Regular participation in physical activity provides significant health benefits for children such as obesity prevention, improved mental health, cardiovascular fitness, bone health, and even improved quality of sleep. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per day to reap those benefits, and when girls don’t participate, they miss out.

Young girls face significant societal demands and stresses, so managing their mental health is paramount and engaging in youth sports is one excellent way to do that. We spoke with Sara Detlefsen, a Sports Academy Specialist from Sanford Health, to learn more about the importance of physical activity for girls of all ages and how to motivate them.


What are the benefits of participating in sports?

“There are so many benefits of participating in sports for all kinds of people! Personally, I always enjoyed the comradery that come from shared experiences in sports,” Sara says. Other benefits include:

“Sports participation can also help break down gender stereotypes as well as improving girls’ self-esteem. Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that athletic participation, especially with female role models and coaches, helps to counter stereotypes and boosts girls’ confidence, self-efficacy, and sense of belonging. I’ve also been witness to the real-life examples of girls blossoming into strong young women through participation in sport, through personal experience as an athlete and as a coach.”


How has physical activity impacted Sara’s life?

“Physical fitness and participation in sports have been something that molded who I am today. As a middle and high school golfer, I had the opportunity to play in elite junior golf tournaments throughout the United States, teeing it up with the best players in the world and eventually earning a full-ride scholarship to play Division I college golf at Florida Gulf Coast University. Athletics in college helped me to find strategies for dealing with stress like relying on my family and making time for regular physical activity outside of the required workouts for golf. Those strategies carried me through and allowed me to become the person that I am today: Someone who is passionate about helping other young people, specifically girls, achieve their potential and grow into strong young women.”


And Sara’s motivational advice for girls and women in athletics?

“Don’t be afraid to dream big! It can be intimidating to have lofty goals and you almost certainly will find yourself failing to meet goals. But, there is a kind of freedom in being okay with taking a risk and recognizing that it might not pan out. And think about how exciting it is to achieve those goals!”


“And if you dream big, especially in a sport-setting, you need to be willing to work for that dream. Recognize failure as a necessary part of the journey and soak in the excitement when you accomplish something big. Most importantly, never limit yourself. I never took it for granted that I might qualify for an LPGA Tournament and find myself teeing it up with the best in women’s professional golf. But, in 2016, I signed up for and drove to a local qualifying site for the LPGA’s Marathon Classic. I considered it good practice to play in a challenging environment with a field of phenomenal young women golfers, two of which would advance to the LPGA event. After finishing my final hole of the qualifier, I didn’t know if the best effort that I had put forth that day would result in anything but a long drive home. But it paid off! A lifelong dream of competing on the biggest stage in women’s golf, on the LPGA Tour, had come true. And then, the next local qualifier that I played in, I failed to qualify! That’s life, that’s golf, and that’s sport.”

If you’re trying to motivate a young girl in your life to try sports or get involved, try one of these tips:



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