paul, Minnesota 

  • Benefits of Hard Work

    female swimmers

    "The best lesson from doing sports as a kid was that you get in what you put in. There is no substitute for hard work and you can't get better if you don't work hard. I totally want her to realize that she is in control of her success. She wants to be a great swimmer, and I like seeing her go for it." -- Lyndsey D., Toledo, Ohio

  • Focus on the Details

    mom and daughter golf

    "I know people don't usually think of golf as a team sport, but I was on my high school team, so that should count! I think golf really taught me focus and attention to detail. I also think it was a good skill to have in terms of my professional career. I take clients golfing and my experience shows! I'm not going to be the token woman they can beat. 

    "My daughter is starting golf lessons in addition to playing T-ball and soccer. Whatever sport she chooses is cool with me, but I'm rooting for golf!" -- Natalie S., Bloomington, Minnesota 

  • Breaking Barriers

    girl playing football

    "When I was 10, I became the first girl to make the all-star team for Little League baseball (not softball!). Now my daughter is the only girl on her flag football team. Breaking barriers is kind of a family tradition, I guess!" -- Millie H., Denver, Colorado 

  • Learning From Failure

    girl playing tennis

    "I was a completely mediocre volleyball and basketball player. I wasn't good but I learned good lessons. The biggest one was probably that you can learn from failure. Perseverance and just being willing to try matter.

    "I hope my daughter ends up being a better tennis player than I was volleyball player but even if she doesn't, I hope she learns all the good stuff." -- Pammie D., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Loving Her Body

    little girls running outside

    "Being a swimmer and a runner made me feel like I was in charge of my body. It helped me block out all the noise about what 'pretty' is and about what I 'should' look like. I never dieted because sports made me think about food making me strong and not to worry about my weight. I want the same for my three daughters." -- Larissa F., Phoenix, Arizona

sports girls

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