The mental wellbeing of girls is being helped through a football programme delivered by the Youth Sport Trust in collaboration with The Football Association.
Research released to mark Children’s Mental Health Week has revealed that girls’ confidence, motivation and life skills have been improved following participation in the ‘Game of Our Own’ programme.
Game of Our Own is focused on introducing more girls to the game by teaching leadership skills which can then be applied in schools for girls to engage with their peers. It also supports schools and teachers to have a better understanding of barriers to participation and how to engage girls.
A post-programme survey reported that 40% of the girls said their mental wellbeing had been improved by taking part. It also stated that 90% of girls who had delivered the programme said their confidence had been improved generally, with more girls feeling that their confidence to play football had been boosted.
Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “At a time when children’s mental health is in decline, it is fantastic to hear girls’ stories through Game of Our Own and understand how it is helping to develop their mental health as well as confidence and self-esteem.
“This research adds to a growing international research base which shows that physical activity not only improves physical wellbeing but is an important outlet for decreasing stress and anxiety, managing emotions, building a sense of belonging and having fun.”
The research revealed that to engage more girls to play football in schools and further develop their mental and physical wellbeing through the game, there should be:
- A greater focus on team-building and socialising rather than competition, leading to wider participation in the sport.
- Providing opportunities to play away from boys, by not allowing them to watch or be nearby to pitches, as some girls reported that judgment from boys had discouraged them in the past.
- Consider the value of a ‘passport’ system making participants aware of the life skills they are gaining allowing them to record this information in their own ‘passports’.
Louise Gear, Head of Women’s Participation at The FA, said: “We are delighted that Game of Our Own is yielding such positive results with regards to participant’s wellbeing and development of key life skills.
“It is great that the benefits of the programme will be felt by over 20,000 girls, as we continue to support Youth Sport Trust in delivering Game of Our Own in schools across England”.
Game of Our Own has already reached more than 11,600 girls since launching in January 2018. It is expected that more than 20,000 girls across England will have been engaged in the programme by Autumn 2019.
After participating in the programme, one participant from Forge Valley School, Sheffield said: “If you’ve had a bad day, the rest of the team will cheer you up and make you feel happy. It’s like a sanctuary. You won’t get judged for having a bad game and you’ll make friends.”