Promotion of Sports for Girls and Women: The Necessity and the Strategy

Article excerpt

As sport has become increasingly commercialized, opportunities for girls and women in the sport industry have also increased. Though women may not be the major beneficiaries of the contemporary sport system, they have gained greater access to a wide variety of roles, including participant, spectator, coach, trainer, journalist, agent, and promoter. This feature will present several aspects of the changing sport enterprise, focusing on both equality issues and increased sport participation and career opportunities for girls and women.

Before Title IX, fewer than 300,000 young women participated in interscholastic athletics nationwide. Today, that figure has reached approximately 2.25 million. In the wake of this participation explosion, interest in the impact of these increased opportunities has grown. Identifying problematic aspects of girls' involvement in sport includes, but is not limited to, gender stereotyping through the media, disordered eating associated with sport, and overcoming barriers related to participation and sport careers. Scholars and practitioners alike need to keep pace with the diversification of female involvement with sport and physical activity.

With respect to sport, girls and women have traditionally been neglected by researchers, the mass media, and corporate sponsors. Glamorized presentations of commercialized sports in mass media sometimes mask the basic fact that physical activity is a public health resource for millions of American girls. Efforts by organizations to increase participation in sport and physical activity among females of all ages have helped. Yet, more needs to be done. The growing trend among adolescent females to engage in extreme dieting or excessive exercise is alarming. Also disturbing is the dramatic level of inactivity among obese adolescents. Although an awareness exists regarding adolescent females' concern with body image, social status, or performance, there is too little understanding of how these psychological and physical elements affect the development of lifelong participation behaviors. Deborah J. Rhea addresses these issues in "Physical Activity and Body Image of Female Adolescents: Moving Toward the 21st Century." As a result of increased education and awareness, female athletes are creating a new definition of what women can look like and still be considered successful.

To understand the real and potential contributions of physical activity and sport in the lives of millions of girls, a unique interdisciplinary perspective is needed. A subject of importance to sport scholars is the growing influence of women in the sport industry. Topics of considerable interest are the current status of women in sport, the efforts being made to improve women's access to sport-related careers, and the importance of mentoring and networking programs. In the United States, women currently make up 46 percent of the work force, and that figure is expected to increase to 48 percent by the year 2005. Without question, women significantly influence the American economy, and that influence has ramifications for the sport industry. Lori K. Miller discusses job-related issues in "Promoting Career Opportunities for Girls and Women in the Sport Industry."

The increased marketing of women's sport has provided girls and women the opportunity to witness accomplished female athletes in a wide array of sports and sport-related careers. Television coverage of women's collegiate and professional sport grows each year. Messages of improved health, self-esteem, body image, and physical competency are being communicated through television commercials that use female sport role models. …