The importance of sport for girls

Michaela McGough in action for Galway United.

Michaela McGough in action for Galway United.

Having spent most of my life playing sport, I will always be the first person to tell you to get involved in it, but I make sure to tell young girls to try and get involved in any sport they enjoy. It is such an amazing way to learn new skills, meet new people and get the exercise your body needs, all at the same time.

There is such a big drop-off when it comes to boys and girls involved in sports, which is such a shame as sport has so many benefits for a young person. Sport is where I have learned so many critical skills that I will need in life. For example, I have learned teamwork, goal-setting, time management, determination, patience and leadership all from either playing or coaching.

My local club is Corrib Celtic FC who I played with up until last year, I am currently signed with Galway United U17s. I am very lucky to be able to play in the League of Ireland and train at such a high standard. We train three times a week and have our matches on Saturdays. We have access to a great group of people to work with, like our management, personal trainers and physios who help us play to our best ability.

I have access to amazing facilities with Galway United; however the same does not apply to all girls' teams across the country. I have heard of girls' teams being put on pitches that are not lined, pitches that are dug up from a previous game or pitches that are waterlogged. We need to be held to the same standard as mens' teams and be given the same quality of pitches and facilities.

While I was picked to sign and play with exceptional teams now, I wasn't always. There were plenty of times I was told I wasn't good enough for a team or didn't make match day squads. However, this didn't make me love the sport any less. You don't have to be one of the best players on your team to enjoy playing. Everyone brings something different to a team and everyone should be able to enjoy playing whether they are the best on the team or not.

I also help coach the U12 girls in my local club Corrib Celtic. As much as playing has shown me how important sport is for girls, coaching the U12s has really opened my eyes to how sport can affect a young girl's life for the better, as I see the girls coming into training happy and excited to get active every week. That is what I think sports should be all about, getting active and enjoying what you're playing.

There are the obvious physical health benefits of playing sports, an average training session for any underage team is an hour which is the recommended time any girl from the ages of 6-17 should spend doing physical activity a day. Training sessions for children are a more fun and entertaining way to get that daily exercise than just going for a run or walk, as while at training they can talk to their teammates, do fun drills, and play games.

As much as physical health is important and sport can improve a young person's health, it can help your mental health as well. I completed my Junior Cert last year and I found sport was such an amazing way to switch off after a long day of school and study and focus on something else. If I was stuck in school all day and then I came home to do nothing else but study, I would have been way more stressed than I was; but instead I could come home, study for a bit, then get out in the fresh air for a training session or match.

Michaela McGough is a TY student at Coláiste Bhaile Chláir on work experience at the Galway Advertiser.


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