We have said it before but it bears repeating…and repeating and repeating. YOU carry the power to influence the physical activity engagement of girls and young women; both as an obvious influencer – mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, teacher, etc. – AND as one less obvious – the jogger girls see every morning while they are on the school bus, or the one they overhear at the grocery checkout line boasting about her improved 10k time…

You may not think they are listening or watching, they may never admit to listening or watching but they are, no small thing because their behavior-driving values about physical activity emerge from what they see and hear!

Why is regular activity so important to girls/young women? It sources their well being today and into tomorrow by uniquely and profoundly fostering positive self-esteem and body image, resiliency to risky behavior and health protection. Compared to those inactive, active girls/young women get better grades; have less teen/unwanted pregnancy, smoking and substance abuse; are less likely to be in an abusive relationship; have a lower risk for developing breast cancer; and have a more positive outlook on life.

Why the urgency?

The statistics about adolescent engagement are dismal. Around age 14 girls begin to engage less and less until many abruptly stop altogether, even if they have been active while younger! Millions miss out on engagement’s gifts of health protection and quality of life, but also its fun. Mostly this is sad.

But, chin up Iron Cougars for this is where we can shine. The good news is that with encouragement and a pipeline girls WILL remain active, if not even more so, and we have the ‘IT’ to be THE it. Girls can dismiss it as typical or expected when they hear boys/men talk about their activity or see them being active, not so when they hear about or see the same from other girls or women. While bumble-bee soccer today is as much a rite of passage for little girls as boys, we are still more drawn to activities where we see images of ourselves than not, meaning there is more punch to girls seeing/hearing about engagement from other girls/women than boys/men.

So, Iron Cougars by virtue of our ‘IT’, what we say, do, role model and prioritize CAN directly inspire a young woman to engage in activity today, and then again tomorrow and lots of tomorrows after. Think about it. How awesome that we can be the pipeline that reverses the sad trend and causes girls’ sports leagues to have to add teams! Iron Cougars, we need to own our IT! Lets us cause the need for lots of new uniforms and equipment to be ordered across the county to accommodate the increased participation by girls/young women!

Count me in! I’m ready! Lets go! What do I do? Where do I start? … But, wait, I’m not highly skilled and don’t have much experience playing sports.

Yikes!, some skepticism after all the hype and excitement? Fear not. An assurance before we get to the specifics – you DON’T need to be a proficiently-skilled athlete or trained physical activity professional to make a difference. Remember, you have the most important trump card – you are the IT! The following are ‘preferred qualifications’ to make a difference using your IT-ness:

(Note – ‘her’ and ‘she’ is both singular and plural)

 ROLE MODEL regular physical activity – talk the talk and walk the walk (literally haha)
 TAKE INTEREST in all aspects of her physical activity engagement
 PERSISTENTLY communicate the importance of regular activity and how fun it is
 COMPLIMENT all her activity attributes – cognitive and emotional as well as physical
 CONSISTENTLY deliver positive messages about activity – every day in not too often
 EMPHATICLY communicate the benefits of regular activity, including, it is fun
 INSISTENT that she is regularly active, rain or shine: ‘no’ is not an option

Feel better? You should, because no doubt you CAN be the IT!

Ok, I’m ready. What are some specific suggestions?

The following is how you can use your IT to cause girls/young women to realize the fun of activity today and establish their life-long commitment to regular engagement:

(Notes – Apologies if some things seem obvious – trying to avoid presumption; some suggestions may be more age-appropriate to those older or younger; ‘her’ and ‘she’ is both singular and plural)

 SUSTAIN your own regular achievement-oriented engagement – be active every day!
 TALK about your engagement whenever/wherever you have the opportunity – you never know where ears lurk
 START her notching her Iron Footprint or KidPRINT – success establishes resilient motivation to sustain regular engagement, the earlier the better
 PRACTICE skills together – catching, throwing, kicking, batting, shooting, dribbling, etc. (if you are not highly skilled you can be the rebounder, put the ball on the tee, etc.)
 WALK (or run, jog, bike ride) together at least once a week – rain or shine!
 DO A FITBUBBLE together at least once a month – she AND you both adding a FitBUBBLE to your Iron Footprints
 TAKE HER to girl’s high school/women’s college games/meets/matches
 GO to her games/meets/matches and practices
 MAKE SURE she has transportation to practices/games
 KEEP A JOURNAL/scrapbook of her competition results – e.g. times in events, game highlights
 PLAY SPORTS REPORTER and send her a written sports story about her games
 VOLUNTEER at a school’s physical education or after-school program
 SEND HER ARTICLES about women’s professional sports results/athletes – talk about current women’s sports events – college and professional – WNBA, LPGA, WPT, NCAA March-Madness and WCWS
 GIVE HER GIFTS that pipeline physical activity – e.g., equipment, clothes, tickets to women’s athletic event
 REMIND HER that information about female athletes or women’s teams/leagues is but a click away – facebook pages, websites, twitter
 ENCOURAGE HER to include activity engagement photos and stories on her facebook page
 ENCOURAGE HER to invite a friend to engage along with you – and the friend’s mom/sister/grandmother/aunt, etc.
 TEXT HER DAILY OR REGULARLY to remind her to be active or ask her about her activity – if/when possible

Whew, you are going to be busy, but what a great busy! Imagine the outcome with me – first, she WILL be active and reap its life-enhancing benefit. Second, she will learn to pay the encouragement forward ensuring the next generation of girls will be (even) more active than this one. Third, NO question she will become an Iron Cougar the second the clock strikes 12midnight on her 50th birthday.

And of course, know what this will do for your own Iron Footprint and your own IT legacy.

The best description I have heard for advocacy is persistence. Know that your persistence WILL serve the well-being of this generation of girls AND those that follow…

Now get your IT out there and CAUSE activity!