Success Beyond Sport
How school sport participation can lay the groundwork for future career success.
As part of Wenona's comprehensive, year-long Parent Education Program, our Director of Sport and Performance, Mr Tom Hill, recently engaged parents in a thoughtful discussion about the myriad life benefits that come with sport participation for girls.
With a background in high-performance management, including positions at the NSW Institute of Sport and Water Polo Australia, Mr Hill brings a wealth of knowledge to the discussion. He noted the strong correlation between sporting participation and future career success, citing recent research from the accounting firm Ernst and Young Australia. It revealed that 94% of women in senior management positions at Fortune 500 companies played sport during their school years. But raised concerns that too many young women reduce or withdraw completely from sport participation as they near adulthood. “While Wenona has a highly subscribed sporting program (90% of our 1,350 students are enrolled in sport across 25 different programs), we can’t take lightly the fact that female participation in sport declines as the teenage years progress,” he said.
According to recent research from the United Kingdom, the most significant factors for this centre around self-confidence and self-belief. "Up to 43% of female respondents aged 15 to 17 claimed they used to be ‘sporty’ but no longer are. Many girls reported feeling judged and uncomfortable about others watching and questioned their capacity as their sport became increasingly competitive over time," said Mr Hill. "The respondents felt they could no longer play just for fun, with pressure coming from various sources, including parents, peers, and their own high expectations. While busyness due to schoolwork, part-time jobs and co-curricular activities was among the top reasons for teenage disengagement, it only ranked eighth out of 10, suggesting it may not be the main motivator.”
“The recommended amount of daily sport and exercise for young people aged five to 17 is at least 60 minutes each day and the evidence of its benefits is increasing. Yet research also shows it is becoming harder for busy families to ensure young people achieve this much exercise,” Mr Hill said.
The landscape has also changed post-pandemic. “The balance of recreational activities versus structured sporting competitions has shifted, with the combination of the two proving to be the ideal mix. The best outcomes arise when physical activity is done as a family, with parents role modelling an active lifestyle,” Mr Hill said. “The data shows female adolescent sport engagement increases when both parents take an interest in their daughter’s sporting journey. It is further enhanced when they exercise together.”
On the back of this information, the parents in the group shared their experiences and the challenges they face with their own daughters, including conflicting commitments, time management and logistics, managing expectations, finding an appropriate environment (sporting experience with training and led by coaches), venues and facilities, as well as understanding the right nutrition and recovery methods for the multi-sport, high training load students.
“The wisdom in the room and the practical tips and advice shared for young and old alike were great to see,” Mr Hill said. “The takeaway messages revolved around the crucial role parents play in encouraging ongoing sport participation.”
Some of the key points were:
- No judgment – take the pressure off performance and provide the freedom to simply play.
- Clear emotional reward – reframe achievements as moments of pride; ask your daughters how they played, what worked well and what they enjoyed, rather than merely whether they won or the score.
- Champion the benefits of sport beyond health and competition.
- Invoke excitement and a sense of adventure, try something new, build into existing habits and behaviours, and get creative.
- Expand your family’s image of what sporty looks like – create relatable role models who inspire (like mum and dad!).
- Give girls a voice and choice – allow them to feel empowered about their sporting engagement.
- Keep it fun – if they enjoy a sport or activity, they are more likely to stay involved.
“Ensuring as many students remain involved in sport for as long as possible is our aim. You just never know how their story will end,” Mr Hill said.
“If you have further questions or require guidance on how to best support your daughters' continuous positive involvement in sport, both at Wenona or elsewhere, I would like you to remember that you are not alone. The Wenona Sport Department is here to assist, connect you with experienced parents, and accompany you and your daughters on this journey. Our goal is to help the students grow into healthy, happy, and confident young women who can acquire valuable life skills through sports and excel in their chosen fields after leaving Wenona,” Mr Hill said.
Further expert resources and articles are available on the Sport Home Portal page and include fact sheets and articles on topics related to a variety of areas including;