Raising Our Athletic Daughters By Jean Zimmerman and Gil Reavill – Book Review

Raising Our Athletic Daughters: How Sports Can Build Self-Esteem and Save Girls’ Lives
By Jean Zimmerman and Gil Reavill (New York: Doubleday, 1998)
Hardcover – 320 pages

This book lays out all the reasons why we should raise our daughters differently than society currently dictates. An athletic girl learns early about how to deal with prejudice and competition; it is a skill that does not come always easily to the non athlete. This book shows clearly and concisely how important it is to prepare our daughters for the world; there is a staggering set of statistics to show why girls everywhere should be encouraged to participate in sports. In this day and age when we are trying earnestly to figure out why so many teenage girls get pregnant or involve themselves in self destructive behaviors, this book gives a pretty clear roadmap of how to protect your own daughter. The authors offer much advice and information on how parents and other concerned adults can help create the best opportunities for their daughters in sports.

“Raising Our Athletic Daughters” offers a comprehensive history and overview of girls’ participation in all sports – including soccer – interspersed with stories of individual athletes and the coaches and organizers who have made a difference in their lives. The authors summarize studies documenting the numerous problems afflicting adolescent girls and present the research showing that girls who participate in sports are less likely to succumb to the all-too-prevalent woes, such as teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, eating disorders and suicide. Their premise is that sports can help girls develop strengths to avoid these problems and that parents should know as much as possible to help their daughters find their niches in sports.

The book maintains a high level of interest by introducing the reader to girls who excel in different sports and the factors which motivate them. Particularly touching are the accounts of girls with the most limited futures – in the bleak circumstances of inner cities to a Navajo Reservation – who have found structure, support and hope through participation in sports. Several organizations, such as Soccer in the Streets, have been developed to offer sports opportunities to the girls least likely to have a chance to play. Profiles of the women and men who have devoted themselves to coaching, being mentors and gaining financial support for these organizations may inspire more parents and adult athletes to get involved in the lives of young people.

Girls should play sports for all the same positive reasons boys should. Having said that, girls face some challenges that boys do not and these challenges present themselves from a variety of directions.

Rather than steal the thunder of the authors, let me just say that they do an excellent job of presenting just about every challenge and benefit that girls experience as athletes and how to make certain that their athletic experience is a positive one.

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