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‘Confidence crisis’ stops young girls doing sport

Worries about 'getting hot and sweaty' tops list of primary pupils' reasons for not wanting to do sport

Children playing sport

A “confidence crisis” is preventing primary-age girls from doing exercise at school, new research has found.

The survey by the Youth Sport Trust (YST) identified the top five reasons why primary children do not enjoy physical activity.

The research involved 5,454 boys and girls, aged 7-11, across England. Overall, 39 per cent of boys reported doing more than 60 minutes of activity per day, compared with just 25 per cent of girls.

The top five reasons why primary pupils said they did not enjoy physical activity were:

  • I don’t like getting hot and sweaty (boys, 18 per cent; girls, 23 per cent)
  • I am not confident (boys, 13 per cent; girls, 21 per cent)
  • I am not good at it (boys, 14 per cent; girls, 20 per cent)
  • I can’t keep up with my friends (boys, 15 per cent; girls, 18 per cent)
  • I worry about trying new activities (boys, 12 per cent; girls, 18 per cent)

The research found a correlation between levels of confidence and physical activity, with the least-active girls most likely to be affected by lack of confidence.

Among the less-active girls, 32 per cent said confidence was an issue that was preventing them from being active.

Gemma Muttitt, PE teacher at YST member Great Marlow School in Buckinghamshire, said: “Some of the Year 7 girls starting school have negative preconceptions of what PE is about.

“I have had some girls coming to PE in tears because they don’t want to do it. It completely depends on what their experience of PE and physical activity has been prior to starting secondary school.”

Ali Oliver, chief executive of YST, said: “The fact that confidence levels in girls falls considerably behind boys from as young as age 7 is deeply concerning.

"We know that lack of confidence is a major factor in why girls are less active than boys throughout their time at school.

"The alarming finding of this research is that this gap starts to open at such a young age.

“At a time when young people are struggling with their mental health, stress, and [amid] growing levels of obesity, it has never been more important to unlock the power of sport and play to help them tackle these challenges and thrive in life."

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