In light of Mother’s Day 2010 I have a few thoughts about mothers’ influence on the active lives of their daughters. First of all, I have the BEST mother in the world and I would not be the woman I am today without her. I love you mom!
Here are some research-based facts about moms. daughters, and physical activity (PA):
If mom values and supports physical activity, daughters are more likely to be active. More importantly if a daughter perceives mom values and supports PA ( even if she doesn’t!) this is predictive of increased PA
If daughter also perceives mom believes that she is good at sport, she is more likely to participate in sport and not drop out
If mom is active, daughter is more likely to be active in her youth, adolescence and into adulthood
PA is a positive, enjoyable, and healthy thing mothers and daughters can do together
Moms are needed in a variety of active, visible role models in PA contexts, especially in positions of power such as coach, youth sport league administrator, club president, athletic director, and referee. When we SEE women in positions of power it helps challenge outdated gender stereotypes about leadership. Less than ~15% of all positions of power in youth sport are held by women. We can do better!
Mother skills are transferable to coaching!! And mothers who coach say that their role as coach enhances their roles as mother and worker (for those women who work outside the home)
Moms should encourage their daughters to volunteer as coaches, referees, and to find a way to give back to the physical activities they love
Moms need to encourage both their sons and daughters equally to participate in sports
Most importantly, moms should unconditionally care about their children regardless of the score.
This week The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport put on its Distinguished Lecture Series featuring author and speaker Mariah Burton Nelson(MBN). As the Associate Director of The Tucker Center, I get first hand exposure to the topic and speakers each fall and spring, which is a wonderful benefit of my position. I’d like to share my thoughts from the event and the breakfast panel this morning.
My work is focused mostly on the youth end of the developmental trajectory. I am certainly aging, but I don’t study aging or aging populations, so this is a topic I know very little about. I learned a great deal and MBN challenged me to think about reclaiming and reframing aging in new ways. We are ALL aging. It is a process of life and something everyone has in common. Most would like to stay suspended in youthful animation and try many things to achieve that goal, but the fact remains we are aging. We can’t control that we are aging, but we can control how we think about aging and we can do certain things that will improve our quality of life while we age.
I laughed when MBN explained that being “Grown Up” according to the AARP was anyone between age 40-65 years of age. She challenged the audience to think about the language we use to talk about aging and how to reclaim and reframe aging. I didn’t know that peak cognitive functioning for women occurs in their 60’s! (for men, their 50’s).
When I turned 40, it was very strange that all of a sudden I was thinking of myself as “old”. Why?….40 isn’t old! Where did these thoughts come? I decided to claim being 40 and embrace getting “older”…what was the alternative anyway? So since my epiphany, every time I catch myself thinking about how “old” I am, I replace it with something resembling SNL’s Stuart Smalley affirmations…. “I’m young, healthy, active and I feel great!” In fact optimism and a positive attitude have been shown to improve quality of life as one ages, so perhaps I’m onto something. We will all die and MBN stated that older people (those 80+ years old) are not afraid do die, they are afraid of how they will die. An audience member reiterated that aging is about loss and that life is a series of losses. My take home: We can only control how we react to our losses and how we react in part, will affect our quality of life, including mental and physical health.
Another strategy for maintaining health and quality of life is MOVING! MBN cited that researchers have found physical inactivity is a better predictor of death than smoking!! The take home message…MOVE! Move in any way you can and in any way you enjoy. Women over 50 did not have the benefit of Title IX (which thank goodness this week Obama has gotten rid of the survey method for proving “interest”) so some do not enjoy physical activity, didn’t have the opportunity to plays sports, or just don’t know how to move in ways that are enjoyable and subsequently their health suffers as they age. Did you know there are National Senior Games? It is never too late to learn how to move or new ways to move when the former ways aren’t feasible perhaps due to injury or impairments. In fact while I was sitting here I got a Facebook message from some women I know who are playing in a 50+ women’s hockey tournament!
Take home messages: move, stay positive, seek social support, and embrace whatever age you are!
This morning a colleague sent me this article from ESPN.com about another ban on head scarves for Muslim female athletes. When I see this and other stories, it makes me recommit to the work I do at The Tucker Center.
It its well documented that females are less physically active than their male peers at all ages, and that girls of color are less physically active than their White counterparts. There are two great reports that summarize the plethora of research on girls, physical activity and health and developmental outcomes–The Tucker Center Research Report: Developing Physically Active Girls (2007), and The Women’s Sport Foundation’s Her Life Depends On It (2009).
Some of the work I do with my graduate student Chelsey Thul, examines the barriers to physical activity of East African girls here in the Twin Cities. We have the largest East African diaspora in the US, and the East African girls in our community find in very challenging to be as physically active as they’d like to be. They talk about wanting to be physically active but also desire to remain true to religious and cultural norms. If you want to see a great film that documents the challenges Iranian Muslim women face who desire to compete in an international soccer match with a German team, be sure to watch Football Under Cover.
The ESPN.com story illustrates exactly how challenging it can be for Muslim girls and women to be physically active. When are leagues and sport organizations going to enact inclusive policies that encourage and facilitate physical activity and sport participation for EVERYONE?
I found so many parts of his speech enlightening. I hope you will take the time to read it. To give you a sense of what it encompasses, I’ve included a few of my favorite quotes below:
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you, they are thinking about themselves.
There are some things you can’t learn from others. You have to pass through the fire.
At the end of every road you meet yourself.
We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we’ve piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.
The nature of one’s personal commitments is a powerful element in renewal.
You have to build meaning into your life, and you build it through your commitments.
People of every age need commitments beyond the self, need the meaning that commitments provide. Self-preoccupation is a prison, as every self-absorbed person finally knows. Commitments to larger purposes can get you out of prison.
Failure is simply a reason to strengthen resolve.
Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life.
I find this piece applicable to every context, whether it be personal renewal, striving for optimal sport performance, or career transitions. What is your favorite quote and what does it mean to you?
This morning I saw a segment on my local TV affiliate about a program called StrollerStrides, “a total fitness program for new moms that they can do with their babies”. The program seemed like a perfect physical activity solution for mothers with stroller-age children, and also solves many of the barriers to physical activity many women face due to afforadabilty, accessibility and availability.
StrollerStrides workouts are conducted by certified instructors in large indoor public spaces (mostly shopping malls in off hours) which cuts expensive gym memberships. Mothers can work out alongside the strollered child which cuts the need for childcare. It also provides mothers with a social support system and affords the opportunity to get out of the house to a safe, warm space (this is key during Minnesota winters for those of you who don’t live here!) to get physical activity. The workout combines strength, flexibility and cardio components along with fun songs and activities that engage the children and keep their attention.
It also got me thinking what a better way to start a love of physical activity for infants! Researchers have proven time and again that parents are very important physical activity role models for their children. If parents are active and value and believe that being active is an important part of life, their children are more likely to be active. I also recently came across another resource from the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport & Physical Activity, Mothers in Motion, a program “dedicated to physical activity promoters working with mothers of low socioeconomic status”.
Many women must overcome a host of barriers in order to be physically active, which is why females are less active than their male counterparts at all ages and within all types of physical activity. Assisting women in starting and sustaining physical activity can lead to a host of positive physical and mental health outcomes. You can also read more about Developing Physically Active Girls, a report I helped to co-author and produce in my role as the Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
A One Sport Voice reader sent me an email looking for resources helping collegiate athletes transition into “the real world” after they no longer are competitive athletes. Great query! There is a fair amount of literature from the sport psychology world on this issue. While it is not my primary area of expertise, I can provide some guidance into existing resources.
The first is a book titled Career Transitions in Sport (Lavallee & Wylleman, 2000). This book gives some theoretical perspectives on transitions, self-identity issues, causes and consequences of transitions, as well as some intervention strategies.
Another book that is helpful is book pertaining to the psychology of sport injury-a common cause of career transition- is titled Counseling in sports medicine (Ray & Wiese-Bjornstal, 1999). If an athlete suffers from a career-ending injury, a transition is inevitable.
While both these resources are geared for sport psychology students and professional, it is a starting place for those looking for information on this important, but scarcely talked about phenomena.
In a session at NASSS, colleague Jim Denison (University of Alberta) made an interesting comment I’ve been thinking about ever since. He asserted that some coaches ask athletes to do all kinds of things that are bad for their health– and much less healthy than a supervised doping program. He also raised the issue that some problems and knowledge get silenced, while other forms are given power. What do you think?
Some and colleagues and I are working on research pertaining to what is known (and mostly not known) about the role of youth sports in obesity prevention. Last week Toben Nelson, University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, presented some of our work at the monthly Tucker Table. You can view his PowerPoint and see a small video clip. This work has made me think critically about how youth sports may not be the healthiest places for some children–including the ubiquitous presence of unhealthy snacks which I wrote about in an earlier blog. While physical activity and active living may help prevent childhood obesity, healthy eating is the other half of the equation. To highlight the relationship between physical activity and the presence of unhealthy food, this Village Voice post and picture showing how NYC playgrounds house soda machines says it all (via AN).
Relational expertise for coaches is the capacity to create meaningful, close connections with others that leads to mutual growth and development. My work in this area has been greatly influenced by the Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) developed by Jean Baker Miller and colleagues at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College. I was introduced to WCW and RCT when I has the head tennis coach at Wellesley from 1994-1998.
Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) suggests that growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and disconnections are the source of psychological problems. According to RCT a close relationship is defined by four qualities: (a) authenticity (the process of acquiring knowledge of self and the other, feeling free to be genuine in the context of the relationship in an ongoing effort to represent one’s true self while assessing one’s own risk and gauging the impact of certain truths on the other and respecting the needs of the relationship), (b) engagement (perceived involvement, commitment, responsiveness and emotional availability), (c) empowerment/zest (the experience of feeling personally strengthened, encouraged and inspired to take action through connection in a relationship), and, (d) the ability to deal with difference and conflict (the process of expressing, working through and accepting differences in background, perspective and feeling leading to enlargement of the relationship, rather than disconnection)
We rarely and explicitly train coaches to become relational experts.