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Thousands of girls feel happier thanks to this sports initiative

Words by Blyth Brentnall

Thousands of teenage girls are feeling happier thanks to one sports programme which inspired them to get active.

Wow! How did it work?

The charity, Women In Sport, set up a scheme for girls between the ages of nine and 15, encouraging them to get active.

55,000 girls across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Norfolk, visited gyms with a free 3-month gym membership at Places Leisure centres, after the scheme’s launch in 2022.

The Big Sister Project connected the girls with trained peer mentors who offered support and practical advice for keeping active and healthy.

Additionally, 19,000 girls received free disposable and reusable period products and resources from the social enterprise, Hey Girls, after Women in Sport research found 7 in 10 girls avoid sport while on their period.

What did it change?

Of those surveyed, 6 in 10 said they became more motivated to take part in sport and exercise. 

“I got to go swimming loads; my mum has five girls so we can’t afford to go out a lot but with Big Sister we could go all the time,” said Grace, aged 11, who participated. “I learned to swim...I wouldn’t have done this so quickly if it weren’t for the free swimming.”

Big Sister, Women In Sport
Big Sister, Women In Sport

The girls also reported feeling happier (59%), more confident (62%), more resilient (63%) and now enjoy sport and exercise more (64%).

“This is important. Teenage girls are in the midst of a mental health epidemic with anxiety running rife and we know that exercise can be an antidote,” said Stephanie Hilborne OBE, the CEO of Women In Sport.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Women In Sport. A charity helping women with their wellbeing by tackling the obstacles to get involved with sport and exercise. Find out more here.

The Girls Network. This teacher-led organisation offers mentorship schemes for girls to meet their full potential. Learn more here.

Youth Sport Trust. The UK’s leading charity improving children’s access to sport along with all the benefits it offers. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs