WSF Report – Thriving through Sport

CHJS Founder Contributes to Report on the Transformative Impact on Girls' Mental Health

Check out the full report.

April 23, 2024 —  April continues to serve as an incredible month of inspiring healing-centered sport events, trainings, and resources. The Women’s Sport Foundation dropped a report on the transformative impact of sport on girls’ mental health and along with friends in the power of sport space, founder CHJS Megan Bartlett contributed recommendations for policy and practice.

The new report analyzes data showing that high-quality sports programs for girls can improve mental health by reducing depression and anxiety, fostering peer relationships, and providing a sense of meaning and purpose. It identifies key factors like autonomy and coach relationships (not surprisingly) that contribute to these positive outcomes. The report also explores how sports differ from other extracurriculars and provides policy/practice recommendations for applying the findings.

Here’s a snap shot at some of the findings:

  • Mental health disorders are 1.5 to 2.5 times lower for girls who play sports vs those who never played.
  • Sports provide a boost to mental health for all girls from all backgrounds across race, family, income, parent education, sexual identity, and disability status.
  • In sport settings that focus on effort, improvement, and teamwork  – depression symptoms are significantly lower (9.3%) vs settings where winning is the main goal and success is defined by ability compared to others (24.7%).
  • Girls who have strong relationships with their coach report lower levels of depression (13.4%) and anxiety (8.9%) symptoms compared to girls who don’t (28.9% and 21%, respectively).
  • 40% of girls who play sports are more likely to be involved in other extracurricular activities in school, compared to 26% of girls who don’t play sports
  • Girls who identify as white are much more likely to be playing sports than their non-white peers
    • Girls with disabilities are significantly less likely to be sports participants.
    • Girls identifying as LGBTQ+ are also significantly less likely to be sports participants.

Within the report, check out page 10, the Policy and Practice Recommendations section, where coaches can walk away with tangible strategies to help build positive sport environments. Further recommendations are provided for schools, teams, and leagues to ensure consistent and high-quality sports programs.

The report is inspiring and further emphasizes the need for more healing-centered sport spaces. As we celebrate these findings, let’s also remember that as we progress and push the game further for girls and women in sport, we still have work to do to ensure that ALL girls have access to positive sport environments.

Shout out to our friend William Massey for spearheading this research. And thank you to the Women’s Sports Foundation for highlighting the transformative power of sport for girls.

As CHJS continues April’s #takeover and we near mental health awareness month, make sure to check out our other resources like our Nothing Heals Like Sport playbook and the Coaching While Black podcast.

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