We should all be proud to play like a girl

What does the phrase ‘like a girl’ mean to you? As in:

“Wow, you run like a girl.”

Or: “Ha, she totally fights like a girl.”

Or: “Dude, you throw like a girl.”

Like it or not, it’s an expression that carries some nasty baggage.

But we don’t need to buy into the notion that “like a girl” means physically incompetent. And, with the Always campaign #likeagirl going viral, it’s clear people want to get rid of the negativity associated with the phrase and turn “like a girl” into a shout of empowerment.

But here’s something to think about. Girls under twelve just don’t carry that negative “like a girl” baggage. Check out this “social experiment” and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Watch ten-year old wonderkid Samantha ‘Sam’ Gordon totally own the football field in the boys league she plays in or run circles around them at her summer training camp. And this is so not about a girl beating the boys. This is about a girl moving with confidence and not being held back by a tired stereotype.

The confidence that comes from knowing how to move well — from being physically literate — benefits all kids, girls and boys both. And it’s something they can develop from playing all sorts of different sports, even if they find sport challenging.

It’s a confidence that comes, according to family psychologist Donna Wicks, from “…practice, mistakes, setback, recovery and finally mastery.”

And whether or not your kids go on to become professional athletes, the confidence they gain from moving well will serve them in good stead as they hit the identity-crises of their teenage years — when many kids drop out of sport because they’re so self-conscious — and well on into adulthood.

I’m so heartened by these young girls who don’t even know what the whole “like a girl” drama is about. If we keep encouraging them — and their brothers — to move, and keep helping them to develop their physical literacy then hopefully (surely) these confident young women and men will run past these outmoded labels of “like a girl”, “like a boy”, and leave them far behind in the dust.

5 responses to “We should all be proud to play like a girl

  1. Teaching specific techniques that “fit” can only help, provided that participants do not get the feeling that there is something wrong with them! The instructor demonstrating the correct technique works for me. Personally, I found it helpful learning what women may have a tendency to do when downhill skiing that men with a different body shape might not do. It’s all in the way the material is presented!

  2. I’m totally in favour of encouraging girls in sport BUT while we work towards eliminating the negative stereotype, let’s not ignore the fact that there are still many girls who by the time they reach age 12 have NOT learned a proper throwing motion. We should also promote the fact that girls are at a much higher risk of ACL injuries due to greater laxity in the knee joint than in boys. This affects how many of them run. This can be corrected through sports which use the PEP program developed in Santa Monica.

    So let’s not simply ignore the high number of girls who run or throw “like a girl”. Instead we are just ignoring the problem, like we do when we tell kids to accept themselves as overweight rather than address the rate of obesity.

    1. John, you bring a good point. If I understand you correctly, you are promoting that sport and physical activity must be brought to girls in a way that “fits” for them. From AfL’s perspective we agree that sport and physical activity must be brought to girls in a fashion that meets their specific physiological, mental and emotional development.

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