A study involving more than 4,000 girls has confirmed that teenage girls who play football report higher levels of self-confidence, and that football can have a greater positive impact on the self-confidence of teenage girls than other popular sports.
The largest study of its kind was recently conducted by UEFA, in association with the University of Birmingham and an elite group of specialists to investigate the effect football has on the psychological and emotional state of girls and young women in Europe. The research took into account the impact that football has on self-confidence, self-esteem, well-being, feelings of togetherness, motivation and life skills and compared those results to other popular sports. Data was collected from six countries: Denmark, England, Germany, Spain, Poland and Turkey.
As well as analysing existing research literature concerning the links between football and self-confidence, self-esteem, life skills and well-being, the study gathered data on 4,128 girls and young women aged 13 and over.
The research suggests that although women's football is at different stages in its development across Europe, there are many similarities when it comes to its impact on self-confidence.
The most powerful factor being that wherever they live, whatever their stage in the game, girls who play football are more confident than girls who don't play sport. Furthermore, girls who play football are more confident than girls who play other sports.
• 80% of teenage girls exhibited more confident behaviour thanks to playing with a football team/club vs 74% of those who played other sports.
• 54% of young footballers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "I am less concerned what others think about me as a result of playing my sport" compared with 41% of those who played other sports.
• 58% of the 13–17 year-old female footballers questioned said they had overcome a lack of self-confidence as a result of playing football, compared with 51% of girls who play other sports.
• 48% said they are less self-conscious as a result of playing football, compared with 40% of those who play other sports.
In summary, the research provides some encouraging insights for football, a sport that is set to see enormous growth across Europe in the next few years.
UEFA's women's football advisor Nadine Kessler said: "This study shows that girls who play football have greater self-confidence than those who don't play the game. Drawing upon my own experience, I can't emphasise enough how important this is when you are growing up. I am certain that we can change perceptions and make it cool for teenage girls to play football. If we manage to achieve this, we will be on our way to achieving our goal of making football the number one sport for girls around Europe."
Since UEFA launched its Women's Football Development Programme in 2010, the game has expanded at all levels across Europe. With many of the 55 UEFA member associations investing more energy and resources into the game, elite women's football has improved significantly. This summer the UEFA Women's EURO final tournament in the Netherlands will involve 16 teams for the first time.
On 1 June UEFA will launch the 'Together #WePlayStrong' campaign, a ground-breaking initiative aiming to make football the number one participation sport for girls and women in Europe by 2022.
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