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How to Help Your Teen Daughter Thrive in Her Sport

How to Help Your Teen Daughter Thrive in Her Sport

What to look out for when your daughter decides to play a sport.

We all know that getting exercise is important for teens and children alike, but playing sports offers additional long-term benefits for girls that your standard fitness class might not. From building self-confidence to encouraging teamwork, there’s no doubt that sports can be a good option for young ladies. But how do you, as a parent, make sure you’re doing the most to ensure your daughter’s athletic success and what red flags should you look for in a program? Expert Sue Sugarman, LCSW weighs in.

Help Your Daughter Choose a Sport

Start by identifying which sports interest your child. Choosing one she has an affinity for will help her stick with it even when it gets tough. Understanding your daughter’s learning style and temperament, as well as assessing her developmental skills, is important in finding an appropriate program. 

Introduce her to sports while she’s young. The earlier kids engage in athletics, the more likely they are to exercise regularly as they get older, and develop healthy habits in general. However, if she didn't play sports at a young age, don’t let that hold her back—encourage her to try to something new. Here in NYC, we have a variety of programs including those for the non-athletically inclined, recreational programs, traditional programs, and elite travel teams. 

When choosing a program, finding the right one is most important. You want to ensure that your daughter is having fun, because if she isn’t having fun, she isn’t going to want to participate. A staggering statistic is that 70 percent of youth athletes drop out by the age of 13. The number one reason why? It was no longer fun. 

Consider the following when exploring programs for your daughter:

  • Look for one with a philosophy you like.
  • Do the coaches comply and follow the philosophy that the program promotes?
  • Does the organization require criminal background checks on coaches?
  • Do the coaches get to know each of the kids well?
  • Do the coaches create a fun environment?
  • What kinds of feedback are coaches giving the girls?

Sports and Eating Disorders

It’s not uncommon for parents to ask about the correlation between sports and eating disorders. While many factors can contribute to an eating disorder, it’s important to understand the environment created by both the organization and the coaches. Having a supportive, caring coach may reduce the risk factors for developing an eating disorder.  

Pay attention to both the verbal and non-verbal cues your daughter is sending. For instance, if she says she enjoys the class, but every week when it’s time to go she complains of a headache, you should check in with her and explore what is going on. 

If you’re unfamiliar with or overwhelmed by the burgeoning youth sports world and all its offerings, you may wish to consult a professional for help finding an appropriate program for your daughter. This critical first step is one way to prepare her to tackle life’s challenges and ensure that she has the skill sets necessary to compete on a level playing field, both in sports and in life.

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Sue Sugarman, LCWS


 Sue Sugarman, LCSW, is therapist, consultant, and performance coach. A therapist for over 20 years, Sue is a New Yorker, a mother, and an athlete. She believes that resiliency is a key coping skill that can be learned and mastered. Sue works with child and teen athletes and performers, and runs workshops for parents and coaches. She is available for speaking engagements.

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