In today’s society, females of all ages are bombarded with messages on the television and social media that tell them that they must be thin and flawless in order to meet the qualifications of modern “beauty.”

Media circus

The same goes for female athletes, such as tennis icon Serena Williams, World Cup champion Carli Lloyd and skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn, who are often subject to commentary in the media for their physical appearance rather than their skill set.

"Girls and women today face body criticism in all facets of life, even when they are world-class athletes."

Girls and women with athletic builds should be celebrated and admired for their strength and physicality, just as the male athlete’s body is praised. More importantly than their appearance, champion female athletes possess courage, discipline and determination—qualities that make them the perfect role models for young girls—and they demonstrate that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Learning positivity

In order to de-emphasize the cultural importance placed on physical appearance and the resulting mental, physical and social effects, girls need to be taught from an early age that they should be valued for their skills and accomplishments, rather than their body type.

Current research shows that moderate levels of exercise and/or sports activity have immense health benefits. These include reduced risk for depression, heart disease and cancer. Young women who exercise have increased representation in higher levels of education and are more likely to advance in the workplace. When girls play sports, they learn that it is their abilities that matter, not their appearance. That knowledge is empowering.

Girls and women today face body criticism in all facets of life, even when they are world-class athletes. This is something that, as a culture, we must change. By investing more of our attention and resources in girls’ participation in sports, we empower females of all ages to be comfortable in their own skin and position them for success in life.