A white teenage girl rugby tackling a black teenage girl

Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Tackling Teenage Disengagement


This report funded by Sport England summarises our most recent survey findings of over 4,000 adolescent girls and boys to understand the similarities and differences in their attitudes towards sport and physical activity. Importantly we were able to understand how the various barriers play out for sporty and non-sporty girls, identifying the barriers that are magnified differently across three key groups The UninspiredThe Missed OpportunityThe Passionate Participants.

Too many girls are disengaging from sport and exercise in their teens. This is huge compared to boys – a significant missed opportunity.

Self-belief, capability and body image concerns can be significant issues for all girls. Our report highlights that complex barriers and deep-rooted negative attitudes are affecting enjoyment:

  • 61 %

    of teenage girls feel judged when doing sport

    Women in Sport

  • 50 %

    of teenage girls say they lack self-belief in sport

    Women in Sport

The need to engage girls in more active lifestyles has never been more urgent. This generation of teenage girls are experiencing worrying mental health issues and report being less happy, more anxious and increasingly dissatisfied with their appearance. The pandemic has, in many instances, simply amplified these issues for many girls.

An underlying narrative prevails; that girls are not as competitive; that sport is not important for girls; that they will never be as good at it compared to boys; that sport can be at odds with femininity. Add to that the harassment and unwanted attention teenage girls are subject to when exercising and quite simply, taking part becomes a burden, instead of bringing freedom and joy.

  • 41 %

    of teenage girls say school work prevents them from exercising

    Women in Sport

  • 38 %

    of teenage girls don't feel safe exercising outside

    Women in Sport

We have a significant opportunity to re-engage them and we must work harder to do so and to prevent girls from missing out. In particular, we are deeply concerned by the number of girls who disengage from sport and exercise post primary school (43%). Many of these girls enjoyed being active when younger but have needlessly fallen out of love with it in adolescence. We need to change this.

Download the full report

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