College sports build character and encourage team building, teaching students how to work as a group towards a goal. Team sports reinforce discipline and require athletes to prioritize their lives. I was an active member of the Bicycling Team at the University of Vermont. It was a great way to meet other like-minded athletes and join with them to engage in a sport we all loved! Every summer I took to the roads and led bicycling trips for teenagers for The Biking Expedition where I honed my leadership skills while traveling through France, Nova Scotia, and Scotland.
For women, the benefits of playing sports can extend over a lifetime. But did you know that female athletes are less prone to some of the pitfalls young women face in adolescence? Studies show that overall those enrolled in sports have a healthier body image and better self-esteem than those who don’t. A recent report by the Women’s Sports Foundation, entitled, “Her Life Depends on It” is a comprehensive compilation of research about the impact of physical activity on the psychological and cultural (as well as physical) health of girls. The report points to physical activity and sports as fundamental solutions for many of the serious health and social problems faced by girls, including obesity, heart disease, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression – which accounts for much of the more than $1 trillion spent on healthcare for treating these issues.
The WSF also developed a program that’s been running successfully across the U.S. for over a decade. GoGirlGo! strives to improve the health of sedentary elementary, middle and high school girls. (One in three American girls is sedentary, while the other gets no more than thirty minutes of physical activity a week.) It has reached close to one million girls and provided more than $5.6 million in funding to girl-serving organizations. While New York City is their home market, the program is available nationwide.
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