1st August 2022

The importance of sport in children’s lives

Sport is inspiring for children and has a powerful impact on their lives. In The Big Ask, the largest-ever survey of children that I conducted last year, children told me how much they loved sport.

As Children’s Commissioner I am committed to championing children to excel in sport, this is why I have recently written about how inspiring Wimbledon, the Women’s Euros and the Commonwealth Games are to children.

In the Big Ask children reflected on the beneficial effects that sports have on their physical and mental health. One child said:

“I was quite depressed at one point but when I started cycling and walking with my friends it really helped get me back down to earth” – Boy, 14.

Children told me how important being active was to them – about two-thirds of young children aged 6-8 stated that they believe that being healthy and active is important for their future lives. Yet as children get older this seems to become less important, with only a third of those aged 9 to 17 stating that being healthy and active was important for their future.

Importantly, girls aged 9 to 17 told me they were more likely to feel unhappy with their physical health than boys were (12% compared to 9% respectively) and were also less likely to think good physical health was important for their future (28% compared to 34% of boys).

As I highlighted in my Women’s Euros blog, a study by Women in Sport found that girls were less likely than boys to take part in team sports after the age of 11.[1] Girls said the fear of feeling judged and a lack of confidence prevented them from continuing to take part in sport.

This is why I am overjoyed that the Lioness have won the the UEFA Euros Women’s Football Championship. I want to congratulate each and every member of the winning Lionesses team. In the Big Ask girls spoke passionately about their love of football, one 7-year-old girl described wanting “to be in a girl football team”. This victory has the power to inspire a generation of girls to follow their football dreams. 

It is crucial that children feel encouraged to take part in sport. Last week I wrote about how excited I am for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. I hope that children will be inspired by watching the Games and that the adults in their lives empower them to access sporting activities this summer. I am committed to ensuring that children are as active as possible which is why I have signposted information about the holiday activities and food programme which can be found here.

I want children to be energised by the great sporting events that have taken place in England over recent months, from Wimbledon to the Women’s Euros and the now Commonwealth Games.

Let’s build on the momentum of these events this summer and inspire all children to be as active as possible as we know that this is vital to ensuring that our children are as healthy and happy as possible.

[1] Women in Sport, Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Tacking Teenage Disengagement, March 2022, Link.