New Research highlights impact of sport on girls’ resilience

Panel - Anne


  • 60% of parents unaware of the positive impact sport has on building resilience.
  • 40% of parents see playing sport as a keyway to build resilience.
  • Research informs a new nationwide campaign aimed at teenage girls to encourage them to stick with sport. The Report provides insights into girls’ attitudes towards sport and the role sport plays in building resilience from parental and educators’ perspectives.
  • Research has led to production of digital resilience resource which includes a commissioned one woman play, panel discussion and digital workbook to be made widely available online and to all Northern Ireland secondary level schools.

A new report shining a spotlight on the impact of playing sport and resilience in teenage girls (aged 12-15) has been published and led to the production of a digital resilience resource which includes a commissioned one woman play, panel discussion and digital workbook which will be made widely available online and to all Northern Ireland post primary level schools.


The report was commissioned by Electric Ireland as part of their ongoing Game Changers campaign. Delivered in partnership with the Irish FA, the campaign is committed to supporting girls’ and women’s football in Northern Ireland from grassroots up.


The report ‘The Impact of Sport on Girls’ Resilience’, provides insights into girls’ attitudes towards sport and the role sport plays in building resilience from parental and educators’ perspectives. Qualitative research carried out amongst parents of girls and and qualitative research amongst PE teachers from a cross section of Northern Ireland’s Secondary and Grammar schools informed the report.


Keys findings - parents of girls

Key findings show that 60% of parents are unaware of the positive impact sport has in building resilience, with just 40% see playing sport as a keyway to build resilience. Over half of parents (57%) thinking girls can build resilience by maintaining positive self-care practices and 55% by observing positive role models.


Researchers found that only 46% of parents think girls are more resilient than they once were.

The top factors given by parents affecting girls’ resilience are social media (80%), body image pressure (72%) and cyber bullying (49%).


When asked about sports impact on resilience in girls 81% believe that playing sport will give their daughter more confidence, 80% think it has positive physical health benefits while 73% believe it teaches them to overcome challenges and difficulties.


When asked about the benefits of building greater resilience in their daughter 59% believe it will help their daughter cope better with failure in the future and 57% believe it will enhance their ability to move on from failure.


Anne Smyth, Sponsorship Specialist at Electric Ireland said. ‘It is well documented that adolescent girls aged between 12 – 15 years old are more likely to drop out of sport and physical activity than boys of the same age.  There has been much research into why this happens and into the benefits of playing sport. In commissioning this report we wanted to take the conversation a step further, address any gaps in awareness around the benefits of playing sport and highlight the lifelong benefits of playing sport that extends well beyond the sports pitch.

While some parents are aware of the positive impact of playing sports, our research shows that a sizeable number of parents remain unaware of the transferable life skills that sport teaches.”


Key findings - PE teachers

The negative influence of social media is highlighted by PE teachers as impacting on negative body image, poor confidence and impacts on mental health, causing many girls to skip or opt-out of PE in school.


A variety of activities is seen as key to allow girls of all ability levels, interests and skills to engage with different activities during P.E. and many P.E. Teachers are also offering after-school activities.

PE teachers identified mixed classes and sport kit issues due to low confidence levels, as having negative impacts on Girls’ participation and limiting girls gaining access to the life-long benefits of resilience learnt from sports, Physical Activities and P.E.


Research findings made into one woman play

Working with Tinderbox Theatre Company, the findings of the research have been adapted into a one woman play Gameplay which premiered on Thursday, February 29th at an event in the Ulster Museum.

Belfast born Alice Malseed, Creative Producer, Tinderbox Theatre Company said “We are delighted to be collaborating with Electric Ireland on this exciting project. Sport can teach young girls so much about resilience, providing the perfect context for girls to face disappoint head-on, deal with it and move on.


“Gameplay revolves around the central character Kate, who, through a series of flashbacks, is able to apply the skills she learnt on the pitch as a teenager to several scenarios in her present-day life as a twenty-something. From a job interview to a first date and a family health scare – Kate is able to gather herself, get her head in the game and put into practice life skills such as resilience that in her case, football, taught her.”


As part of the event BBC broadcaster Lynette Faye hosted a panel discussion featuring former Ulster rugby player and performance coach and mentor Eliza Downey, PE teacher and  Glentoran Women’s Captain Jessica Foy and current Belfast Raven player and sport psychology PhD student, whose current project is focused on promoting adolescent mental health literacy through community sport, Nora Sullivan.


Both the play and the panel discussion are available to download and watch here


Educational Outreach programme

Electric Ireland have teamed up with leading Irish mental health charity Pieta, to develop a Resilience Workbook with exercises, Q&A’s and discussion topics for Key Stage 3 pupils. The booklet, along with links to the play and panel discussion will form a digital resource will available online and distributed to participating schools across Northern Ireland from March 16th.


The educational outreach programme will see Electric Ireland host a school’s roadshow where women from a range of sporting backgrounds will talk to girls about their love of sport and the benefits of playing it throughout their lives. The first visits will be taking place from April.


“For six years Electric Ireland have been working with the IFA to make football accessible to girls of all ages. We are passionate about sport and believe in the many benefits it can bring to participants of all skill levels on and off the pitch. Through our work with our partners Tinderbox and Pieta we are excited to create a digital resource which will be available online and to schools across Northern Ireland and through our in-schools talks series we want to show young girls that you don’t have to be the best or play to the highest standards to reap the rewards that come from playing sport and show them that ultimately when you make the team, whether it’s the firsts or the fifths, the team makes you. “Mrs Smyth continued.


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