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As most of the country is in Euro 2016 fever it’s hard to miss football – on the TV, on the radio and in conversations up and down the High Street. But I have never had any real interest in football and I wonder whether this stems back to my childhood?
A recent survey with OnePoll, commissioned by SSE, has highlight some of the challenges that exist in football for young girls and I can’t help but relate to them. According to the survey, Britain’s dads are more likely to spend time with their daughters indoors playing computer games than outdoors kicking a football around. Plus, twenty percent of fathers actively encourage their sons to take an interest in football, whereas that figure drops to just seven percent for girls.
Personally I know that neither of my parents really played sports with me as a child, and they didn’t play sports with my brother either – they were just not into sports themselves and so didn’t pass a sporting streak down to us as children. But I am well aware that Hubby and I are also not into sports and so LP and Little Man could also grow up not being into sports either or having a limited interest in things like football because of it.
Nearly a third of fathers in the UK say that they feel there is still a stigma around girls pursuing certain sports or hobbies but I have never really seen this. There are so many women playing sports now and even when I was at school – over 15 years ago – we had really strong girls teams for football, basketball, hockey and many other sports and I am sure that now there are more female teams in schools across the country.
But apparently only a third of fathers currently play football with their daughters, while only two per cent believe that she’d have any interest in the sport. I think it’s easy to presume that girls won’t like sport but really it’s just so important to give children the option – regardless of gender – and let them decide for themselves whether they like sports or not.
Many Dads have suggested that their daughters are eight times more likely to pick a career in dance, theatre or hairdressing over football and only one per cent of fathers think their daughters would pick a career as a footballer, if given the choice. Plus, only three in ten dads who watched the Women’s World Cup – which won a global TV audience of over 750 million – did so with their daughters.
I think it’s easy to focus on Dads needing to steer their children into sport – watching it, playing it or just having an interest in it – but at the same time, Mums could also instil a love of sport in their children. Focusing on Dads in the survey reinforces the gender stereotype shown in the results – why should it just be down to Dads to introduce their children to sport? With my own children in mind I know it’s down to me as much as their Dad to give them as much of a well rounded upbringing as possible – and this definitely includes sport.
Last week former England lioness Kelly Smith and her dad Bernard joined SSE to encourage more dads to have a kick about with their daughters and here they tell their own touching story. You can visit the SSE website to find out more about the opportunities that exist for girls to get in to football.
This research has definitely opened my eyes not just to the need for Dads to encourage their daughters to play sports but for parents generally to get outside with their children more – whether that’s throwing a frisbee around, playing football or going for a bike ride. Sports and other outdoor activities are such a big part of family life, of growing up and of learning to work as a team, compete and work hard at something that I know I’ll be going outside with LP and Little Man to kick a ball around at the very next opportunity.
*This is a collaborative post