The next time you are at a youth sporting event pay attention to the feedback directed to girls compared to the feedback directed to boys. Boys tend to be expected to participate in physical activity and praised for their achievement while girls tend to be invited to participate and praised for their effort.
This double standard could explain why girls’ participation in activity severely drops off around age 13 compared to boys, for along with the expectation to achieve comes instruction for how to achieve that impacts motivation. Experiencing success is the cornerstone of a sustained physical activity habit. Since success begets success, achievement-oriented instruction paired with achievement-oriented feedback strengthens motivation.
For example, ice hockey instruction ought to be specific so to convey the technique difference between shooting toward the upper and lower part of the net, then necessary corrective feedback ought to be offered during skill practice. Being able to place the puck increases the likelihood of scoring a goal by shooting toward the spot the goalie isn’t able to defend. The same applies to learning how to hit for baseball/softball. Batting instruction ought to specify how to hit to the right side compared to the left side or up the middle, and feedback ought to correct technique flaws.
The need for, benefit from, and response to physical activity is gender neutral. Regular engagement provides profound and unique wellness benefit. Expect boys and girls alike to participate, and make sure achievement-oriented instruction and feedback is provided to buoy the motivation to sustain regular habit.
For more information, please see the Positive Coaching Alliance, National Association of Sport and Physical Education, or Women’s Sports Foundation.