A sports scholarship has many benefits for girls – from academic achievement to mental and physical wellness…

As the Lionesses lifted the trophy, it launched the sporting dreams of millions of young girls around the country. England’s triumph in the women’s Euros has certainly led to a dramatic increase in the aspirations of young sportswomen to reach elite levels. However, girls still participate in sports at lower rates than boys at all ages. Between ages 13-16, a 2019 report found that only 10% of girls achieved the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended levels of 60 mins of physical activity every day, compared to 16% of boys.

Indeed, from match day jubilation to locker room camaraderie, sport is undoubtedly one of the most important social-cultural learning experiences for many young men. Sport is where many boys learn skills such as leadership, teamwork, and assertiveness, setting them up for life after school. If girls don’t take part, they are missing out on the psychological, physiological and sociological benefits that participation in sports can bring.

Schools, such as St Benedict’s in Ealing, London, are helping girls to achieve academic success, and gain the skills they need to get ahead through their sports scholarships programmes. Read on for five reasons why a sports scholarship could set your daughter on the path to success.

St Benedicts Sports Day
Sports Day at St Benedict’s School

Girls who achieve sporting excellence are more likely to be successful at an academic level

There is a perception that devoting curriculum time to sport takes time away from ‘important’ subjects. However, research suggests that sport and physical activity both inside and outside the classroom has a positive impact on pupils’ academic performance and efficiency.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (2010) reviewed 50 academic studies focusing on the relationship between sport and academic success. The research covered a broad array of contexts in which young people participated in school-based physical activities over a 23-year period, and it found that physical activity is positively related to academic performance in 50.5% of the time. The main positive outcomes included academic achievement, academic behaviours, and improved cognitive skills, such as concentration, memory, self-esteem, and verbal skills. The study concluded that these positive results did not vary depending on gender of the participants.  

In February 2022 England Hockey selected its squad of 29 players for its Women’s Elite Development Programme. Of these 29 players, at least 22 of them were still in some form of education, with the vast majority being at top English universities. Emma Thacker, St Benedict’s Old Priorian (2021) achieved outstanding grades of A* A* A whilst balancing education and elite sport and has recently been selected for the Future Roses Programme.   

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At St Benedict’s there has been growing support for girls’ sporting achievements

Playing sport can help girls to shatter the gender divide

Sport helps to challenge harmful gender norms, showing that girls can be just as physically strong as boys. Achieving sporting success can also help girls to feel greater confidence, both physically and socially.

First XI Hockey captain, Rosa O’Haire at St Benedicts, notes that “As girls’ sport at St Benedict’s is becoming more and more competitive, it sets an example for people and shows what can be done by girls, driving us to be better and making us feel more empowered.”

As pupils at St Benedict’s have mixed PE lessons, there are excellent opportunities for girls to go head-to-head with boys in certain sports. This competitiveness between genders encourages equality, not just in sports, but in the wider school setting. In recent years, there have been larger crowds attending girls’ sport fixtures at St Benedict’s, and the vast improvement in girls’ sporting achievements and results have led to growing enthusiasm and support within the School. 

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Sports scholarship pupils at St Benedict’s form strong friendships

Sport is good for girls’ mental health

Puberty, as well as starting senior school, is a period of huge change for girls, both physically and emotionally. There’s a need to ‘fit in’ to be accepted into new friendship circles and being seen as ‘sporty’ might compromise that.

However, sport has the potential to help girls shape the way they feel about themselves. Girls who play sports tend to have a more positive body image and research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression. Sports are also fun! And sports scholarship students tend to have higher self esteem.

St Benedict’s pupil Rosa O’Haire notes that “Sport really helps with mental well-being because going to training and playing in matches is a way to forget about the stress of exams. Also, as a team we are all very close and we have many inside jokes and get together at regular socials, which breaks down the barrier between age groups at school. Sport helps develop different friendships which are needed for our futures.”

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Sports facilities at St Benedict’s are first class

Sport has a positive impact on girls’ physical wellness

This might sound obvious, but playing sport has benefits beyond maintaining an optimal BMI. Helping girls get into sport at school sets them up with healthy habits for life. Women who play sports have more energy, lower levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and lower blood pressure. There is also research to suggest that sport may help to lower women’s chance of developing breast cancer. Research also suggests that regular exercise can have beneficial effects on bone health in later life for women.

The sports facilities at St Benedict’s are first class. Pupils have access to Strength and Conditioning sessions, after school training sessions and matches at the weekend on top of their PE session, and double period of games. There is also a vast sporting co-curricular programme which runs at various points in the school day which pupils can attend as they please.   

St Benedict’s pupil Rosa O’Haire comments: “Playing a sport at school is an engaging and motivating way to keep fit and healthy, as you are doing it as a team.”  

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Sports scholarship pupils at St Benedict’s learn many skills that set them up for life after school

Undertaking a sport scholarship helps to prepare girls for the future

Sport is where girls can learn critical skills they’ll need in further education and in the workplace – such as goal-setting, strategic thinking, commitment and the pursuit of excellence in performance. Playing sport also teaches girls how to be assertive and take risks, as well as gain leadership skills, setting them up for the future.

At St Benedict’s, girls participating in netball, hockey and fencing give up a significant amount of time to attend training and fixtures for their chosen sport. Consequently, they are required to utilise their time effectively to manage both their sporting commitments and their academic work. Sport also helps with social skills and the ability to form new relationships which is required for future success in the workplace, as sports scholarship pupils mix with pupils outside their own age groups during sports, working in teams with people they may not normally mix with.  

When applying for jobs, and in interviews, these skills and experiences can help give girls who have participated in sports an edge over those who haven’t, particularly at the beginning of their careers. 

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with St Benedict’s School, independent day school for pupils aged 4-18 in Ealing, London.

You can find out more about scholarships at St Benedict’s here.

Read more school news here.