Thanks to our friends at Suncorp and their Team Girls program
Here at Business Chicks we know how important community is – it drives everything we do as a business. Being part of a community gives us a sense of belonging, confidence, and a shared faith that we all matter. Research tells us that sport is a fantastic way to build communities of confident, positive and resilient tween and teen girls. Research also tells us that 50% of girls stop playing sport by the time they turn 17, so we’ve partnered with Suncorp Team Girls to rewrite this statistic. For a recent Masterclass Online, former Australian Diamonds netballers Laura Geitz and Clare Ferguson shared their personal experiences about developing confidence through sport, the valuable role that connection and community play in building a nation of confidence girls and practical tips for parents and carers to build their daughter’s self-esteem.
Encouraging sport participation is not just about raising the next generation of Australian representatives, it goes so much further than that. The Imagination Gap Report 2018 commissioned by Atlassian, found that 67% of women who played sport (at any skill level) as a child credit it with the development of their leadership skills. 75% of women said that team sports improved their ability to give and receive feedback, and over 80% of women credited their sport participation to developing skills including flexibility, adaptability, confidence, resilience, collaboration and teamwork. Sport participation makes you more likely to meet your goals, handle what comes your way, feel prepared, find solutions to problems and stay calm in the face of adversity.
Laura Geitz and Clare Ferguson both grew up in the Darling Downs, where the fabric of their country town was sport. Laura was thirteen when she first started netball. She was desperate to sign up to earn herself a pair of white ASICS gel trainers like her older sister. And it was love at the first blow of the umpire’s whistle. “From the very first game I played, I realised it was the game I wanted to play forever. On court I felt very valued by my team mates, each moment was celebrated and whilst I played a lot of other sport, I didn’t feel that connection and team spirit of a girl supporting another girl that I felt on the netball court.” Reflecting back on her childhood, what she thought of as her biggest weakness and the source of school yard bullying – her height – turned out to be her biggest strength. “If I wasn’t 6 ft 1, I would have never had the opportunity to play the game I love”
As school students, Laura remembers being blown away watching Clare play. By twelve years old, Clare had tried her hand at a wide range of sports including athletics, swimming, cross-country, basketball and dancing – but it wasn’t until she got on the netball court that she finally stood tall, embracing her height. “On the netball court I felt valued, I could be myself.”
As professional athletes, Laura and Clare are often asked by curious kids about what sport they played as children. Parents are also interested in this question, albeit with a different motivation, as they seek to discover the pathway to success and understand how they can apply this to their own child. Laura and Clare are adamant that early specialisation in many sports (including netball) will hinder a child’s development. As Clare said, “If anything, it is diversification of sports that is beneficial. Expose your child to a variety of different sports and activities to develop the psychosocial, physical and cognitive traits that will motivate them to remain physically active throughout their life….A lot of girls are dropping out in their teens because they’re just exhausted from years of activities. They’re also facing pressure to spend time with friends – in our adolescent teens we’re desperately trying to fit in.”
So how can you help your teen or tween build confidence the way Laura and Clare did on the netball court? It’s important to have open dialogue with your daughters and share a few messages consistently.
- Perfection is not a human quality. What they see on social media is not real life.
- Teach them the value of authenticity, and try not to compare themselves to others.
- Help them to identify their strengths to build their self-worth.
- Encourage positive self-talk, and walk-the-talk by demonstrating this yourself.
- Encourage them to find their tribe, their community. Participation in sports like netball can be a great start.
Girls can’t be what they can’t see. During those formative years they’re desperately seeking sources of inspiration and people to look up to, and are often turning to celebrities or people on social media. As their mum, carer or family member, you are one of the first points of call they turn to for confidence. If you’re not sharing your story about how you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone, or had to call on support for others, or how you’ve found your community, they won’t see how they can do this themselves.
You also need to speak their language. Some girls will desperately avoid face-to-face conversations, and instead prefer to talk via text or writing their feelings down. Bec Sparrow shared some more practical tips on connecting with your teens in this article.
Let’s stop treating confidence and community as something “nice” for our girls to have, but something that is critical. Help them find their supportive tribe of people who want them to excel. A place where they feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback, and a place where they feel empowered to be their true, confident self.
Business Chicks and Suncorp Team Girls have teamed up to bring you the Business Chicks of Tomorrow content series. We want to equip parents, carers and families with the tools they need to build meaningful connections with their teen and tween girls, in order to build their confidence, strengthen their mental health and overcome difficult circumstances. For more information on how Suncorp is helping to build a nation of confident girls, visit the Team Girls website.