Lecture cites need for girls’ increase in physical activity

by Betsy Graca

With video games, Internet and television constantly competing for Americans’ attention, physical activity has become more important than ever to ensure healthy bodies and minds.

The University’s Tucker Center for research on girls and women in sports hosted a lecture entitled “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies: Barriers and Solutions to Girls’ Physical Activity Participation,” on Tuesday night.

An estimated 150 coaches, students and teachers attended the lecture to hear Dr. Maureen Weiss, a developmental sports psychologist, explain the detriments inactivity has on adolescent girls.

Weiss spoke of a decline in women’s physical activity as they transition from childhood to adolescence. Financial constraints, parents and male friends all influence an adolescent girl’s decision to participate in sports, she said.

Only 50 percent of 12- to 21-year-old girls participate in physical activity, Weiss said.

Erin Becker, Tucker Center program associate, said the environment of physical activity is one of the most important aspects when involved in sports.

“You want to have an environment that encourages participation and positive feedback to keep girls involved in sports,” she said.

Becker said since the advent of Title IX – a federal law enacted in 1972 which dictates gender equality at public institutions – involvement in girls’ sports has exploded.

Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center, said women in sports face several challenges, such as gender stereotypes and a lack in community-program funding.

Kevin Mayer, sports management junior and lecture attendee, plays intramural basketball and wanted to expand his horizons regarding women’s sports.

“I think girls face unfair challenges and even though progress has been made, there’s still a lot more room for improvement,” he said.

Jenna Tellefsen, an applied kinesiology graduate student and former University tennis player, said male sports receive more media attention and funding than women’s sports.

Studies show involvement in sports increases not only physical health, but psychological benefits as well.

Elizabeth Podominick, who is a sports sociology graduate student and University track team member, said there is extreme development when participating in sports.

“You learn how to push yourself and learn your limits -physically and mentally,” she said.

Weiss said the life skills learned when participating in sports can be transferred beyond the games themselves.

One of the major benefits attributed to involvement in sports teams is social development, Weiss said.

Heidi Hanse, president of the University women’s ice hockey team, said that at such a large school, it’s important to find people who share common interests and that’s easy to do in sports.

“(On a team), It goes outside of the game and you make life-long friendships,” she said.

Above all, Weiss said it’s important to start instilling an active lifestyle from a young age.

“A physically active lifestyle is key to maximizing girls’ mental and physical health,” she said. “Girls during the developmental period have so much to gain, not only physically, but socially and psychologically.”