We need to talk about middle school girls

Written by Mallory Bilski

Being a girl is hard. Being in middle school is even more difficult.

Middle school is an awkward age. You start to deal with real-world issues without having a strong arsenal of experience to rely on. School is getting harder, emotions get more complex and you start to not feel like you’re not a kid anymore.

My middle school years consisted of constant fear of awkwardness when I spoke, feeling uncomfortable with my body, being terrified of failing at something and pretending to understand the angst of Alanis Morissette.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Confidence and leadership is still a problem in middle school girls.

Over half of girls lose confidence at puberty, and 50% of girls feel paralyzed by fear of failure during puberty (Always).

This lack of confidence and fear of failure affects girls in very negative ways. They stop trying new things and drop out of sports due to the feeling that they are not good enough.

By the age of 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys (Women’s Sports Foundation).

The worst part is that seven out of 10 girls who quit sports during puberty said they didn’t feel like they belonged in sports (Always). These girls are quitting way before they reach their full potential.

In response to this trend, Girls in the Game decided to make changes to how we work with middle school programming. We added more leadership opportunities, more discussion-based health and leadership topics and let the girls build confidence by allowing them to choose their own curriculum.

It’s important that girls have access to the great skills that come out of playing sports. They don’t need to be the star player or collegiate athlete bound to reap these benefits. Beyond sports allowing girls to be physically active, sports also teach girls resilience, friendship, confidence, working on a team, leadership and pushes them to try new things. All these skills bleed into the non-athlete part of their life and help increase the self-esteem of a middle school girl.

Girls in the Game believes in the power of girls. We want all girls to feel that they are capable of anything — because they are!

Mallory Bilski is the Marketing and Development Coordinator at Girls in the Game. She graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Communications & Political Science. Mallory enjoys playing tennis and running around with her dogs.