Suncorp has revealed the findings of the '2019 Australian Youth Confidence Report', revealing more than half of parents are concerned about their daughter's self-esteem.
This coincides with 46 per cent of Australian teen girls turning their back on sport by the age of 17, despite two-thirds acknowledging that sport can make them feel more confident.
The national survey of over 1000 Australian parents and teenagers conducted as part of the Suncorp Team Girls initiative, also revealed that confidence and the perception of themselves is one of the most commonly discussed topics in their home.
Suncorp's Executive General Manager Brand & Marketing, Mim Haysom, said the findings reinforce the value participation in sport can provide in building confidence in all areas of life, and the need for greater support to help parents and peers tackle this issue.
"Our research tells us participation in team sport nurtures perseverance, resilience and confidence; essential skills teen girls need now and in the future. This, in turn, can have a real positive impact on their health and wellbeing, career prospects and financial security moving forwards," Ms Haysom said.
"As part of Suncorp's ongoing commitment to change the score and keep young people motivated, we have enlisted a range respected speakers, athletes and mental health experts to provide advice, inspiration and support as part of the Team Girls program," continued Haysom.
The research draws a direct link for girls of all ages between being confident and achieving success in a range of life dimensions, including their work and social lives. The benefits of sports are widely recognised to have lifetime impacts, as sport is felt to build fundamental life skills like team building, leadership and resilience.
Suncorp Team Girls Ambassador Rebecca Sparrow – teen Agony Aunt, podcast host and author of 'Game On! A Team Girls Guide to Getting Active'. offers her tips on what parents can do boost participation:
● Encourage girls to try sports their friends are playing as they will be more willing to get involved. If your daughter's friends are playing netball or hockey or AFL " talk to your daughter about joining their team for a season. Or start playing a new sport with a friend.
● Become a fan. Get your daughter excited about the sport by following the national league and experiencing the excitement of a live game. Introduce your daughter to a terrific role model like netball's Gabi Simpson and Gretel Tippett, AFL's Tayla Harris and Moana Hope or cricket's Ellyse Perry. Start following the players on social media.
● Chill out. Many kids cringe at their parents' sideline behaviour. Keep the focus on fun rather than form and leave the feedback to the coaches. The goal is for kids to have fun and be active.
● Allow them to try different sports. Some kids take a while to find the sport which ignites them. Trying a few different sports is a great way to find the right fit.
● If your daughter suddenly wants to quit her team sport, listen to her reasons and explore whether joining a less competitive team would be of interest.
Rebecca Sparrow comments, "Sport actively builds that inner grit we all need to handle life."
In response to the new findings and to drive awareness of the plight that parents and young girls face, Suncorp has launched a new Team Girls Rally Cry to encourage and motivate young girls to embrace life confidently, on and off the court. Championing the cause and inspiring Australian girls to stay in the game, is Australian electronic music songstress, Thandi Phoenix, a rising star of an equally male-dominated scene.
"I'm so proud to be involved in the 'Team Girls' movement, as I am a huge advocate of girls working together to empower one another. The Team Girls chant is designed to mimic pre-match camaraderie and motivational rituals, using the power of collective voice.
"I grew up playing netball and learnt the importance of perseverance and teamwork from a young age. Working with such a diverse group of epic teens has been inspiring and we've all learned something from one another. I really hope that other girls out there can identify with the girls in this group and know they're not alone!" Phoenix said.
"We are Team Girls – hear us roar!"
The Team Girls chant was created in collaboration with teen girls across Australia, creating a rallying cry designed to build girls' confidence and unite them to realise how collectively strong they are. To learn the Team Girls chant and to find out more about how team sport can benefit your child's development visit the Suncorp Team Girls site.
Question: Are you surprised that 46% of teen girls are giving up sport due to confidence issues?
Rebecca Sparrow: I'm sad but I'm not surprised. I think somewhere along the way we've forgotten that sport is meant to be fun and that it doesn't have to be super competitive and serious for girls to reap all the benefits.
Question: Why are girls giving up sport?
Rebecca Sparrow: I don't think there's any one particular reason. I think parents putting too much pressure on our girls (and behaving badly on the sidelines) are a factor. I think girls feeling perhaps uncomfortable or awkward in uniforms (short shorts or tiny skirts) play a role. And, I think in those senior years of high school when the pressure of exams and assignments is at its peak, girls tend to drop sport to give themselves more "study time". But ironically those years are when girls need sport the most. We know that girls who play sport perform better academically. But also sport is so wonderful for our mental and emotional health " alleviating feelings of anxiety and depression and giving us a bit of a mental health break from our worries when we're out on the field or on court.
Question: How can sports actually increase a girl's confidence?
Rebecca Sparrow: When you feel fit and strong it changes the way you feel about your body and about yourself. Seeing what you're capable of and what your body can do is an enormous confidence boost. What I love about sport is that the focus is on what you can do not how you look " and that's a positive message for our girls. Also the secret sauce of team sports is the feeling of belonging it gives you. Having "team mates" is a wonderful feeling and one I wish every teenage girl could experience.
Question: What else can we do to increase our teenager girls confidence?
Rebecca Sparrow: I think the best thing parents can do is role model confidence themselves. When we model confidence and focus on what our body can do rather than what we look like " it sets the tone. If teenage girls are on social media, I'd also encourage them to fill their feed with female athletes from Turia Pitt to Laura Geitz to Tayla Harris. You can't be what you can't see and seeing these amazing, strong, fierce women again puts the focus on what women are capable of doing rather than accepting society's message that females are here to be looked at.
Question: How does parents bad behaviour impact their teens?
Rebecca Sparrow: I think it's embarrassing for them when their parents are arguing with coaches and referees. Girls find their parents high expectations a big turn off.
Question: How can parents support their teenagers to feel comfortable playing sport?
Rebecca Sparrow: Listen. If your daughter wants to give up sport, really listen to what she has to say before offering solutions. It may be that dropping down to a more social team, switching clubs, changing sports or having a word to the coach is all it takes to get your daughter back in the game. Also leave the coaching to the coaches. Just enjoy watching your daughter play the game.
Question: What is the Suncorp Team Girls initiative?
Rebecca Sparrow: Team Girls is about raising a nation of confident girls " on court and off. We want to get girls back in the game because girls who play sport are more confident and that confidence means they are more likely to back their ideas, opinions and abilities. Team Girls is for every girl out there and we want to encourage our girls to get out there and have a go.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photo: Heather Dinas