Examining Gender Differences in Sports Participation

A recent report from the Women’s Sports Foundation finds that parents tend to believe that boys want to compete in sports more than boys and boys are better at sports than girls.

The researchers polled more than 3,000 boys and girls aged 7 to 17 and their parents/guardians across the country. They found that nearly one third of parents believed that boys are better at sports than girls. And parents of youth who have never played sports are more likely to believe that girls are not as competitive as boys and that sports are more important to boys than girls.

The study found that gender stereotypes and the lack of female coaches as role models are among the biggest reasons that girls quit or don’t participate in sports. The study found that girls are more likely to have never played sports than boys and less likely to be currently playing sports — 36 percent of girls compared to nearly 46 percent of boys.

“The average age that kids enter sports is 6, which requires heavy parental involvement,” said Phillip Velez, a co-author of the study and a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and associate director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center. “If you believe that boys are better than girls, you may be taking girls to a different activity or not doing sports at all. Sport is the most popular extracurricular activity in the United States for both boys and girls. Yet, we see this gender gap in participation persist, and parents may be driving some of this.”

The full report – Keeping Girls in the Game: Factors that Influence Sports Participation – may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/Study

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