According the new research by StreetGames, the national sports charity, friendships play a big role in encouraging girls to take part in sport. They asked 1,000 women aged 18-25 questions and the research revealed that 63% of young women say they won't play sport or exercise without a friend by their side.

Also, after leaving school 44% of young women rarely played any sport and over three quarters asked said the one reason for playing sport would be to catch up with their friends. Over two thirds (67%) say they feel more comfortable exercising with their friends compared to exercising with people they don't know. 39% of women said they would feel awkward and self-conscious without their friends, while 30% feel like everyone is looking at them. This lack of appetite for sport stems from school PE lessons, with 9 in 10 young women citing dislikes such as strict teachers, anti-social classes and always 'being picked last.'

National sports charity StreetGames has launched Us Girl Guides, which explore the ways to get more young girls to be physically active, through understanding the role of friendship groups. The guides were developed following in-depth analysis of past Us Girls sessions, undertaken by Dr Nicola Eccles from Leeds Trinity University, which examined how friendship groups influence participation in sport and exercise. The Us Girls brand is designed to increase and sustain young women's participation in sport and physical activity within some of the nation's most disadvantaged communities.

Karen Keohane, Director of Us Girls, comments "What girls are telling us loud and clear is that if their friends aren't there, they are much less likely to take part in exercise. Sports organisations need to embrace this social side of sport and to understand the complex dynamic of female friendship groups. We want to make sure clubs are encouraging as many young women as possible to get involved, structuring sports classes to make sure they're fully inclusive and friendly, interactive and allow friends to mingle and make new friends too."

Keohane continues "At StreetGames, we've found that more relaxed formats like Zumba, gym sessions or dance go down very well as they don't require a huge level of commitment and have a really social side. Our new guides look to help sports leaders and coaches recognise the importance of a social environment when introducing females to sport and how to build this into sessions. The Us Girls campaign provides exactly that, encouraging girls to get involved without driving them away through an over-emphasis on pressure and performance."

Dr. Nicola Eccles, Research Lead and Associate Principal Lecturer in Health and Physical Activity at Leeds Trinity University comments on the guides "What we found was that girls' often view their world through the lens of friendship groups, which can have a huge impact on their relationship with physical activity. Sports leaders need to understand the vital role that friends play in the lives of adolescent girls and help them to manage these relationships effectively within the sessions they organise."

Us Girls is an award winning initiative which since 2013 has successfully engaged over 38,000 young women from disadvantaged areas in England and Wales, helping them to become more active by providing them with fitness and sport opportunities within their local communities. Us Girls' success is derived from its ground-breaking consultative approach to understand how women want sport to be delivered.

It's pioneering approach and new practices have been adopted by National Governing Bodies (NGBs) including the Football Association and England Handball in order to engage more women in sport.

For more information on Us Girls and to download the Us Girls How to Guides, please visit www.streetgames.org/friendships.

Girls only want to play sport if they can do it with their friends

Girls only want to play sport if they can do it with their friends


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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