Countdown's Rachel Riley launches campaign urging girls to get involved in sport to tackle anxiety

COUNTDOWN'S Rachel Riley is leading a new campaign to empower girls to get involved in sport to help build confidence for their adult lives.

The 35-year-old mathematician's campaign is aimed at encouraging more girls to stay in sports as the benefits go far beyond the field or court.

Lockdown has resulted in 68 per cent of teenage girls feeling more anxious about their future than they did before the pandemic.

Research involving 1,000 girls aged 12-16 revealed sports participation can help change that, with 65 per cent of girls currently playing sport saying it has helped them feel more confident about their future development.

The study, commissioned by Always, found the benefits for girls in sports go far beyond the cheers and the wins.

Women polled who played sports during puberty say doing so helped them build skills such as learning how to work as a team (45 per cent) and developing self-esteem (30 per cent) which have benefitted them in adult life.

In addition to participating in regular exercise and having fun, sports helped them develop important life skills including learning how to win and lose (36 per cent and become a better communicator (21 per cent).

Another quarter also believed sports helped their mental health.

Rachel, speaking on behalf of Always which has teamed up with Sported, the UK’s largest community sporting network, said: “I played so many different sports at school, from hurdles to football and the skills I learned helped me in so many ways.

“The biggest impact sport had was on my confidence, especially as a teen – it taught me to be more vocal and encouraged me to take the lead and this is something that has stayed with me in my adult life.

“I’m really passionate about this partnership because I believe that playing sport has many unexpected benefits, including being able to build relationships with team members, improving communication skills and most of all, it really boosts confidence.

“And as someone who has reaped the rewards of staying in sports when I was younger, I really want to make sure that girls are encouraged to do the same because sport can help fuel girls' futures.”

However, despite all the value sports participation provides, nearly one in three girls will drop out of sports during puberty, because they either don’t think they’re good enough (28 per cent) or don’t feel encouraged to keep playing (25 per cent).

The survey via OnePoll also found that half of women who dropped out of sports as teens wish they had continued to play.

With sports looking a little different right now, even more support and encouragement is needed.

In fact, 75 per cent of girls want more support to keep them involved in sports.

Sported, the UK’s largest network of community sports groups, reported that 25 per cent of community groups are not sure that their participants will return in the future.

Always will be donating to Sported to help hire youth centre spaces and equipment to ensure the organisation is equipped to support participants once lockdown eases.

To help show the nation that the value of sports extends beyond the field, a video has been created showing the unexpected ways sports can transform her future.

The content showcases Rachel, the UK’s youngest female pilot, Ellie Carter and COVID 1st responder, Ellie Pantlin, who all credit sports as a key enabler of their success.

Successful social enterprise CEO Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE also features as part of the campaign and credits her learnings from playing netball in her younger years as part of her success today.

Anne-Marie said: “What I most enjoy is seeing a direct impact as a result of my efforts.

“It was the same in team sport for me, the satisfaction of achieving a goal is what kept me going – I got so much more out of it than I probably realised at the time.”

“Netball taught me to play together as a team, where players have really clear and defined responsibilities – but you’re all heading towards one goal.”

For more information on how to get involved with the #FuelHerFuture initiative, visit always.co.uk/fuelherfuture.

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